The first day of iShares Cup season proves a dramatic one for the America's Cup holders
The first race of the first event of the 2008 iShares Cup season certainly lived up to expectations, delivering plenty of drama out on the race course and the first capsize of the season for America’s Cup defenders Alinghi.
After a short wait for the light winds to settle in direction on Lake Lugano (Switzerland), the nine-boat fleet started the first iShares Cup race with BT and Holmatro over the line early. The fleet set off on a reaching leg to the top mark, most opting to use their gennakers and flying one hull to lay the first mark on port tack.
The nine catamarans were overlapped around a packed windward mark, with most boats opting to furl their gennakers away and tack around, but some boats struggled to control the huge sail as they re-launched on the other gybe – Holmatro dragging the massive sail in the water. iShares was leading as they came past the race village for the first time, until on the second lap a sudden and big squall swept through the fleet.
Alinghi skipper, Ed Baird: “We were sailing in light winds, we had a good race going, we were in third and looking at passing into second… A squall came through just after we rounded the windward mark the second time and most of the fleet was still going upwind when we got hit with this very violent front edge of the squall. The two boats in the worst of the velocity were us and Holmatro because we were both so close together neither of us had an escape route. We both went up and we both put the noses in. They were somehow able to avoid capsizing and we did not unfortunately. It’s all part of the learning of this game and unfortunately if we had been going upwind it wouldn’t have happened and if we’d been further downwind it would have been different again. It was a case of wrong place wrong time. We went from racing to survival in an instant…”
Click here to watch the interview with Alinghi ski pper Ed Baird.
Ami! dst driving rain, thunder and lightening, the rest of the fleet kept racing, with places changing rapidly in each gust. iShares found themselves struggling to bear away in the building winds, and had to veer off course, sacrificing their lead. At the end of two fast and furious laps it was Shirley Robertson on JPMorgan Asset Management who came out on top, with defending iShares Cup 2007 champion Rob Greenhalgh on TEAMORIGIN in second. Nick Moloney and the crew on BT recovered from a poor start to finish third, whilst the crew on Oman Sail took fourth.
As the fleet recovered from the exhausting first race the storm continued, with lightening darting across the mountain valley. With the Extreme 40s carrying a 62ft (18.9 metre) mast – each made of highly conductive carbon – the race organisers opted to send the fleet ashore for safety. Alinghi had broken their mast whilst trying to upright the boat but with the boat and mast towed ashore, the Alinghi team will now be working through the night to be back out on the race course tomorrow using the event’s spare.
Racing resumed as the thunderstorms receded.
The first event the iShares Cup is set over three days, finishing on Sunday, 1st June.
iShares Cup, Lugano (Switzerland)
Day 1 / Race 1:
1st JPMorgan Asset Management (Shirley Robertson)
2nd Team Origin (Rob Greenhalgh)
3rd BT (Nick Moloney)
4th Oman Sail (Pete Cumming)
5th Volvo Ocean Race (Herbert Dercksen)
6th Team Aqua (Cameron Appleton)
7th iShares (Hugh Styles)