A major start line collision led to a one-race disqualification for the French Aleph Sailing Team


VIDEO – Ouch!…a costly crash

ALEPH struck the stern of the Italian entry Azzurra as the boats sped down the start line with 35 seconds remaining to the start gun. No one was injured but the bow of the French boat was knocked almost right off while the aft starboard quarter of the Italian boat was smashed in.

The two boats involved are the BMW Oracle Racing Team Version 5 ACC boats USA98 and USA87 which have been chartered to the regatta organisers for the event. Oracle boatbuilders and technical experts were still assessing the damage tonight.

“While unfortunate, this collision will not threaten the regatta,” said Bruno Troublé, spokesman for Louis Vuitton Trophy. “In Nice, one boat was damaged in a collision on the eve of the regatta, while in Auckland we had great racing with only one pair of boats. We will continue racing using the Mascalzone boats, while waiting for our very experienced team of 25 boatbuilders to complete repairs.”

Today’s conditions were perfect for racing with cloudless skies, bright sun, a westerly 12-14 knot breeze and flat seas, and Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio was able to complete five of six scheduled races.

The ALEPH team quickly published a statement apologising for the collision and subsequent damage.

In a day filled with surprises, the fledgling Synergy Russian Sailing Team beat the long-established Luna Rossa, while the undefeated Swedish boat Artemis continued her winning ways with a victory over winless BMW Oracle Racing Team. Emirates Team New Zealand went down to Luna Rossa as American Ed Baird, skipper of the Italian boat and former coach for the Kiwis, dished out another lesson to his old pupil Dean Barker.

Flight Ten, Race One: Synergy Russian Sailing Team def Luna Rossa, 00:15 – Nice start by both boats. Karol Jablonski claimed the right as both boats came off the line together on starboard. At the weather mark, Jablonski came in on starboard and dialed down to force Baird away and lead by 16 seconds. The Russians controlled for the next three legs.

Flight Ten, Race Two: Artemis def BMW Oracle Racing, 00:16 – The start was owned by Terry Hutchinson driving the Swedish boat Artemis. After chasing James Spithill round the start box, Hutchinson led back for a perfect start, at the committee, with Spithill trailing astern by a boat length. Oracle short-tacked relentlessly through two upwind legs and clung to Artemis on two runs but the Swedish boat prevailed.

Flight Eleven, Race One: TEAMORIGIN def All4One, 00:05 – All4One led to the line with a clean start, followed by TEAMORIGIN on his hip. Ben Ainslie steering the British boat quickly tacked away and Sébastien Col soon followed. At the top mark Ainslie on starboard shut Col out and carry him far above the buoy. Ainslie converted that move to a 150 metre lead which All4One chiselled down to 37 metres on the final run as the breeze freshened.

Flight Eleven, Race Two: Azzurra def ALEPH Sailing Team, 00:00 – The Italian boat won after ALEPH was disqualified following the collision. ALEPH was also assessed  a penalty point and may face further sanctions.
The two boats were reaching down the start line with Azzurra leading when Bertrand Pacé, ALEPH’s veteran skipper, attempted to duck under his opponent’s stern in an attempt to control the start of the Italian boat. Azzurra, steered by Francesco Bruni was the right-of-way boat. There was hard contact about four metres from Azzurra’s transom.
On-the-water umpires immediately flew a black flag, disqualifying ALEPH from the race. They also docked her one penalty point. Tonight the jury will meet to consider whether further action is warranted. Azzurra was forced to abandon racing but was credited with a win.
“On our boat we had one guy calling the overlap, Tom Burnham, our non-Italian on board,” said Francesco Bruni, skipper of Azzurra. “He was calling that the boat was ‘blocked’ and yet two seconds later I see his bow coming down. Tom had his head smashed on the navigation roll bar on the back of the boat and he got some blood on his head – but just scratches, I think. We are partially happy about getting a point from today but we can’t enjoy the moment fully.”

Flight Twelve, Race One: Luna Rossa def Emirates Team New Zealand, 00:13 – Ed Baird on Luna Rossa claimed the right at the start but it was Dean Barker who started at speed on the left. In shifty conditions Luna Rossa took an early lead in the middle of the course while the Kiwis gained on the left. Baird carried them out beyond the port tack layline to round the top mark a boatlength in front.  On the second beat the Kiwis again clawed back ground but Baird came across on starboard before the top mark to lock in the lead for the rest of the race.
Provisional win-loss leaderboard after Flight Twelve, Race One

  =1.  Artemis, 3-0, 3 points
  =2.  All4One, 2-1, 2 points
  =2.  Azzurra, 2-2, 2 points
  =2.  Synergy Russian Sailing Team, 2-0, 2 points
  =2.  TEAMORIGIN, 2-3, 2 points
  =6.  ALEPH Sailing Team, 2-2, 1 point *
  =6.  Emirates Team New Zealand, 1-1, 1 point
  =6.  Luna Rossa, 1-3, 1 point
  =6.  Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, 2-1, 1 point *
=10.  BMW Oracle Racing Team, 0-3, 0 points
  *  Penalty deducted by Jury/Umpires