It’s only really when sailing goes wrong that it grabs the headlines. Certainly there are many examples of this in offshore racing, when the lives of sailors are thrown into jeopardy after a capsize mid-ocean, requiring them to be rescued by fellow sailors or the Australian Navy.

The same may well be true of the America’s Cup, with Russell Coutts’s infamous capsize on San Francisco Bay last year racking up about 2 million hits (and counting) on YouTube. Hence why crash and burn has become a crucial part of the America’s Cup - as it attempts to appeal to a wider audience and achieve commercial viability, as opposed to funding from wealthy private individuals, which has been the lifeblood for the Cup this past century and a half.

So when the America’s Cup World Series rolled into San Francisco for the first time in late August, perhaps Coutts decided it was time to give his series another publicity boost. This time, instead of doing the much-viewed head-over-heels nose plant and subsequent capsize from the previous summer, Coutts opted for a variation on the theme. This time he gave the committee boat a good whack at a closing speed of about 15 knots.

Coutts and his crew had been hovering above the layline at the windward end of the start line, with team mate James Spithill holding the favoured spot but with the French Energy Team just below him. The most favourable interpretation that you could put on Coutts’s position was that he was hoping for the wind to blow his rivals to leeward in time for a gap to open up between the Oracle Spithill boat and the committee boat.

But the gap never appeared, so when Coutts bore away to accelerate for the line he had himself between a rock and a hard place. Smash into Spithill or smash into the committee boat? He opted for the latter and, if you haven’t seen it online, you can watch it from multiple camera angles, the most impressive of which is the one taken from the fixed camera on the bow of Coutts’s boat. You see the bowsprit charge into the standing area of the aft deck of the committee boat, and you thank the Lord that no one was standing in its way. Indeed you can see from the camera that most people on board the committee boat weren’t even aware of the impending collision until the point of impact. Understandably they were all looking the other way at the other 10 boats that had just started, somewhat more successfully than Coutts.

That was Coutts’s racing done for the day: immediate retirement from the race in question and no chance to compete in the race immediately following. On being interviewed ashore, the Oracle boss sounded cross, not with himself so much as with Spithill, which was quite bewildering. In the last few seconds leading up to the start, TV commentator Mitch Booth said: “There’s no space at the top of the line.” Coutts said he had been waiting for his team mate to bear away but implied that Spithill was holding his boat to windward in order to keep the door shut on the other Oracle boat.

Later that afternoon when Spithill’s crew came ashore they were interviewed about their analysis of the situation. It became pretty clear they weren’t even focused on Coutts. They were too caught up in nailing their own start and defending their space from Energy to leeward of them. When one of Spithill’s crew, Dirk de Ridder, was told that his account of the moment was in contradiction to Coutts’s, the Dutchman laughed: “You can’t argue with the CEO, right? I’ll pack my suitcase, I’m going.”

Spithill was equally perplexed by the allegation that he might have caused the collision, and wondered what his boss had been doing there in the first place. “It was a high risk strategy, what he did. It [the sound of the collision] was quite a loud bang. I reckon some of the people on shore heard it.”

This wasn’t a marginal error of judgement, it was a schoolboy error. It wasn’t like the starboard bow of the AC45 just glanced off the stern of the committee boat, the point of impact must have been a good 10 feet further long the side. How could a sailor of the calibre of Russell Coutts, an Olympic Champion and four-time winner of the America’s Cup, have made such a monumental cock-up? Not only that, but not to hold his hands up to the error but to try and pin it on his team mate, who by anybody else’s measure, was the innocent party?

It appears that Coutts is increasingly gaining a sense of theatre, the need to create dramatic tension wherever the opportunity arises. That’s no bad thing, provided that he doesn’t tip the Americas’ Cup over the line of sport for sport’s sake and into the murky realm of sport for entertainment’s sake, such as we see with the World Wrestling Federation. At least the WWF was honest enough to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment a decade ago.

In the America’s Cup, we have to believe that what we’re watching is bunch of sailors racing their socks off in pursuit of a gaudy, over-ornate trophy. If it also can be entertaining, then great, but don’t let it rule the sport. When something goes badly wrong, such as Coutts’s collision, by all means make the most of it. And a bit of amping up the personal rivalries is all good stuff too, provided it’s believable.

