Tactics and teamwork proved pivotal as BMW Oracle Racing extended its lead over rival Team Alinghi to 9-4 yesterday

Tactics and teamwork proved pivotal as BMW Oracle Racing extended its lead over rival Team Alinghi to 9-4 in the UBS Trophy in Newport Rhode Island yesterday.

In addition to one Pro-Driver race, Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli went head to head in two Owner-Driver contests. In the Pro-Driver race, BMW ORACLE Racing scored a regatta first and overcame a deficit on the penultimate leg and overtook Alinghi to win. BMW Oracle Racing, with Ellison at the helm, scored two convincing wins on the first day of the Owner-Driver Series with dramatic starts and large margins of victory. “The biggest difference for us is the quality of the team,” said Ellison. “I think the team is sailing very well.”

The Pro-Driver race was the first of the day and offered as much excitement as had been seen all week. It marked the first race in the series where a leading yacht was overtaken on the course. BMW Oracle Racing helmsman Gavin Brady and Alinghi’s Peter Holmberg exhibited particularly aggressive starting manoeuvres. Alinghi won the favoured committee boat end of the line and starboard tack advantage on the first windward leg.

Anticipating less adverse current, BMW Oracle Racing went for the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay. When the yachts came together, Alinghi had a one-boat length advantage. As the leg progressed, BMW Oracle Racing closed that gap, but at the mark, Alinghi had a 17-second lead.

Alinghi maintained its lead for the next two legs and appeared set to win the match. But on the final run, BMW Oracle Racing headed toward the northern shore and got a puff of wind and surged. They drove Alinghi off toward the right side of the course and as the yachts neared the mark, BMW Oracle Racing had achieved an overlap. Both boats gybed and BMW Oracle Racing gained the inside advantage at the rounding.

They rounded eight seconds ahead of Alinghi and crossed the finish line with a 26 second margin. “Our plan was to stay close and keep as much heat on them as we could,” said Brady. “The trimmers did a really good job and it was a good job from all our guys just to be patient.”

But the day’s highest drama was yet to come. When the businessmen got down to business in the first Owner-Driver race, Ellison demonstrated the skill and cunning he has gained on the maxi-racing circuit with a dominating start. He drove Team Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli outside the committee boat at the gun and crossed the line some four boat lengths ahead. Ellison and company held onto their lead for the duration of the race, extending it as the race progressed. At the final downwind mark, BMW Oracle Racing had the largest lead in the regatta: 1 minute, 24 seconds. BMW Oracle Racing held that margin through the finish.

In the start sequence of the second race, BMW Oracle Racing tacked too close to Alinghi and their transoms collided. BMW Oracle Racing was assessed a penalty by the umpires. Seconds later, Alinghi crossed the line early and had to go back and start over. As the yachts settled down on the first upwind leg, BMW Oracle Racing opened up a five-boat length lead. They rounded the first mark 22 seconds ahead of Alinghi. On the run though, BMW Oraclr Racing built on its lead to a point where it was able to do its penalty turn without falling behind. In penalty situations, a yacht must do a gybe on the weather legs or a tack on the downwind legs. After the penalty turn, BMW Oracle Racing was still five boat lengths ahead. The margin at the finish was 41 seconds.

Ellison said of the incident at the start that he had started to tack just as Alinghi was bearing away. The scoop transoms of the two America’s Cup Class yachts collided resulting in minor damage to both yachts.

Today’s action again sees one Pro-Driver race and two Owner-Driver races. The stakes go up with the Pro-Driver race counting for 3 points. A separate trophy will be presented to the winner of the Owner-Driver Series at the end of racing.