“Oracle? Won the America’s Cup by deception!”

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09/25/2013 - San Francisco (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - ORACLE Team USA vs Emirates Team New Zealand, Race Day 15

Emilio Martinelli has unearthed in a book just published in the U.S. a precise and circumstantial indictment of Oracle, the catamaran that resoundingly won the last America’s Cup, retaking the New Zealand challenger from 1 to 8 to 9 to 8. The deception was there, reveals sailor/journalist G. Bruce Knecht, experts knew but no one had ever written about it explicitly…

Here is the article Martinelli wrote for the Gazzetta dello Sport:

The title is “The Comeback” (“The Return”), the author is G. Bruce Knecht, a U.S. journalist who knows quite a bit about sailing (he was aboard Mari Cha IV when, in 2005, he set the record for crossing the Atlantic from New York to Cape Lizard, the far edge of Europe), and the comeback being discussed revolves around Oracle Team USA’s victory at the 2013 America’s Cup. San Francisco’s. Especially that of the comeback from 1 to 8 to the famous 9 to 8 by the team of Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and James Spithill over the New Zealanders of Grant Dalton and Dean Barker. A return after two and a half years; a time that the author does not believe has made one forget what happened in San Francisco Bay when the American defender now on the ropes suddenly found an unknown speed that enabled him to win eight races in a row, annihilating the Kiwis. Regattas won, the author says, by cheating.

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In the book, Knecht examines in depth a whole series of modifications made by the U.S. defender, but he dwells on one element in particular: precisely the speed demonstrated in upwind (against the wind) sailing, thanks to the ease with which the U.S. AC72 was brought up out of the water and into foiling (flying on the water thanks to special drifts, foils in fact). The problem is how this superior speed was being achieved. And therein lies the revelation of The Comeback. For Knecht, the “trick” was a quick “pumping” of the wing, the wing sail, which was constantly being cocked (pulled) and let go (let go) creating, with each “pull,” a surplus of thrust on the wing. “After each tack,” Knecht writes, “the frantic pumping motion of the wing allowed the boat to ‘get up’ quickly on the foils. With the boat freed from water resistance Oracle quickly gained ground on the Kiwis.”

americas-cup2Thanks to the continuous pumping Spithill could basically delay the turn in the windward tack by bringing the boat on a more direct course to the next buoy without ‘coming down’ from the foils. Pumping non-stop was crucial. “If we had not pumped up the wing, we would have lost ground,” Spithill explained. In short, according to Knecht Oracle won through cheating. That was if it was a normal regatta(Rule 42 of the Racing Rules of Sailing, the International Rules of Racing, which deals with boat propulsion, prohibits pumping), but here it is the America’s Cup and so… Then in the Cup, Rule 42 had been modified and stipulated that: “A boat shall compete using only the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease its speed. Its crew may adjust the trim of the wing, sails, rudders, daggerboards and hulls and perform other actions of seamanship.” That was all, and while the Cup Rules contained a long list of things that could and could not be done, there was no reference to pumping, which, it should be remembered, is prohibited in normal racing. In short, in the 2013 Cup regattas one could only “adjust wing and sails.” That leaves the question that G. Bruce Knecht at the end of The Comebak (subtitle “How Larry Ellison Won the America’s Cup) poses to the reader: Was what Oracle did allowed by the racing rules? Your answer.

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