I just still can’t believe that Coutts could have made such a bad judgment call, although maybe the answer comes from Ben Ainslie who was in San Francisco helming his own AC45 for the very first time. “You look at people making mistakes and question ‘why they are doing that, surely it’s obvious?’ But now I can tell you for sure, when you’re on the boat it’s not that easy. It really is a lot harder than it looks on the telly.” Maybe that’s the answer right there, perhaps the ‘red mist’ had descended over Russell Coutts in the heat of the moment.

The other option to consider, perhaps, is whether the America’s Cup legend has finally had his day, having turned 50 in March. Faster boats, slower reactions? That theory was soon disproven, however, when he battled his way into the finals of the match racing and found himself up against his start line ‘nemesis’, James Spithill. Following on from the Newport, Rhode Island, showdown in June, this was the second consecutive all-Oracle defender final, with no look-in for the challengers after Coutts had dispatched Terry Hutchinson and Artemis in his semi-final, and Spithill had beaten Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand on his side of the draw.

It was a fantastic final, with Coutts taking his start line revenge as Spithill misjudged his approach layline. But the younger man managed to catch up his boss with a downwind gust and took a narrow lead. However a penalty towards the closing stages forced Spithill to slow up and concede his lead, only getting back up to full speed as Coutts was flying past. The 50-year-old surged across the line at in excess of 25 knots, but only 1 second ahead of the 33-year-old. It was a storming final, and one that delighted the San Francisco crowds who lined the shore. America’s Cup estimates were for 150,000 across the regatta, with the crowd peaking for the final Sunday at about 40,000.

After the end of the match racing it was the double-point concluding heat of the seven-race fleet racing regatta. Four teams went into the final with a chance of winning, and for a while it was Chris Draper at the helm of Luna Rossa Piranha who led the race and were on for winning the regatta. But it was the irrepressible Spithill who charged through the fleet again after a poor start, just overhauling Team Korea on the final blast to the finish to come second in the race and take the fleet racing regatta by a single point from Luna Rossa.

Ever since the America’s Cup World Series regattas arrived stateside from Europe, Oracle Team USA have been unstoppable, with both home teams showing their mettle, Coutts’s aforementioned aberrations aside.

Emirates Team New Zealand, on the other hand, was looking out of sorts. But Dean Barker and his crew have been busy with what is arguably more important jobs - working up their new AC72, a beast of a machine whose curved foils lift the entire boat out of the water at which point she has accelerated to speeds in excess of 40 knots. Where the Kiwis have spent a number of very useful days sailing their new boat out of Auckland, Oracle’s AC72 had a breakdown on day one, the gleaming black hulls returning to the shed after ‘daggerboard failure’. Keeping these boats in one piece is going to be a big part of the battle next summer in the America’s Cup proper.

Then again, we said similar things of the AC45s a year ago, and now the teams are capsizing AC45s in their sleep. Even before the San Francisco regatta had started, five teams had pitchpoled in the choppy waters of the Bay during practice sessions.

Impressively, Ben Ainslie wasn’t one of those five. The now four-time Olympic Champion jetted out to California straight from London 2012 celebrations and threw himself headlong into his new role as skipper of his own AC45, J.P. Morgan Ben Ainslie Racing. Effectively this is another Oracle boat, with the new boy crewed by four team members who have already learned the ropes on the wing-masted multihull. “I couldn’t ask for a better team around me,” commented Ainslie on the eve of competition. “I’m definitely the weak link at the moment. I probably learned more today than I have in the past 25 years of sailing.”

Clearly Ainslie is a fast learner, as the very next day he went on to win both his matches against fellow gold medallist Nathan Outteridge and Team Korea. Results-wise, day one would prove to be the high point for Ben Ainslie Racing. Some were surprised the Briton didn’t climb higher in the rankings, but none of the sailors were surprised. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before in sailing, these AC45s are a handful. Even staying on board the things isn’t that easy. Just ask another four-time Olympic Champion, the 200m and 400m athletics legend Michael Johnson. He fell off the back of Russell Coutts’s trampoline during the final race, and had to be picked up by a safety RIB.

"He yelled out,” grinned Coutts afterwards. “I think he was expecting me to come back, but there was no way I was going back." Nothing averts Coutts from the task in hand, not even a VIP MOB.