From the Boathouse: Down to the wire in America's Cup


San Francisco was boasting beautiful weather Thursday with mostly sunny skies and 72-degree air temperatures for Race 12, which was the first and only race of day number nine. Winds were at 16 knots at first but increased in the afternoon, and the weather matched the previous day's conditions except for a flood tide at the beginning of the race.

The first race had a wind limit of 22.2 knots and the second race's limit was 20.3 knots.

Light crowds were watching from the America's Cup Park at Pier 27, where the media center is located along with excellent amenities for spectators.

As the race began, Oracle Team USA, the defenders, did a great hook maneuver before the start line to cross the line first and take the lead. USA stayed in front of Emirates Team New Zealand, the challengers, around mark 1 with a five-second delta. USA continued to hold the lead on the downwind leg, averaging 34 knots of speed.

USA rounded the outside of mark 2 with a 11-second lead and headed offshore while the Kiwis rounded shoreside of the mark to sail closer to shore. Both teams then tacked upwind, reaching speeds of 30-plus knots with USA maintaining a substantial lead to mark 3.

Mark 3 was rounded by USA first, but the Kiwis closed the gap to just a six-second delta at the mark.

Then USA built a considerable mid-450-meter lead at mark 4 with a 29-second delta over the Kiwis. Eyeing the finish line, USA crossed the line first to win Race 12. USA won its fourth race and increased its score to two points, with the Kiwis remaining at eight wins and eight points.

At the start time for Race 13, the winds were a repeat of the day before, when the wind limit was surpassed for the second race of the day. The start was postponed until the final starting time was reached and the race was canceled. Now, the races move to Friday, where two races are scheduled and more favorable wind conditions are anticipated for the afternoon.

I will be reporting from San Francisco Bay on Friday for day number 10.

The second race last Saturday was canceled because of high winds for Race 9. The races are canceled if the winds exceed the daily set limit, which was 22.6-knot limit for Saturday. However, just before the postponement of the day's racing, Team USA won Race 8 by delta of 52 seconds after a very scary experience for the Kiwis.

Emirates Team New Zealand almost capsized after trying to complete a tack to starboard. Many of you probably have seen the replays on TV, showing the complete underside of the catamaran.

The AC72 was riding dangerously high on one hull, and many of us in the media room were surprised that the boat did not go over, crashing into the bay. However, the crew was able to save the boat and keep the boat right-side up with the hull slamming very hard down into the water. The Kiwis continued the race to the finish, but they now had a substantial gap to catch the defenders.

Sunday's races were just as thrilling, as the two teams battled on San Francisco Bay, with each receiving a win. The first race was a win for USA, with a 47-second lead over the finish line and boat speeds averaging just over 31 knots. The Kiwis rallied during the second race on Sunday for Race 10 with a 16-second lead over the defenders. This win placed the Kiwis within two points to take the Cup home and USA needing eight points to keep the Cup in San Francisco.

Remember, Oracle Team USA was penalized by two points before the beginning of the finals after three crew members made illegal modifications to the AC72 boat. Technically, the starting score was -2 to 0, which already placed the Kiwis with a two-point advantage. Since the scoring does not reflect negative points, USA was able to show a positive score after winning three races, bringing the team out of the negative territory to a positive 1.

Strong winds were predicted for Tuesday's two afternoon races, and Races 11 and 12 were postponed because the winds exceeded this day's limit of 20.1 knots for over 30 seconds. The winds were increasing along with a strong current that was building in the afternoon.

Therefore, Races 11 and 12 were rescheduled for Wednesday, which is normally not a race day for the teams. San Francisco was boasting beautiful weather and 72 degrees temperature when Race 11 started with 16-knot winds.

The Kiwis took the lead and stayed in front of the USA defenders, who were trying to close the gap. Average speeds were very close, with the Kiwis out front at 29.88 knots and USA trailing at 29.04 knots. The top speed of the race was set by the Kiwis at 44.57 knots (51 mph).

At the final turning mark, USA had to make two maneuvers while the Kiwis jibed only once, which allowed New Zealand to cross the finish line with a 15-second delta over USA — thus adding a point and bringing the team's score to 8.

Then as the teams crossed the start line for Race 12, with Emirates Team New Zealand crossing first, the race was postponed about four seconds after the start because of the wind limit had been reached. The winds did not dip below the limit long enough to continue racing for the day, so the day was over on San Francisco Bay.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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