BMW Oracle Racing claim the America's Cup BMW Oracle Racing claim the America's Cup

BMW Oracle Racing claims 33rd America's Cup

Race two of the America's Cup provided more edge of seat entertainment from the two giant multihulls

Monday February 15th 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

So it is done and dusted and the predictions have come true: that Larry Ellison’s team, with Russell Coutts at the helm of the team and James Spithill at the helm of their amazing wingmasted 113ft trimaran, have won the Deed of Gift 33rd America’s Cup. In the process since winning the Cup 31st America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2003, the winning streak of Ernesto Bertarelli and his Alinghi team has concluded.

In the end the incredible resource, brainpower and long, hard graft put into their extraordinary trimaran paid off for BMW Oracle Racing on this their third attempt to win the America’s Cup after two campaigns led by Chris Dickson. Their wingsail was the ultimate weapon, not only upwind as people excepted but particularly downwind and on the reaches. But the BMW Oracle Racing sailing team led by James Spithill seemed profoundly more confident sailing their craft than the Alinghi crew did theirs, having benefitted from much more training in all manner of multihulls – A-Class and C-Class cats to Extreme 40s and ORMA 60s. They were plain better prepared, sailing a faster boat. In today’s race their wider and slightly heavier trimaran also benefitted from having more righting moment.

While this Deed of Gift America’s Cup dragged on to a degree with days of racing cancelled (as is always the way it seems with this event) to many used to the lengthy affair of traditional multi-challenger Cups, it seemed we were short changed – the event being won in just two races.

Race Two

Today’s race was held in lighter conditions than on Friday, the maximum wind getting up to 13 knots on the beat, but not before a lengthy six hour wait for the breeze to clock round and then to stabilise vaguely for the 39 mile long triangular course to be set up.

Once again Alinghi blew the start, receiving a penalty on this occasion for being in the start box at the time they were supposed to be entering it. “We were a little bit bunched by the start being called so late in the day,” explained Brad Butterworth. “We weren’t close enough for the time that we had and we struggled to ping the ends and then gybe round and get to our end. So we got a nice penalty for free.”

Then they were unable to make use of the start box due to the spectator fleet encroaching on it (that was the reason they hoisted a protest flag once the race was underway- they later abandoned the protest). Approaching the line, Alinghi chose to tack on to port but were slow on the tack allowing the American tri to gain an advantage and power off the line on starboard heading out to the right. The Swiss crossed the line a pedestrian 30 seconds after the gun.

However their decision to head right proved decidedly correct. As Murray Jones explained: “Our met guys wanted us to go to the right hand side. They were saying it was high gain and high confidence in their call. They were calling for the right hand shift that we got and a little more breeze in that right hand corner which I think helped us. We were always picking up a bit more breeze than them by being to the right of them.”

And so, with most onlookers reckoning the 33rd America’s Cup was already in the bag for the US team with their exceptional wingsail, a good weather call and today the right choice of headsail – a smaller Code3 rather than the Code2 they used on Friday (the only change we understand they made since Friday) – saw Alinghi 5 pull level and then overhaul the seemingly invincible US tri, once it had tacked back to the right. We were on the edge of our seats!

Alinghi maintained her advantage as the two boats tacked back to the left and a potentially crucial point in the match came when John Kostecki, tactician on the American trimaran, made a perfect call on the port layline into the top mark, coinciding with a well-timed beneficial shift.

“What we have learned from multihull sailing is that you have to overstand a little bit to allow for whatever incident you are going to have – either a dial down or a dip,” said Kostecki of his call. “Or if they tack in front, then we can live up off their hip. So we allowed for a little bit of distance there. We wanted to overstand it by 5-6 boat lengths and I think we did that and it worked out fine. It is tough calling the laylines on these boats because if you undercook it, it is a couple of tacks and that is a lot of distance.

“When we first tacked I thought we had a shot at crossing – three minutes of separation – we gave it a minute and it didn’t look like a cross, so we went into a dip and we also wanted to be a little conservative because we knew they were holding a penalty and we didn’t want to take any huge risks.”

Brad Butterworth gave his take on why they overstood: “We thought he wasn’t on the layline or was very thin on the layline and so when we got there we had a hard decision to make and if we had another half boat – so we didn’t quite have the rights there and he snuck through.”

Alinghi Navigator Juan Vila added: “We could have risked another penalty if we tacked too close to them. It would have been the other option – everything or nothing right then. We discussed tacking in front or just past. We were 50-50. It was pretty good from the position they were in. They were not really past it [the layline] which would have made it to tack below them. They made it tough for us to make a decision.”

