I totally agree Mike. As far as tactics go lately, the splits that Oracle have been doing at the bottom of the course on the first transition from downwind to upwind are either old-school monohull thinking or knowledgeable desperation. Either way, I don't think there is any situation where I would want to split from my competition if I'm within 1 boat length of them rounding the bottom of the course on the first upwind leg of a relatively long race. This is a habit that has taken me a long time to build and it serves me well - basically, it requires managing my panic - managing my strategic risk. At the speeds THESE boats can achieve, you only need the smallest opportunity to pass. Additionally while in the lead on a boat as efficient through the wind, you can't physically hold a boat behind you like you could with the AC monohulls. You hold a boat down on faster-than-wind boats by making sure you have as good or better pressure and angle and sail higher faster. Oracle was either making panicked, ill-advised, strategy decision from the outset of races 3 and 4 (I didn't see 1 and 2) or they knew they had a major upwind speed deficit and just started rolling the dice at the beginning.
I know I'm heavy in arm-chair-skipper mode here, and, admittedly, I've most certainly never made any money sailing... but even with a known speed deficit and sailing from behind, I would work hard to keep myself in as close touch with the opponent boat to see what we can figure out to deal with our speed problem or stay tight to capitalize on a mistake. If nothing else, the data that you can record while sailing in tight quarters with your opponent can help define exactly how much of a problem you need to overcome. The data you record while sailing on opposite sides of the course from your competitor isn't quite as sound since the wind and water differences start to get less predictable between the boat conditions.
In old school monohulls, passing was harder. The splits were more strategically sound because you will likely tack several more times upwind and you have a chance to try and manipulate the timing that your opponent tacks to cover so that you can work the wind phase in your advantage. With only three or four tacks upwind now, and going from edge to edge of the course during those tacks, being in phase with the wind is critical. I really think they should round the bottom of the course with the best chance to be and stay in phase with the wind ~almost~ regardless of what the competition is doing. Anticipating shifts just a little better than your opponent (who is placing a good deal of his focus on you) is not too hard to do and very solid gains are available.
It's very unlikely that any of these teams are going to pick the wrong side of the course when given their preference. I probably would NOT allow them to choose first what side of the course they want and then take the longer way to get to wherever my opponent didn't want to go. That smells like almost certain death...aka, taking a flyer. Flyers are the equivalent to an American Football hail mary, and when have you ever seen a team try a hail mary (the kind where everybody bunches up at the longest point the QB can throw the ball) when they first get possession? It hardly ever happens - and for good reason. It's poor risk management EVEN IF you expect that your chances to win are low at the outset of the match.