Team Origin put half a point on the board and Alinghi decline to race. Matthew Sheahan reports from Auckland
Match of the day came late in the day and featured the now much talked about team, Team Origin, before an even more talked about controversy.
Frustrated with a -0.5 point penalty from the previous day after a blame sharing exercise dealt by the umpires following the lightest of contact, the team was out to make and prove a point. Starting day 3 of Round Robin 2 below the bottom rung on the Round Robin 2 points board, Ben Ainslie and his crew was determined to turn their story around.
Squaring up to Luna Rossa, Team Origin fought for and got the favoured left hand side of the line, the fastest route to the better breeze on the course. Luna Rossa, started on starboard and continued to head out to the right. Keen not to get separated from the match in hand, Team Origin covered, but as the pair stretched out to the right a left hand shift for Luna Rossa brought them back into the game.
By the weather mark, Peter Holmberg and the Italian crew had hauled themselves into a narrow lead rounding the weather mark just a boat length ahead of the Brits.
A complicated gybe set saw the pair whistle down the left had side of the run, Ainslie and crew keen to sail deep and slide down inside the Italians and/or box them out to the right. But in the end the Brits were forced to bail out early and head for the unfavoured mark at the leeward gate, a move that cost them more distance.
Towards the top of the second beat, Team Origin had hauled themselves back into contention, rounding on the Italian tail once again as the pair rolled into another difficult gybe set.
This time the Brits went for an early gybe, breaking from the Italians. The gamble paid off and they quickly took control of the downwind leg, surging into the lead. At least, that is, until the closing few minutes when the Italians came storming back into the match, closing the gap to just 4 seconds at the finish.
A close call for the Brits, but the result they had wanted.
Meanwhile, shortly after another Chinese victory in the following match, came news that Alinghi was not going to compete in what the local press had understandably billed as match of the day, the head to head between Emirates Team New Zealand and the current America’s Cup holders.
Despite shorelines filled with spectators, an armada of craft anchored around the race course on this holiday weekend and perfect, sparkling conditions for match racing, Alinghi announced that there was, ‘no upside for us and only bad things that can happen if we have any kind of incident or contact.’
“As a group we talked this through and decided that it didn’t make sense to take that risk after yesterday’s docking of points to both BMW Oracle Racing and TeamOrigin,” said Ed Baird. “It’s clear that the event is serious about avoiding close incidents and if we are going to take a risk, it’s going to be in a race that counts.”
Reasoning that appeared to gain little favour on the dockside and around spectator vantage points in Auckland. The Louis Vuitton Pacific Series has been a spectacular success with racing that has been closer and more exciting than anyone could have expected for an event that on paper counts for no more than the trophy that the winners will take home.
Taking risk on the water was surely what the game was about, but perhaps here the real gamble was with public opinion.
While tomorrow’s New Zealand papers will record this score, it’s difficult to imagine that the Swiss team will come out on top on this one.
Alinghi (SUI) beat
BMW Oracle Racing (USA) beat Damiani Italia Challenge (ITA)
Team Origin (GBR) beat Luna Rossa (ITA)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) beat Alinghi (SUI) no show
China Team (CHN) beat Pataugas K-Challenge (FRA)
Greek Challenge (GRE) Team Shosholoza (RSA)
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