Playing the waiting game has ups and downs for Oracle Team USA 

click to enlarge Defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA will try to pick up tips from the challengers during the Louis Vuitton Cup. - ERIC RISBERG/AP
  • Eric Risberg/AP
  • Defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA will try to pick up tips from the challengers during the Louis Vuitton Cup.

America's Cup racing will finally start this week, but the home team is still more than two months away from competitive action.

While Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge and Artemis Racing battle it out in the Louis Vuitton Cup in July and August, Oracle Team USA will continue to fine tune its boat as it awaits its challenger in the 34th America's Cup.

"We're going to continue to modify the boats, make adjustments and look for a little more speed," said Brian MacInnes, a grinder for Oracle.

As the defender of the America's Cup, Oracle won't see competition until Sept. 7 when it faces the winner of the Vuitton Cup in the final, a best-of-17 series. The position gives Oracle advantages, like time, secrecy and the ability to scout prospective opponents, but it comes with a tradeoff: they'll face an opponent who's been racing competitively for two months.

"Being in competition is a great thing, you learn a lot about your boat," MacInnes said. "But on the flipside, time is the biggest enemy in the America's Cup. You never have enough time to do all the things you want to do, so having a couple of extra months under your belt isn't a bad thing."

Over the summer, Oracle plans to hit the water two or three days a week with both its AC72's and another couple days with just one boat.

To stay warm while the Vuitton Cup heats up, Oracle will set up race tracks in the South Bay and use its two 72-foot catamarans and 11-man crews to compete against itself in preparation for September's contest.

"We've developed two strong racing teams, we have enough guys to fill two boats completely and we've built two great boats," MacInnes said. "We'll have great in-house competition."

Additional time could be a tremendous advantage for Oracle in this year's America's Cup.

The contest is the first in which teams will be racing the 72-foot catamarans, so the American team will receive an extra two months to experiment and tweak the boat to produce more speed.

"With such a young class of boats, there is just so much to learn with foils, rudders and wings," grinder Matt Mitchell said. "Time is the most valuable commodity right now, so we're just going to go out there and use it wisely."

What's more, Oracle will receive the opportunity to scout its opponents, adopt what's working and see how they handle the course.

"We'll try to get a gauge on what they're doing, whether they're clever and whether we should be doing some of that, too," Mitchell said.

MacInnes said The City is in for a "great show" once the main event arrives and two heavyweights square off for the 34th America's Cup.

"San Francisco has a great base of sports fans whether it's for the Giants, the Niners — all the teams get great support," he said. "Hopefully, those people come out and enjoy the racing. It's going to be a great event — a spectacle."

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Paul Gackle

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