Stage four in Kiel proves a fantastic spectacle with collisions, disqualification and retirement

The fourth round of the iShares Cup put on a fantastic spectacle, and Sunday’s conclusion proved the perfect finale with huge crowds – Kiel officials estimated 50,000 spectators came to watch Day 3 of racing – packing the foreshore. In glorious sunshine a perfect 10-15 knots of breeze all day had the Extreme 40s powering off the startline and soaring into the shore on one hull.

On the final day no quarter was given and after a couple of incidents, the first involving Holmatro in a collision with one of the umpire boats, and the second again involving Holmatro, colliding with Team Origin resulting in disqualification for Holmatro. Team Origin retired from the rest of the races due to the damage sustained to the aft section of their port hull during the collision.

Meanwhile, by the sixth and final double-points race Alinghi were near unbeatable, with their nearest rivals off the racecourse, they finished fourth but it was enough to win overall, taking their third iShares Cup event in a row – and were welcomed ashore to huge applause.

‘Thank you everyone for coming down to have fun with us today, you did a great job Kiel!’ said skipper Ed Baird after racing. ‘I think we’ve probably sailed in front of this many people in a television situation, but not in person – this is fantastic! It really has been exciting. You can hear the crowd as we start, and at roundings of the gate marks, and it’s really fun to have them involved.’

The 10 teams had been pushing for every last inch of advantage during the previous two days of racing, and today was no exception. Defending iShares Cup champions and 2008 Series leaders Team Origin went into the final day in third place, but got off to a flying start, leading the first race from start to finish.

However the main drama took place at the first mark rounding, when one of the Umpire boats – who settle on the water disputes – found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were hit by Holmatro at the first bear away, no crew were hurt in the incident.

Then in Race 2 Holmatro were again involved in a collision. Team Origin, Alinghi and Holmatro were neck and neck around the first lap, but at the leeward mark on the ultra-tight racecourse Holmatro ran out of room, and collided with Team Origin resulting in an instant disqualification. Team Origin managed to get home in second – although the places were later reversed following a protest hearing – and climbed to second overall while Team Aqua, who had been runners-up for much of the event, slipped to third.

But it was all over for Team Origin for the day – their Extreme 40 actually started sinking due to the damage sustained to the aft section of it port hull during the collision, and had to be towed ashore. Rob Greenhalgh and crew had to sit out the next four races of the day, watching as Alinghi went on to score two second places and extend their lead.

“We were leading the race coming into the first leeward mark and we got hit from behind by another boat, which put a big hole in our Extreme 40,” skipper Rob Greenhalgh explained after racing. “Obviously we nearly sunk so we couldn’t finish the rest of the day’s racing. We were going really well and were on the up, we were probably looking to win the event. They’ve given us average points for the rest of the day but that hasn’t been enough to win the event, so we’re lying second, two points behind Alinghi.”

Holmatro put the two collisions behind them to win the third and fourth races of the day before a brief postponement to allow some shipping to clear the course. A short, sharp fifth race saw Oman Sail take the win.

By the sixth and final double-points race Alinghi were near unbeatable, with their nearest rivals off the racecourse. They sailed a comfortable race to finish fourth, whilst Shirley Robertson on JPMorgan Asset Management and Hugh Styles on iShares dueled for the lead – iShares getting ahead at the second windward mark rounding to show the way home and take their first iShares Cup winner’s gun.

But Alinghi had done enough to win overall, taking their third iShares Cup event in a row.

Alinghi and Team Origin are now head to head in the overall leader board, tied on 36 points apiece. For Team Origin skipper Rob Greenhalgh the 2008 iShares Cup is unfinished business: “We’re still joint leaders overall with Alinghi and it’s all down to the last event. We’re in it to win it so it’s going to be all systems go in Amsterdam, we’ve got to beat Alinghi to win and bring the trophy home!”

The iShares Cup 2008 Championship title will be decided in Amsterdam, Holland from 19-21 September.

Results after Event 4 – Kiel, Germany:

Alinghi 3 8 6 1 2 1 1 2 6 5 5 6 4 2 2 2 6 4 139
Team Origin 8 7 1 4 3 4 4 8 5 4 2 1 1 1 RDG RDG RDG RDG 137
Team Aqua 9 1 2 5 4 6 2 1 3 7 4 9 6 3 5 4 7 6 119
BT 7 6 4 7 5 2 9 6 1 1 10 3 9 4 3 5 8 3 113
Tommy Hilfiger 2 8 7 6 7 3 5 4 2 2 9 5 7 6 8 OCS 2 5 105
Oman Sail 4 4 3 2 8 5 6 7 8 10 1 4 2 9 4 OCS 1 8 104
Holmatro 5 5 8 8 1 7 8 9 4 6 3 10 3 DSQ 1 1 3 9 98
JP Morgan Asset Management 1 3 5 3 6 8 7 10 10 9 6 8 3 8 9 6 5 2 98
iShares 6 2 10 9 9 9 3 5 7 8 8 7 5 5 6 7 9 1 92
Volvo Ocean Race 10 10 9 10 10 10 10 3 9 3 7 2 10 7 7 3 4 7 71