AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard confessed to feeling lucky after an unusual rule allowed his crew to escape a 40-second penalty against Japan's boat

AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard confessed to feeling lucky after an unusual rule allowed his crew to escape a 40-second penalty against Japan’s boat during the America’s Cup challenger yachting series today.

But he was also startled by the aggressive nature of Asura’s skipper, Australian-born world match racing champion Peter Gilmour, before the start of racing when the two boats came within centimetres of colliding.

Cayard suggested the two campaigns had different aims this early in the Louis Vuitton challenger series.

“There was no contact. I was pretty concerned there was going to be, it looked pretty aggressive to me,” Cayard said later.

“I’ve raced against Peter for quite a few years so I know he’s very aggressive. I was pretty surprised with that opening move though.

“(It’s) just different goals by different people. I’m pretty interested in keeping my boat in one piece here in this first round and gathering information which is going to tell me a lot about where we need to go in the next four months.”

AmericaOne eventually beat Asura comfortably, but their match-up became the race of the day as the near collision during pre-start manoeuvres resulted in the St Francis Yacht Club’s boat being penalised 40sec.

But a minute before the race was due to start, AmericaOne reported broken steering equipment and the race committee allowed a 45-minute delay for repairs.

AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki knew that under the rules, a delay for repairs could be requested, and accordingly the penalty would be foregone.

Although other challengers initially suspected the Americans of gamesmanship, chief umpire and international jury chairman Bryan Willis said the breakage was genuine.

He said there had not been time for the steering to be inspected before the start, so the decision was made by the committee to delay the race.

A later umpire’s inspection revealed there was indeed damage, and it had occurred accidentally.

While Gilmour, on board Asura, initially flew a protest flag over the dropped penalty, the protest was withdrawn after the Japanese consulted the rule book.

“We had a breakdown with our steering, which was kind of scary and surprising at the same time,” Cayard said.

“It took us just about the whole 45 minutes to fix it.

“I’ve done enough racing to know this is a pretty unusual concept, and Kostecki was the guy who thought of it. I guess he’s been reading the rules pretty carefully.

“It’s pretty clear this is in there (the rules). I did notice that later on, should this happen in the finals, you cannot ask for a postponement for damage caused through a fault of your own.

“And I do feel lucky.”

After four races AmericaOne remain unbeaten, along with Luna Rossa, of Italy, and Young America from the New York Yacht Club.

Another United States entry Abracadabra has three wins.

Mr America’s Cup Dennis Conner has had a poor start to his campaign. Stars n Stripes has registered just one win from three races, and was comprehensively trounced by both Luna Rossa and Abracadabra today.

The Swiss on board Be Happy were anything but that tonight, after being on the wrong end of two more heavy defeats — with the added embarrassment of having boats from races which started 10 minutes later overtake them.

Young Australia, sailing an old boat, are also winless but did beat Luna Rossa at the start today.

French skipper Bertrand Pace revealed his syndicate already intended to rebuild 6 Sens, with a new keel and extra length planned before the second round robin next month. Their boat has just one win from four races.