Two titles are up for grabs in the finals of the America’s Cup World Series in Newport, the Rhode Island home for so long of the America’s Cup, for the reigning winning helmsman Jimmy Spithill.
He is in pole position to win the fleet racing title overall for the 2011-12 set of six regattas and contests the Newport match race final on Sunday.
The event has been popular as Newport approaches the height of the summer holiday season and the finals of both the match and fleet racing on Sunday will be televised live, free to air and terrestrial.
Suggestions that the target audience was the average Taco Bell buyer did not ring true. Despite the inevitable incessant accompaniment of pop music as a background to an over-excited commentary, the people paying their $20 to park and $10 each to walk in do not appear to fit the Taco Bell demographic. They are all there having made a conscious decision, rather than bumping into the event as at some other venues, though having the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team standing by may not have calmed the nerves.
And the wing-powered catamarans, which have moved the event from steam trains through diesel trains to bullet trains are now much more familiar to the older members of the sailing community and are all that some newcomers to the game have ever seen.
The 72-foot versions in which the America’s Cup will be contested in San Francisco next year are still a much more unknown quantity. Already turbocharged monsters, the addition of foils to lift them out of the water and go even faster could produce scenes rather more dramatic than the sight of Emirates Team New Zealand, capsized on Thursday with both bows pointing up to the sky.
After an estimated $50,000 of overnight work and the cannibalising of a variety of parts to rebuild the wing, skipper Dean Barker and the boys, none of whom were injured, were ready to race again on Friday.
The match race final will be an all-American affair, except that the two Oracle skippers are Australian, in the form of Spithill, and Kiwi, in the person of Russell Coutts. Spithill was hardly stretched when disposing of Terry Hutchinson, the American skipper of the Swedish challenger Artemis, but Britain’s Chris Draper pushed Coutts harder when at the helm of one of the two Italian, Prada-backed Luna Rossa boats.