America's Cup: One bad result knocks Ben Ainslie's team off world series top spot

Italian job helps Kiwis to take flight

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On a tricky course off Gothenburg, Ben Ainslie’s British America’s Cup challenge (BAR) slip to second in the 2015 world series after grabbing the lead on home waters off Portsmouth last month. The regatta started well for the US defender, now based in Bermuda, Oracle Racing, with two wins in the better winds of Saturday.

Then, in up and down, lighter conditions, an opening pair of seconds changed to a third and a damaging fifth for BAR on Sunday. The overall scoreboard was affected by a win in race three for the home team, Artemis, recovered from a pre-regatta capsize and running aground in the second race, and the further distortion of a second in race three for Japan’s SoftBank, skippered by former Emirates Team New Zealand skipper, Dean Barker.

But it was Barker’s old team that was setting the pace. Having already posted two thirds and a second in the opening three races, a win in the fourth on the double points scoring Sunday put the restructured ETNZ on top of the heap.

In typical low-key style, they had come to the opening regatta in Portsmouth in July saying they were in tight financial straits and did not expect anything much from this season having had so little time to train. But, behind the scenes, as well as helmsman Peter Burling winning gold in the 49er world championship and the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro, the results of a co-operation agreement between ETNZ and its old friends at the Prada-backed Luna Rossa were bearing fruit. A boat was soon on its way from Italy, and Luna Rossa people, including skipper Max Sirena, were lending their hands to the pump. With the talented Glenn Ashby on board as skipper and the canny manoeuvrings of Grant Dalton and Kevin Shoebridge in the background, the Kiwis are alive, well, and dangerous.

The third of three 2015 regattas, which have points accumulating towards seeding for the America’s Cup eliminations and matches, takes place in October in Bermuda, which hosts America’s Cup 35 in 2017.  

In London, the 12 yachts in the Clipper Round the World event started a journey of about 40,000 miles and 11 months in duration with amateur crews paying to do either individual legs or the whole journey, each yacht having a professional skipper. One will see the crew wearing bright lipstick at night in order to aid the lip-reading needs of a deaf crewman.

In Rome, the GC32 catamarans were not only well into their 2015 season but saw Oman Sail, skippered by Leigh McMillan, leading the pack as part of its preparation for the switch of boat next season for the Extreme Sailing Series. The foiling GC32 replaces the Extreme 40 catamaran, where McMillan has twice won the season-long world-straddling title and is on course for a third with 2015 regattas in Istanbul and Sydney remaining.

Oman Sail has indicated that it will continue to have two boats in the Extreme series, recently won its class in the Rolex Fastnet Race with a 70-foot trimaran, and is investigating the possibility of racing a boat in the 2017-18 Volvo round the world race. It continues with a domestic programme which has seen over 10,000 young Omanis given a taste of life afloat and is determined to develop further the courses for Omani women sailors, who had their own entry in Cowes Week in the middle of August. An entry in the 2016 Olympics is still in the dream basket and 2020 is a stated target.

ACWS – 2015 Overall standings after five races:

1 ETNZ 54pts

2 Oracle (USA) 48

3 Land Rover BAR (GBR) 46

4 SoftBank (JPN) 43

5 Artemis (SWE) 42

6 Groupama (FRA) 37