And so BMW Oracle Racing rounded the top mark 28 seconds ahead and from there it was game over – the trimaran once again showed her exceptional pace off the breeze under her wingsail and genniker. Even if they had led around the top mark it was felt that the trimaran with her added righting moment would have simply powered past. Despite Alinghi pulling back ground on the final reach while the wind softening and a shift approaching the line required the tri to put in an extra tack, BMW Oracle Racing won with a delta of 5:26.


Today Larry Ellison was on board his trimaran while on Alinghi 5, Ernesto Bertarelli handed the helm to Loick Peyron for some of the race, initially when they were heading out to the right of the course directly into a lumpy swell (substantially bigger than it was on Friday).

“It was big motion. It was quite tricky,” described Peyron, who took over the helm again later in the race for the gybe mark rounding and for the first half of the final leg. We believe Peyron today became the first Frenchman to helm a boat in the America’s Cup. “Against the wave the problem isn’t to go fast, it is about having the minimum load on the boat,” he explained of his technique. “When you have some big waves, especially at the same time when there is a bit less wind, the main thing is to try and fly relatively high, but not too fast. It was very shifty and very interesting to steer but you have to fight and talk a lot with Pierre-Yves [Jorand] and Warwick [Fleury] and everybody and play with a lot of parameters. We needed to talk a lot. Hopefully I talk too much anyway!”

Peyron said that in the waves the alarm linked up to their load sensors wsa continuously going off on board and that they had been “walking on eggs”. Murray Jones added: “We were probably pushing it harder than the boat has been pushed before but we were backed off more than we would have been in flat water for sure.”

John Kostecki confirmed that his had also been the case on their trimaran. “We had alarms going off all day. We were just going for it. And I’m pretty sure Alinghi was too. It wasn’t too scary because we’ve sailed in a lot more extreme conditions in San Diego. But you never know with these boats because everything is on the limit all the time. I’m sure there were a lot of spike loadings from the waves. That 8-11 knots range is where you are most powered up [marginal hull flying] and that is when most loads are on the boat. In more wind there is a lot less load on the boat because things are twisted off.”

Back on land and Larry Ellison was beaming with pride at the ceremony when finally after 10 years campaigning, the America’s Cup was handed over to him by the Societe Nautique de Geneve. Later he commented: “I am enormously proud of the BMW Oracle team. I would like to thank all my team mates - Russell Coutts has put a fantastic team together and Jimmy and JK for calling an awesome layline on that first weather mark, all the rest of the team, especially thanks to Mark Turner and his team for building that fantastic boat. It stayed together in a lot of breeze. We sailed in 29 knots of breeze and on the mooring it faced almost 60 knots and didn’t break. I am very proud to be part of this team and I am especially proud to bring the America’s Cup back to the US after a very long absence.”

James Spithill said: “What a fantastic race! That was one hell of a boat race! I enjoyed every single minute of it. It was good to see a reaching race. It showed how exciting it can be.

“This one has been an amazing experience for everyone in the team, but especially the sailors because pretty much everyone in the team had very little multihull experience beforehand. So in some ways this one feels harder. For me personally this one was a very steep hill to climb. But to be able to climb that you need to have good support and early on Franck Cammas was involved and the Groupama guys and we brought in guys like Glenn Ashby and at times guys like Roman Hagara - a lot of the multihull experts. From my point of view, there is no way I could have got to that level without their help and support. Both sides – the monohulls and the mulitihulls – there is a lot of appeal there. Today was pretty awesome to watch, but we have seen some fantastic racing in the monohulls. I can’t tell you which one is better. It shows you how good our sport is that we have such variety there.”

For tactician John Kostecki an America’s Cup win had been a long time coming and we believe he is the only person to have won an Olympic medal, the Volvo Ocean Race and now the America’s Cup. “I have been dreaming personally about winning the America’s Cup for more than 25 year, so it was a very special moment,” he said. “It was very much a team effort and everyone put in a lot and it is a difficult project – especially with the wingsail. It is very testing at times for us, but obviously it proved to be the America’s Cup winner.”

Russell Coutts echoed their sentiments and once again praised his team. He added: “I was equally impressed with the way that Team Alinghi bounced back. Even two or three months ago I wasn’t sure we could have our team working effectively enough to beat these guys. I know, because I was in Team Alinghi, and I know how good they are. So it was fantastic to beat them and certainly I hope to see them back and competing in the America’s Cup.

