Sailing: There is little room for manoeuvre, but we believe we can turn the tide

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The Independent Online

A crew member on GBR Challenge, Britain's America's Cup yacht, insists a 3-1 deficit against Stars & Stripes can still be overturned

A crew member on GBR Challenge, Britain's America's Cup yacht, insists a 3-1 deficit against Stars & Stripes can still be overturned

Where we stand now, the focus just has to be on the next race. The planning for the next phase has already been done. All the what ifs – What if we are out of the event this week? What if we have to be ready to sail a repêchage at the end of the week? – have to be put on one side. There is only one task and that is to win the next three races straight. There is no room for defeat. Our backs are to the wall against a new Stars & Stripes that is plainly faster than the one we saw in the first two round robins.

We were ready for USA 77 to improve. From our reconnaissance, we expected her performance to be upwind moded. It was definitely a surprise that Stripes was also a little quicker than us downwind.

There are plenty of stories in America's Cup history of teams making a comeback from where we are now. The most famous was when Australia II beat Dennis Conner in the final race of the 1983 Cup, having been 3-1 down, to end a 132-year winning streak. More recently Prada came back against America One in the 2000 Louis Vuitton final to win.

The worst race for us was the third of the four when the score was 1-1. At the start we had the side we wanted, but we were just a little slow to hit the accelerator. We were just a little behind on the start line, no more than two seconds, but they just sailed away. There was never an opportunity to engage and attack them. Even Stars & Stripes does not always sail perfectly, but they make precious few mistakes. And if you have a speed advantage, you can afford the odd mistake without being punished.

It was a bit depressing and we needed to make a change to the boat. The design team and shore crew worked hard overnight and what they were able to do has made an improvement. A decision was also taken to change the roles of the afterguard. The morning of the fourth race brought the news that the skipper, Ian Walker, would be starting the boat, as well as being the principle helmsman around the track.

My role changed to giving him help with the starting tactics and then to continue as strategist after the start. We had reversed roles in the pre-start and no-one would be surprised to hear me say that it came as a bitter personal blow ahead of going out to contest an important race.

After 18 months of practicing the art, I clearly still feel that this is the area in which I operate best. As Ian has said, GBR 70 is a difficult boat to control in the pre-start manoeuvring, and I still feel that I was doing the best job possible.

Not every start was perfect. That third start was not one I would put in the scrap book, but the opening start, when we forced the penalty, led to our only win in this quarter-final.

I suspect that if we had had a little more speed, things would have turned out differently as we would have been able to turn some of our even starts into victories.

We are all having to face the possibility that we may be denied the opportunity to turn the situation around. The weather forecast for the beginning of the week promises high winds, too strong for racing on Monday and Tuesday, and we may not be able to complete all seven races even if we are still in the game.

Whatever happens, we need to complete and win two races by the end of Wednesday or we lose. If an attempt is made to run two races on Wednesday then it is entirely possible that, as happened in the second round robin, Stars & Stripes will suffer some sort of gear damage which would lead them to say they could not race twice that day.

So we need to have won a race by Tuesday if we are to have a chance of levelling the score on Wednesday to qualify for the extension to sail a decider. It would be a cruel end to two years of effort and ambition if we were to be eliminated by a combination of the clock and the weather instead of where matters ought to be decided, out on the water.

We definitely feel that if were to finish seventh it would not be a true reflection, not only of what we could have done, but what we have achieved from a standing start 22 months ago. To lose against a team with over 20 years of experience is no disgrace, but we believe that we can still beat them.

Even though we are 3-1 down, we felt more optimistic after the last race because we had the extra speed to close the gap on them, pushing them all the way to the finish. And that is what we intend to do. I predicted we would win 4-3. Until the last race is over, I am sticking with that.

Andy Beadsworth was talking to Stuart Alexander

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