The Defender of the America's Cup, Team Alinghi leads BMW Oracle 2-0 in the Pro-Driver series for the UBS Trophy

The Defender of the America’s Cup, Team Alinghi, edged across the starting line just inches ahead of BMW Oracle Racing in the first race of the UBS Trophy on Saturday in Newport Rhode Island.

It was a spectacular day for racing on Narragansett Bay, with a 10-12 knot breeze. Hundreds of spectator craft dotted the waters, and several thousand race fans lined the shore to watch these America’s Cup Class yachts engage in battle. Fort Adams was a particularly popular spot to watch the racing, where the America’s Cup itself was on display as an added attraction.

In the first match of the day, an enormous windshift nearly allowed a dramatic come-from-behind win for the BMW Oracle Racing team, but Alinghi managed to hang on for an exciting victory.

The wind was stronger for the second match, and had shifted to the west, making for short legs, and close racing. In 15-19 knots, the Alinghi team turned in a second strong performance on the day to build a 2-0 in the Pro-Driver series for the UBS Trophy.

UBS Trophy – Pro-Driver Series – Race One of 12

Alinghi beats BMW Oracle Racing – Delta 0:07Alinghi leads the Pro-Driver series 1-0

The action came fast and furious in this match, with Alinghi helmsman Peter Holmberg ducking away from a dial-up, and leading BMW Oracle’s Gavin Brady in a series of close circles in the pre-start. The teams turned for the start line early, with Brady pushing Holmberg towards the line. Alinghi eventually tacked off and the boats split at the start, with Alinghi crossing the start line to the right, and one-second to the good.

BMW Oracle immediately tacked to converge with Swiss boat, but couldn’t cross, and Alinghi used its starboard tack advantage to force BMW Oracle back towards the shoreline. As the boats closed with the coast, BMW Oracle called for room to tack. The umpires judged that Holmberg didn’t respond quickly enough, and assessed Alinghi a penalty. Holmberg went on to lead by 24-seconds around the top mark, but was still carrying a penalty.

The BMW Oracle squad then rounded the first mark too closely, hooking the ground tackle around its keel and rudder, and dragging the mark. The Umpires assessed a penalty for touching the mark, negating the earlier Alinghi foul, and BMW Oracle lost several more boat lengths on the leg, slowed by the incident. At this point, it appeared Alinghi would romp away to a massive opening victory.

But the American team would be given a reprieve by the wind gods on the second leeward leg, when a massive windshift turned what should have been a run into a tight reach. The BMW Oracle team spotted the shift and responded well, dropping its spinnaker nearly a minute before Alinghi did and then having a much quicker angle to sail for the mark. Brady nearly completely closed the gap, but in the end, Holmberg was able to cling to a narrow two-second lead around the bottom mark, and held on for a seven-second win.

UBS Trophy – Pro-Driver Series – Race Two of 12

Alinghi wins, BMW Oracle Racing did not finish

Alinghi leads the Pro-Driver Series 2-0

This was another thriller, with the west wind direction making for short legs and plenty of action through the entire race. The pre-start was remarkable for the extended dial-up sequence as Gavin Brady on BMW Oracle and Peter Holmberg on Alinghi danced with their boats head to wind for nearly four minutes. After drifting backwards for a short time, the boats came too close, and the Umpires assessed Brady, the windward boat, a penalty.

Brady recovered to win the starboard side of the start line, and he was able to protect the right side of the racecourse up the entire first beat leading around the first mark by 15-seconds. But Alinghi made a nice gain on the first run on the short course and closed to within eight seconds.

On the second beat, both boats sailed to the starboard tack layline early and nearing the top mark, Brady slowed, needing to engage Alinghi to attempt to offload the penalty. But he misjudged his speed, and slowed down too much, allowing Holmberg to simply roll over the BMW Oracle boat to windward and make the pass. On the short run, Brady, trailing and still carrying a penalty, couldn’t close the gap, and Alinghi sailed to its second consecutive win.

Remaining Races for the UBS Trophy

21 June, Monday 1330 Two Pro-Driver races

22 June, Tuesday 1330 Two Pro-Driver races

23 June, Wednesday No Racing scheduled

24 June, Thursday 1330 One Pro-Driver race Two Owner-Driver races

25 June, Friday 1330 One Pro-Driver race Two Owner-Driver races

26 June, Saturday 1330 Two Pro-Driver races