America's Cup champion skipper Jimmy Spithill of Oracle Racing swept the French Energy Team in two races Saturday to win the match racing portion of the America's Cup World Series on San Diego Bay.
Spithill, who skippered Oracle Racing's trimaran to victory in the 2010 America's Cup off Valencia, Spain, steered his 45-foot, wing-sailed catamarans to wins of 9 seconds and 1:07 in the best-of-3 series.
The Americans came from behind after losing the start of the first race. They led throughout the second race and steadily pulled away.
Spithill's crew, which spent 15 months training in San Diego before their 2010 America's Cup victory over Alinghi of Switzerland, had an edge in match racing experience while the French had an edge in multihull experience.
The winner-take-all fleet racing championship Sunday is worth half the points in the overall event scoring. Spithill will try to become the first skipper to sweep both the match racing and fleet racing ends of an America's Cup World Series event. This is the third stop on the ACWS, a prelude to the 2013 America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.
“I thought we did a great job of hanging tough today,” Spithill said. “The French are extremely good multihull sailors, some of the best in the world. Our game plan was to keep the pressure on them. I thought we did a great job of not giving them any openings. The conditions made it difficult racing.”
The shifty wind was nine knots and fading.
Spithill's crew, which spent 16 months training in San Diego before their 2010 America's Cup victory over the Swiss Alinghi team, had an edge Saturday in match racing experience while the French had an edge in multihull experience.
Spithill tried to press his advantage in the pre-start maneuvering before the first race. But the French refused to engage, escaped, won the start and held the lead until making a huge tactical error on the second upwind leg.
The boats were separated by 650 meters when the trailing Americans found a puff of wind on the right side to wipe out a French lead of almost 100 meters. When the boats came together in a near dead heat, Spithill used his right-of-way angle to force the French into two additional turning maneuvers.
“I made a small mistake in the first race,” French Energy skipper Yann Guichard said about the decision to allow Oracle to sail undefended into a distant corner of the course.
Spithill won the start of the second race and pulled steadily away in the ever-changing conditions.
Asked if the local knowledge gained from training in San Diego before the 2010 America's Cup helped, he said: “Only if we knew that we didn't know what to expect next.”
Dean Barker and Emirates New Zealand, the overall series leader after the first two stops of the ACWS, took third place by defeating Artemis Racing of Sweden team by 39 seconds.
The French Aleph team took fifth by beating Oracle Racing's other crew, skippered by Darren Bundock. Korea Team took seventh by beating Spain's Green Comm. China Team did not race Saturday and finished ninth.