The Alinghi team takes a 1-0 lead in the pro-driver series, with the 26-second victory on the first day's racing at the Moet Cup
Crowds of spectators gathered yesterday to watch America’s Cup holder Alinghi and Oracle BMW match race during the first day of the Moet Cup.
In the first race of the day, in 20kts of breeze, Larry Ellison gained a measure of revenge for the Louis Vuitton Cup Final. Ellison was at the helm of his Oracle BMW Racing boat (USA-76) to beat Ernesto Bertarelli on Alinghi (SUI-64), in the first race of the event. With the win, Ellison jumps ahead 1-0 in the Owner/Driver series.
For the second race, the pro-drivers took the helm and Jochen Schuemann demonstrated immediately why he has three Olympic medals to his credit. After a relatively mild pre-start dance, Alinghi came off the line flying, hitting top speed, and crossing the start line just as the gun fired.
Oracle BMW Racing helmsman Gavin Brady appeared happy with his start to leeward of Alinghi and the teams began short tacking up the San Francisco shoreline, with Brady pushed right in along Fisherman’s Wharf and the Aquatic Centre.
The teams switched sides approaching the top mark, and with Brady in a powerful position on the right, the USA-76 helmsman simply ran out of room, the shoreline forcing him to tack before the port tack layline. Otherwise he surely would have led SUI-64 into the weather mark. In the event, the teams duelled just to leeward of the mark, with both boats held up in irons, before Schuemann was able to quickly fall back onto starboard tack before tacking around the mark with a 10-second lead.
Alinghi was fast downwind all day, and this race was no exception with the Swiss extending to a 14-second lead. The second lap of the course changed nothing, and Schuemann earned his first win as skipper of SUI-64. The Alinghi team takes a 1-0 lead in the pro-driver series, with the 26-second victory.
Earlier in the afternoon, in the first race of the day, Ellison established control early, entering from the starboard side of the line, dialing-up against Alinghi, and holding position as the boats drifted upwind of the starting line. The long days of practice that Ellison has put in over the past month paid immediate dividends, as the American looked sharp leading back to the line and winning the start.
Bertarelli was hung up on the windward side of the start line with what appeared to be an override on the on the backstay, preventing the mainsail from being eased to allow the boat to bear off for the correct side of the start line. Alinghi was stalled in irons, just before the start, with seconds ticking away towards the start gun.
The Oracle BMW Racing team converted that start line lead into a controlling position up the entire weather leg. Bertarelli tried to make a gain by sailing up the shore line, out of the contrary current, but Ellison held on to lead by 22-seconds around the top mark.
Alinghi made a nice gain downwind, eventually securing an inside position sailing deep on starboard tack in towards the leeward mark, but again, Ellison was ready. The Oracle BMW Racing team luffed Alinghi several boat lengths past the leeward mark, before gybing back for the mark. Alinghi was flagging the Umpires for a penalty on USA-76, but in vain, as the umpires ruled there was no foul. Bertarelli was forced to tack around to make the mark and trailed by 25 seconds as USA-76 accelerated off ahead of him.
On the second lap of the course, USA-76 maintained its lead, with Bertarelli again looking fast downwind. But the race would belong to Larry Ellison, who draws first blood in the Moet Cup with a 27-second win. Speaking after the race, as a guest on Oracle BMW Racing, Ellen MacArthur commented: “I learned that you can’t sail an America’s Cup Class boat by yourself; there are so many people working so hard. The race actually takes a long time but it goes just like that on the boat because everyone is so busy every second. It just shows how important the training is and how much time on the water you really need. That was the most impressive thing.”