For several tense minutes it seemed as though Artemis Racing’s bid for Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World glory would sink to the bottom of the Great Sound.
A collision with an umpire boat at the start of yesterday’s second race left the Swedish challenger’s AC45F foiling catamaran without its bowsprit and genneker, and looking in very bad shape.
However, when all seemed lost, Nathan Outteridge, the Artemis skipper, and his team pulled off an improbable victory that was the final act of a spectacular regatta, one which included plenty of lead changes, three different winners, close racing, and the fleet flying downwind at more than 30 knots up on their foils.
After the first day’s racing was abandoned because of a lack of breezes, organisers scheduled three races in more suitable northwesterlies yesterday, and to make things even more interesting there were double points up for grabs in all of them.
Artemis looked to have done enough in the first race, leading the fleet over the first five legs only to be passed by Oracle Team USA, the defender and regatta host, on the final run to the line.
It was a cruel twist for the Swedish team, but pure delight for Oracle, whose gamble to split gates on the last beat ultimately paid off, as it allowed them to stay in the fresher breeze which gave them just enough momentum to squeak past the leaders.
Land Rover BAR, the British challenger, took third.
If Artemis thought that the worst was behind them, they were in for a rude awakening as they were dealt a heavy blow at the start of the second race, when they collided with the umpire boat.
“At that point we couldn’t go anywhere,” Outteridge said.
Fortunately, there were no injuries. The same, however, could not be said for Artemis’s boat.
“Thankfully nobody was hurt,” Outteridge said. “There was a serious amount of damage to our boat though.”
The mishap delayed proceedings as Artemis’s shore team stripped off the broken bow sprit and the genneker.
Having suffered extensive damage, few could have predicted what was to follow, as Artemis exploded off the start and won the second race to snatch the overall lead of the regatta away from Oracle.
“It was huge payback for all the hard work from the guys who stripped the gear off, checked the boat, and got us ready just in time,” Outteridge said.
Land Rover BAR led briefly, but completely lost the plot after making a tactical error approaching the first windward marker, and then lost control of their starboard daggerboard.
Emirates Team New Zealand, the overall World Series leaders, rebounded from a poor first race to take second behind Artemis, with Oracle completing the podium.
The regatta remained wide open heading into the third and final race as the winds continued to build, with Artemis clinging to a two-point lead over Oracle, and Emirates Team New Zealand a further six points adrift.
The Kiwis dominated the last race which they won from start to finish.
At one stage it appeared as though Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis would finish tied on points.
However, a well-executed gybe on the final run gave Artemis good momentum, and enabled them to pass Oracle near the finish and secure the regatta victory — the team’s first of the series — by the skin of their teeth.
SoftBank Team Japan and Groupama Team France had largely forgettable days, with the French team’s highest finish the fifth-place they managed in the second race.
Japan at least finished on a high, grabbing third place in the final race to go alongside two fourth-place finishes.
This story appeared in the Royal Gazette on October 19th, 2015.