Luna Rossa and Desafio Espanol pull off two confident wins. Are the tables turning in the Americas Cup? Matthew Sheahan reports
If you’re a spectator it just gets better. Not only did the supposedly weaker teams put wins on their supposedly stronger opponents, but these were no fluky, luck of the draw successes. Both were solid victories that will have, at the very least dented the big boys’ pride. Some think there might be an even bigger problem brewing.
In the match between the Kiwis and Desafio Espanol, Karol Jablonski had said that he would put extra pressure on Dean in the start box and that is exactly what he did, hassling the Kiwi around the start zone. In his efforts to escape the clutches of Jablonski, Barker tried to gybe across the bow of the green boat, but simply didn’t have room to do so cleanly. Jablonski, who was on port had to head up to avoid a collision, and a ‘Y’ flag was waved claiming that Barker hadn’t given him room and opportunity to keep clear. The umpires agreed and on went the flashing yellow light, signifying a penalty on Emirates Team New Zealand.
“I take full responsibility for that error,” said Barker, who seemed to be handling a bad day on the water rather well considering the final outcome for the team. Sitting alongside him at the press conference after the race , Jablonski struggled to stop smiling. This was another big day for the Spanish team. A penalty was one thing, but the most impressive aspect of the Desafio success was that the Spanish never needed to cash in the penalty to win. Instead, they sailed confidently and fast around the entire course rounding the second windward mark a staggering 44 seconds ahead of the Kiwis having worked the second beat to perfection. Had the changes to the boat made the difference?
“Last night we cut off the wings, tomorrow we will cut off the bulb!” joked Jablonski.
For the Kiwis, the day was yet another one to learn from, especially in the pre-start, the second in which they have copped a penalty and perhaps further evidence that this is the area that the team appears to be weaker. Usually the team has been able to power back from behind to take a win, but today they saw their first loss since April 28th when the result of their match against BMW Oracle at the end of Round Robin 1 went against them. Yet Barker saw the day’s events in far simpler terms.
“The only thing that went right for us today was the wind. Unfortunately we were on the left!” he said taking the assembled journalists by surprise by his light-hearted response.
Meanwhile the match between BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa had been equally surprising and had started in a similar manner, albeit without the penalty.
Just as he had done on the previous day, Luna Rossa’s helmsman James Spithill pushed Dickson around the pre-start as the young Aussie driver fought for the right hand side of the line. With less than a minute to go he still had it and defended his position by pushing Dickson away, forcing him to tack and risk hitting the opposite end of the line just a little too early.
From then on Luna Rossa played a more conservative covering game as they drew out a small lead up the first beat.
Given the new certificate that BMW Oracle had been issued this morning, we had expected to see more upwind speed from Dickson’s boat, but this wasn’t apparent from their performance at this stage. So what had they done to the boat?
Strategist Eric Doyle disclosed reluctantly that the change had been a small one, (teams are allowed two measurement changes per round for free, one of which that doesn’t require a re-floatation), but wouldn’t go any further. James Spithill did though.
“It was a rudder change??.I think???.at a guess,” he said, keen to help out at the post race press conference.
As the race had played out, the Italian team showed once again that they can lead around the course and win, this was their second of the semis. Despite coming back on the run, BMW Oracle was forced into another defeat. But perhaps even more interesting is that in the semi finals Dickson’s team hasn’t led around a single mark. Coming back from behind is one of their strengths but this time it wasn’t enough.
Asked what syndicate boss and crew member Larry Ellison had said after the race he replied with a strained smile, “I didn’t talk with Larry much after the race today.”
With Ellison’s team looking at a 2:1 score against them and in the knowledge that had Luna Rossa not played such a loose and reckless race in the first match, they could be staring at a 3:0 defeat, surely the tension on the north side of the Darsena harbour must be building.
Perhaps the other issue is that despite being told by so many of the big boys that ultimately the America’s Cup is about designing a fast boat, that’s precisely what all the semi finalists have gone out and done.
Now it’s all about the start. At least one of the former underdog is no longer and sits on top of their opponent in the best of five series.
If you’re a spectator it just gets better.
Results After Day 3
Emirates Team New Zealand v Desafio Espanol: 2:1
BMW Oracle Racing v Luna Rossa: 1:2
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