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AC World Series: Spithill Shines

Oct 8, 2012

Wow! Stalled at the start and dead last at the first mark, Oracle Team USA’s James Spithill rocketed back to take the gun for the Fleet Racing Championship on the final day of America’s Cup World Series action in San Francisco.

The television hype for the AC Worlds did not disappoint.

NBC’s Sunday coverage of the regatta, first a recap of the one-on-one match racing series sailed last week followed by live fleet racing, was a genuine treat.

The on-board-camera shots of skippers and crew are as intimate as you can imagine. It’s as if you’re actually there, hiking off the windward rail, and listening in as Oracle Team USA’s second-boat skipper Russell Coutts jokes about having just buried Nathan Outteridge (on Sweden’s Artemis Red) at a match race start.

NBC wisely picked the fleet racing event to feature on its weekend yacht coverage spectacular. The mark roundings are every bit as thrilling as Formula-5 auto racing. The AC45 catamarans are inches from each other, carrying top speeds into the turns, as they leave double trailing white wakes instead of smoke and rubber.

It’s also great to be hearing Gary Jobson’s sage commentary once again. How many sailing fans stayed up way too late to enjoy Gary’s America’s Cup play by play of Conners versus Murray versus the Freemantle Doctor back in 1987?

Of the eleven boats representing eight countries in the AC World Series, skipper Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle Team USA crew appear to have all the magic at the moment.

In the match race semi-final versus Sweden’s Terry Hutchinson on Artemis White, Spithill won it going away to capture a spot in the match race final. In the championship bout, “USA 4” clobbered Dean Barker and Team New Zealand at the start and never looked back.

Then came Spithill’s jaw-dropping, come-from-behind win in Sunday’s Fleet Racing Championship in which he picked up a bucket of points to tie Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie for first place.

And the magic continued. The official tie breaker goes to whomever won the last race, so Spithall winds up with top honors — in both match and fleet racing —  for the ACWS San Francisco Championship, plus a commanding 34-point lead over Italy in the overall ACWS Fleet Racing Championship.

If you missed it, you can catch some highlights below.

Now it’s on to Venice, Italy for Round Three of the America’s Cup World Series, April 16-21, 2013. Stay tuned.

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