The Swedes unannounced stole the show this fourth day of races. Instead of both USA boats racing each other, as in August’s Match Final duel, Sweden was the only team with two boats in the semifinals, Italy’s two boats having been washed out in the seeding and USA’s Coutts losing in the quarterfinals.

The weather was comfortable in the upper 60s and by noon the skies had cleared as the Blue Angels (the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration squadron) took to the skies, flying tight in formation in a show between the two bridges, twisting and turning, while streaking into the heavens and plummetting toward the bay against heavy G-forces.
For spectators lining the bay and in office skyscrapers, another daring flying show followed as an Oracle red biplane did death defying twirls and tumbles for more than half an hour. The pilot several times held his plane vertical at just sufficient speed so that gravity slowly dropped him tail-first toward the bay.

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After these early afternoon aerial acrobatics it was time for San Francisco’s second 2012 America’s Cup event to once again take over the bay, first with the two last match racing quarter finals and then with two more fleet races. The first of these saw USA-Spithill defeat Ben Ainslie. This was significant because, although Ainslie is racing here as a separate British team, he joins Oracle for the ACWS world tour and next year will race teammate Spithill to defend the Cup. Even now, during the interim since the August regatta, he and his team have trained with Oracle, as Outteridge has with Artemis. It shows.

The second race had Oracle’s Coutts originally penalizing Artemis-Red’s Outteridge at the start. However, even for the four-time AC Champion Coutts, strange things can happen in the midst of a race. As he was rounding the last mark, Coutts took a wrong turn. “There’s not much sense to explain that,” said Coutts. “It is what it is. We went around the wrong mark, it’s that simple.” So, even though he beat Outteridge by seconds, the judges ruled that he did not finish (DNF), awarding Outteridge the victory and advancing him to the match racing semifinals beside his teammates in Artemis-White.

When Outteridge races New Zealand in the semifinals Saturday, one has to wonder if their skipper, Dean Barker is superstitious. Outteridge is a superb sailor, attaining third overall behind teammate Hutchinson, but in the match races his first opponent, China, broke a spar; his second, USA-Coutts fouled out.
The fleet races this day were every bit as exciting. The winners were Ainslie (JPM-BAR) and Hutchinson (Artemis-White), trading 1st and 2nd places in the two races. In the first, Ainslie snuffed Hutchinson’s wind; in the second, Hutchinson exchanged the favor. They were challenging races, sometimes only because of the marvelous broadcast technology could one tell who was ahead because they would be racing on opposite sides of the course. Outteridge’s performance against the fleet put him in third overall. “We’re happy because we sailed a lot better today than yesterday,” said Outteridge. “Yesterday we were leading and dropped back to fourth. Today we fought up the fleet to place fourth. It’s amazing the different feeling on the boat.”

Artemis CEO Paul Cayard was proud of the performance of both his teams, as he noted the change which this extreme competition has introduced to the sport. “When I was a kid and did my first America’s Cup, all the old experienced guys were in the back of the boat,” said Cayard, who’s calling tactics for Outteridge and riding in the front of the crew. “Now, the kids waltz in with their gold medals and get right on the wood (tiller) and the 53-year-olds are on the bow. It’s upside down.”

So, going into Saturday’s race, only the Swedes have two boats (and twice the chances) in the semifinals. Both the semifinals and finals of match racing will be decided tomorrow. And in the overall standings Sweden is in second and third places. Today the fleet race rankings for the leaders show (place/points): 1) JPM-BAR (43); 2) Artemis-White (34); 3) Artemis-Red (32); 4) USA-Spithill (29). This is a tremendous recovery for Hutchinson and Spithill, who had 10th and 8th places, respectively in the first races. Outteridge has been amazingly consistent with 4th place finishes in all four races.

Ted Olsson
Reporting from the America's Cup races on San Francisco Bay for Nordstjernan
www.sacc-sf.org