Oracle Team USA hoping for hometown advantage 

click to enlarge Root for the home team: Oracle Team USA Spithill will run its first race Thursday, and hopes to hear fans cheering and supporting the crew from the shoreline. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • mike koozmin/The s.f. examiner
  • Root for the home team: Oracle Team USA Spithill will run its first race Thursday, and hopes to hear fans cheering and supporting the crew from the shoreline.

Mayor Ed Lee was on hand Tuesday to greet all 11 skippers from the America’s Cup World Series teams as San Francisco prepares to host its first race in the globe-spanning event today.

While most of the teams have already been here for weeks, getting used to the waters and the boats they will use for this stage of the event, defending champion Oracle Team USA has been here for months, an advantage skipper Jimmy Spithill thinks will pay off.

Spithill said the biggest advantage he hopes for, however, is not going to come from familiarity with San Francisco Bay.

“One thing we’re really hoping we can rely on is some hometown support,” he said. “It does make a big difference when people come and cheer us on and help us, the guys just naturally lift. We’re really hoping we can use that to our advantage like the Giants and the 49ers do at a home game. There’s something about racing at home that gives you a little bit of an advantage.”

Though spectators will be confined to the shore as the boats zip past, Spithill said he expects to be able to hear the crowd, and cites the results from previous races as evidence of the morale boost spurring a team on toward the finish line.

“When we were in Italy, most of the fans there were cheering on the Italian teams,” Spithill said. “And if you look at the performance of the Italian teams, it was pretty good in the Italian events. You look at our performance in Newport it was pretty good, in San Diego and Newport because we had people cheering for us, so that’s what I’d really like to see here.”

Terry Hutchinson, skipper for Artemis Racing, acknowledged that Oracle deserves some respect as defending champions, but also expressed confidence that his team should be considered a threat to win as well.

“That’s the advantage they have, and that’s OK,” he said. “They still have to deal with all the same things that all the other competitors have to deal with.”

Tuesday saw the fourth capsized boat of the practice rounds, as Emirates Team New Zealand took minor damage on the water. “ETNZ capsize in practice racing,” the team tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “All on board OK. Minor damage to top of wing. Boat returning to base.”

Despite the cold, foggy weather that has blanketed The City in recent days, none of the skippers expressed any concern over the impact San Francisco’s trademark weather will have on their ability to compete.

“We were training in Spain back in January, February, March and it in the mountains behind us it was snowing,” Hutchinson said. “You get out on the water and you get going and the gear is so good, inevitably you end up shaving layers off. The coldest part of the day is the first 20 minutes when you’re getting dressed.”

The races kick off today at 2 p.m. with the match-racing qualifiers. Spectators can watch from the Marina Green.

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