The warring pair go head to head at the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series. Tim Jeffery reports

“Alinghi, Alinghi. This is BMW Oracle Racing.”
“This is Alinghi.”
“Yeah, Brad, Russell here. Congratulations from us. You sailed well.”
“Thanks Russell. We look forward to having a beer with you guys.”

So the Challenger Final of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series was put to bed. On the day of the Court of Appeal hearing in Albany, New York, Ernesto Bertarelli’s team beat Larry Ellison’s in a climatic 1 sec steal on the finish line. And then the next day, Alinghi dominated BMW Oracle Racing in the pre-start and were never threatened to reach the finals against Emirates Team New Zealand 2:0.

There, briefly, the cordiality ended. Alinghi, sailing NZL 92, come down the fourth leg run to the finish with a red Bravo flag fluttering, unusual for the leading boat. If it had been Coutts’, the reason would have been obvious. NZL 84’s trim tab broke in the pre-start and the course, jammed sideways in the channel into between Auckland’s North Head and Rangitoto island, was too much of a straitjacket for proper racing. The right hand side of the start box was limited for depth as was the left hand side of the beat.

“I was worried about before the start,” admitted Brad Butterworth, before breaking into a grin. “But it turned into a thing of delight!”

No, Coutts’ didn’t complain about this. Or the trim tab that wasn’t repaired until half way up the first beat. Or the fact that his crew had led the first race of the final the previous day, only to find that the finish line had been re-set turning their 60m lead into a 1sec loss. “We sailed 95% of the race perfectly,” said his tactician Hamish Pepper. By the time his eyeballs and that of navigator Michele Ivaldi told him that the pin end of the line was not where tactical screen said it was, Coutts was no longer aiming at the favoured end of the line.

“No excuses,” said Coutts. “When you get beaten in a race, you’re beaten. That’s sport.”

The reason for Alinghi’s ire was their contention that NZL 84 and 92 are not nearly as matched a pair as billed. As hosts, ETNZ wanted the crews to stick with the boats as drawn for the entire final series so that they could apply vinyls to give the boats a more individual identity. In an adroit piece of thinking jury chairman Dyer Jones adjourned the hearing until after the draw for boats. Alinghi’s name came out of the hat first and Brad Butterworth chose NZL 92 and the Swiss will keep the boat the Kiwis used in the 2007 America’s Cup in Auckland in all races. What had threatened to be a problem, had vanished.

Dean Barker opted for the Yellow end, starboard entry, for the first start on a first to four race wins final. Three races are scheduled for Friday, NZ time, with the balance on Saturday. Provided the weather cooperates and fresher wind conditions are forecast.

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