As fog disappears, Ainslie has the edge

Skipper Ben Ainslie won the first race on Thursday with a 17 second lead on Emirates Team New Zealand.

The fog lifted and winds died down a bit for the second day of racing in the latest installment of the America’s Cup World Series on San Francisco Bay on Thursday, a day that saw Ben Ainslie Racing take the early lead in fleet racing, while Artemis Racing-White and Emirates Team New Zealand advanced to the semifinals of the match racing.

Oracle Team USA Spithill struggled during the first fleet race, finishing eighth after they were unable to recover from a slow start, but dominated the second fleet race, putting them in second in the overall standings.
Spithill said the difference between the two fleet races was simple.

“We just got our acts together really,” he said. “The first one we just made a lot of mistakes, which was pretty disappointing really. Most of them from me. It’s just frustrating. Obviously the pressure was on for the second one it was nice to bounce back and get the result.”

Skipper Ben Ainslie led his crew to a convincing victory during the first fleet race, leading most of the seven-leg race and coming in 17 seconds ahead of second-place Emirates Team New Zealand and skipper Dean Barker.

Ainslie was in the running for a sweep of the day’s fleet races, as he stayed close behind Jimmy Spithill’s crew for much of the race, but in the end Ainslie found himself in a race for second with the two Artemis Racing teams, White and Red.

Ainslie – the most decorated Olympic sailor in history — made a dramatic improvement from the August races, when he finished next to last in fleet racing. He credited the change to the time spent training with Team Oracle USA skippers Spithill and Russell Coutts in between events.

“That’s a huge asset to be able to tap into that for someone that’s a newcomer to multihulls and this type of racing,” Ainslie said. “You would never learn those skills as quickly without that kind of support, so that was the biggest difference really.”

Artemis Racing-White, helmed by Terry Hutchinson, pulled ahead at the end to finish second after finishing 10th in the first race, and Ainslie had to settle for third, just one boat length ahead of Nathan Outterridge and Artemis Racing-Red.

In the match racing, Artemis Racing-White and Emirates Team New Zealand both advanced to Saturday’s semifinals.

Artemis Racing-White, which has the only American skipper in Hutchinson, edged out the event’s youngest skipper, Peter Burling of Team Korea, jumping out to an early lead and holding off Team Korea down the stretch.  

Emirates Team New Zealand had the more dramatic victory, running neck-and-neck with Energy Team before pulling away in the end.

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