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Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Sailboat Racing, US |

America’s Cup: Rate of Change Is Even Faster than an AC72

The speeds are impressive, but even more significant is Team Oracle USA's rate of improvement.

Just last week, I was thinking it was all over (read America’s Cup 2013: Why Covering Won’t Work).

And then on Saturday Oracle came out swinging, with a weapon that suddenly matched (and maybe at times even surpassed) the one so steadily wielded by Emirates Team New Zealand. Improving boat speed and boathandling by that much over two days means the learning curve on Team Oracle USA is almost vertical. Which is just one more sign of how fast the world of America’s Cup racing is changing.

Oracle-Leads-NR

Team Oracle USA has won two of the three races since making significant modifications that improved upwind speed.

Three years ago, we couldn’t imagine that two 40 knot catamarans could match race. But yesterday we saw some of the best match racing ever, with more lead changes in one race than ever before in Cup history, according to Gary Jobson.

And three years ago, I certainly couldn’t imagine I’d be watching clear, up close, real-time race video on a screen that was sitting in my lap. The America’s Cup world is not the only one that’s changing faster and faster with each passing gadget.

Now for a few magic weeks, we can enjoy exactly what Larry Ellison’s America’s Cup 2013 brochure promised: two well-matched speed machines only one mistake away from a heart-stopping capsize, match racing around a spectator-friendly course, delivering unexpected thrills and spills with no significant damage to crews or boats.

And no matter how many races it takes to win this thing, it will be challenge on for the next defender. Because it’s hard to imagine anyone again spending anything near what this Cup is costing in boats, personnel, and even those graphics we all now take for granted. What could be better than this, three or four years from now?

But in a world where boat speed can go from bitter slow to higher and faster almost overnight, three years is a very long time.

Photo by Neil Rabinowitz

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