The Swiss Alinghi team put on a clutch performance on Thursday, winning an exhilarating race over the Oracle BMW Racing team, in the Pro-Driver series

The Swiss Alinghi team put on a clutch performance on Thursday, winning an exhilarating race over the Oracle BMW Racing team, in the Pro-Driver series. The contest was a thriller, with two lead changes, and a penalty. It all made for exciting race viewing in perfect conditions – bright sunshine, and a 12-15kt westerly on San Francisco Bay. The local crowd took advantage, and there was a large spectator fleet, in addition to the thousands watching from shore.

Thursday had dawned with the decision that race four of the Pro-Driver series at the Moet Cup had been abandoned and would be re-sailed, with the agreement of all the participants. Alinghi, who had been trailing 3-1, after Wednesday’s races, now entered play on Thursday down just 2-1 and with an opportunity to even the score.

The situation was even more dire in the Owner-Driver series, where Alinghi trailed 2-0. But Ernesto Bertarelli sailed a strong race, and led his Swiss team to its second win of the day.

Alinghi took control of race five of the pro-driver series in the pre-start. Alinghi skipper Jochen Schuemann used his starboard tack advantage to force a dial-up. After the traditional circling and jockeying for position, Alinghi and Oracle BMW set up their run for the start line on starboard tack with Schuemann to windward, Oracle BMW helmsman Gavin Brady to leeward, and time to kill. Both boats luffed to lose time, and Brady eventually decided to tack and duck behind Alinghi. But he didn’t have enough time to return to full speed, and the start gun fired with Schuemann racing across the line, a full length ahead and to leeward of the American boat.

Alinghi used this start line advantage to build a nice lead, midway through the race. On the second beat, Schuemann elected not to cover, and Brady, and Oracle BMW skipper Chris Dickson, made him pay. Separating by over 1300m, Dickson found stronger wind on the right in the middle of the Bay, and as Alinghi sailed up the shoreline, Oracle BMW steamed past to lead by just 10-seconds around the top mark.

But on the final run, Alinghi set itself up well, gybing first inside Oracle BMW. When Dickson gybed, the Swiss team was able to roll over the American boat and make a pass. As Dickson and Brady tried to re-gain position from behind and to leeward, they came too close and when their spinnaker touched the mainsail on Alinghi the Umpires assessed a penalty.

Schuemann was able to round the leeward mark with a slim lead, and covered loosely up the short beat to the finish. After completing a penalty turn just before the finish line, Oracle BMW crossed 41-seconds behind.

There was a false start in the second race due to a miscommunication between race officials.

When the race re-started, the boats lined up for the start line with Oracle BMW Racing owner Larry Ellison to leeward, and Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli powered up slightly to windward. Ellison luffed his counterpart aggressively, but Bertarelli stayed clear, and started close to windward, both boats on starboard tack.

Ellison was able to force Alinghi to tack with two hard luffs after the start and Bertarelli claimed the right hand side of the course for the start of the leg.

The boats switched sides when Alinghi was forced to tack by Alcatraz Island, and Bertarelli then worked up the shoreline, in front of the crowds lining the shore. Ellison enjoyed good wind in the middle of the course, but when the boats converged again, Alinghi carried a 19-second lead around the top mark.

With this race being sailed on the short, three-leg, course, the Oracle BMW Racing team couldn’t find a passing opportunity, and Bertarelli and his Alinghi team, won its first race in the Owner-Driver series. Oracle BMW now leads 2 -1 in the five-race series.


Moet Cup – Pro-Driver Series

Race Five of Seven (with Race Four to be re-sailed)

Alinghi (SUI-64) beats Oracle BMW Racing (USA-76) – Delta 0:41

Owner-Driver Series (Race Three of Five)

Alinghi beats Oracle BMW Racing – Delta 0:35