America’s Cup - Sport

Hopefully, we can bridge the gap

  • Grant Simmer, the Oracle Team USA general manager

Grant Simmer, the Oracle Team USA general manager, said the race is on behind the scenes to bridge the performance gap between the defender and challenger Emirates Team New Zealand before racing for the 35th America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, resumes on the Great Sound tomorrow.

The Kiwis have been dominant in the prevailing light-air conditions and, unless Oracle’s shore team can quickly figure out a way to solve the problem, their chances of a third straight America’s Cup triumph could end up shipwrecked in the Bermuda Triangle.

“Clearly, we’re not fast enough relative to Team New Zealand in those conditions,” said Simmer, a two-times America’s Cup winner with Australia II and Oracle.

“We’re looking in all areas, including how we sail the boat and how we set it up. You’ll see differences in appendages, for example, and hopefully that translates into improvements in this wind range.”

Oracle beat Team New Zealand twice en route to winning the Qualifiers, but the Kiwis have stepped up their game since then and are now threatening to pedal away with the prestigious “Auld Mug”.

Simmer said: “They have sped up significantly between when we raced them in the Qualifiers and beat them in two races, and this past weekend. We know we’ve made changes and become faster since then, but they’ve made a bigger jump and now we have to close that gap.

“We’ve identified a few things, which we’re going to go out and test over the next few days, modifying our appendages a bit. Hopefully, we can bridge the gap.”

Oracle trail the Kiwis 3-0 in the best-of-13 series for sailing’s holy grail.

“It’s not a scorecard you’d aspire to have after the first weekend,” Simmer said. “But the mood in the team is positive and aggressive in terms of attacking the problem and making improvements.

“In 2013 [in San Francisco] we made a lot of changes to the way we sailed the AC72 during the America’s Cup and that meant we learnt how to foil upwind — that became the decisive factor.

“Here, both teams are already foiling upwind and downwind, and through tacks and gybes, so we have to look harder to find little areas where we can make small gains all the way around the racecourse in this wind range.”