Light winds but two flights of racing, at last. Matthew Sheahan reports on the first day of racing
At last, after four frustrating days where lack of wind stopped play and threatened a major change and upset in the format, racing got under way. And good racing at that. The two best matches were those that saw Mascalzone Latino take a big scalp, along with Shosholoza’s first win in Louis Vuitton Round Robin 1.
The day started with some unusual conditions on the water where the absence of clues on the water’s surface betrayed what was happening a few metres up. Seeing the boats scoot around before the start, heeled, pressed up, yet sailing on a mirror like surface was a strange, almost errie sight. Surely the conditions couldn’t hold? But they did.
In the match between Mascalzone Latino and Emirates Team New Zealand the Italians, buoyed up by their success in Act 13, demonstrated how good their new boat is. The team also demonstrated just how much they have leaned and improved when it comes to coping with boat handling and tactics under pressure. This was a full on race with the Italians gaining a slight advantage from the start and holding it throughout the race, despite some serious pressure from behind with the Kiwis breathing down their necks.
Both teams demonstrated some flawless crew work but it was Mascalzone Latino that finished on the high putting a point on the board that they surely didn’t expect. What was so impressive was that this was a race where no quarter was given, no mistakes made and no hint of anything other than a full-on, professionally executed race that highlighted just how close the racing might be. The breeze was steady, the boats were close to each other throughout the race and there were no obvious mistakes from the Kiwis that handed the Italians a result.
In their second race of the day, the Italians went on to beat the French Areva team to put two wins on the board. Excellent work and a performance that has provided further evidence for those who see the team as serious contenders for the ‘fourth slot’ come the semi finals.
The other match that impressed observers was that between the South Africans and United Internet Team Germany, a match that Shosholoza won.
Speaking after the race, helmsman Mark Sadler said that while they respected their opponents, the team had expected to beat the Germans. So had we and yet it’s easy to take for granted how far this team has come. Not so long ago they were lucky if they could finish a race, now their sights are set at the semi finals, ‘a tall order perhaps’, admits Sadler but one that they believe they might just be able to achieve.
Interpolating such success from a single win on the first day of racing would be a risky thing to do, but there’s no doubt that this team provides the best example there is as to how much can be achieved with a one boat campaign and modest expectations.
In the last few hours the expectations of spectators have increased too now we have seen some racing. The trouble is it looks like we’re in for a quiet 24 hours to follow.
At the very least though, the route to the Cup is finally under way.
WHO BEAT WHO?
FRIDAY (RESERVE DAY) – FLIGHT 1
Mascalzone Latino BEAT Emirates Team New Zealand
Areva Challenge BEAT Plus 39
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT United Internet Team Germany
Victory Challenge BEAT Team Shosholoza
Luna Rossa BEAT China Team
FRIDAY (RESERVE DAY) – FLIGHT 2
Desafio Espanol BEAT Plus 39
Mascalzone Latino BEAT Areva Challenge
Team Shosholoza BEAT United Internet Team Germany
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT China Team
Luna Rossa BEAT Victory Challenge
HOW TO WATCH, LISTEN AND FOLLOW THE ACTION
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Broadcast starts at 1355 local time (1255 GMT)
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