“I think technology was more important than ever in this Ameirca’s Cup and our team made some good decisions in terms of what equipment to build and we are very very happy. It is the first time a Challenger has won a Deed of Gift America’s Cup competition in the history of the Cup. All of the other DoG defender have won. So we are very proud of that.”

On the occasions we have seen Coutts over the last two or three weeks he has looked decided stressed and often tired. We asked him if following this win he was more relieved than happy? “I am happy. I thought coming into this event just beforehand that we’d made enough progress recently that we had a good chance. I felt that our only weakness was very light conditions and in fact it was probably lighter than I thought what the crossover would be.”

A memorable moment from this evening's press conferences came at the hand over between the two teams when Bertarelli shook hands with both Coutts and Ellison but took a step back when Coutts went to hug him.

Au revoir Alinghi

In conclusion to the 33rd America’s Cup Bertarelli said: “We didn’t expect the wing to provide such an advantage. I think our platform continues to be a good one.” He admitted that he knew they had lost the 33rd America’s Cup on the first beat of the first race on Friday when the trimaran surged away from them. “I was very surprised by the first 20 minutes of the race. We were out of range most of the time, but then when we realised that without a jib any time there was a puff the wing was making them go higher and faster. We realised that it was a lot more efficient than our rig.”

Alinghi’s mast specialist Murray Jones agreed: “They have a good advantage with depowering with their wing and they are a little stiffer with us. The wing is incredible. It is a credit to them what they designed and built and put it together at quite a late stage. They definitely have more control on the wing than you have on a conventional sail in controlling the power. That is ideal on a multihull compared to a monohull because you really with a multihull you want a lot of power to get flying and then once you are flying you have maximum righting moment, so any more breeze you want to depower. It is a fine balance. Whereas on a monohull there is this big cushion as the boat heels over and gains more stability.”

To our question about whether the different in budgets between the two teams had made a difference – BMW Oracle Racing were operating at full tilt for almost a year longer than Alinghi, had a larger workforce, went through three rebuilds, had twice the number of rigs including a solid wingsail – Bertarelli replied: “There are a lot of things that made a difference. They launched the boat a lot earlier than we did. So they learned a lot earlier that drag for both this size and these speeds is more important than what we thought and they learned that before us. We built a boat based on the boat we saw and was declared to us, with a conventional rig and that boat changed. I heard that yesterday or the day before at the press conference that BMW Oracle mentioned that they changed their boat four times. That is three times more than my understanding of what the Deed of Gift calls for. It seems that the challenge should declare his boat. Then we were surprised by the wing. If we had known that they were going to come out with a wing from the word go, then maybe we would have considered it more carefully. There are a lot of things you can do differently.

“So spend more money? They spent more money than the last two times, so I don’t think it was money. This one was a bit different. My biggest regret financially is that the amount of resources that when we won in 2007 not only for us but for the entire community and many many more teams than just two and we lost that. So more than the cost is the revenue and the sponsors and the momentum. Now it is for them to rebuild that and I hope they will do a good job at it, because I think the Cup deserves it and they have a responsibility. I hope they do as well as we did.”

As to the end of the Alinghi reign Bertarelli said: “The thing that comes to mind right now - over the last 10 years is that anyone who has ever come close to the Alinghi team understands what I feel now. There is a unique warmth, a unique spirit and a unique friendship that ties any person who has worked or come close to the team. I am very proud of the team and what we have achieved.”

So will Alinghi be back? Bertarelli said that he would wait to see what BMW Oracle Racing came up with for the 34th. However most believe it is unlike Alinghi will be part of it.




Latest Comments

  • 992786 01/03/2010 - 11:29

    I think the game gave a chance to make a huge step in sailing R&D with adding some NASA tricks in the technology. Unfortunately it was only two-boat racing...but great job anyway. Congratulations to Larry.
  • 878013 16/02/2010 - 16:19

     I am alone in thinking this was a bit of a mismatch!?

    OBMW was wider with a spaceage wing and a truly brilliant helmsman keeping the giant tri one one hull for hours.

    Nearly 40yrs of racing trimaran development made the Alinghi cat  look slow, despite the speeds being attained by both boats! 

    Do we have any idea what boats will contest AC34?

    No doubt I'll get used to the new site!

    David Bains



  • 885997 16/02/2010 - 08:30

    I think the whole site looks great. As our American cousins would say "nice job!"
  • 885997 16/02/2010 - 08:30

    I think the whole site looks great. As our American cousins would say "nice job!"
  • 494665 16/02/2010 - 07:54

    The small grey font is awful. I need a magnifying glass to read it. I miss the fish icon the gave printout in larger type without ads. Black can be read much faster than grey!! and bigger faster than small!

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