Luna Rossa has taken the Louis Vuitton Trophy by just six seconds
OK, it’s not the result we wanted but GBR Challenge can take a good deal of pride in getting so far in this first serious competitive outing against top flight opposition.
After Luna Rossa’s win on Friday, GBR Challenge knew they had to bag the first race yesterday to take the final to a third, deciding race and they headed out confident and optimistic that they could take the series to three. Helmsman Andy Green gave GBR Challenge the best possible start when he forced a penalty on the Italians after they gybed too close to the British boat. The start had been won, Green’s job was done.
Sailing Manager Ian Walker took the helm and led Luna Rossa up the right side of the course and led around the top mark. Luna Rossa’s downwind speed advantage allowed her to close the gap but two bungled gybes and a torn spinnaker later, GBR Challenge headed back up the track with a four-boatlength lead.
Having consolidated that lead upwind, GBR Challenge hoisted at the top mark but the spinnaker filled before the halyard was made and flogged itself to bits. The torn sail was handed and a new one launched but by that time, Luna Rossa was round and running down the favoured side of the track.
Aware of Prada’s downwind supremacy, Walker was forced to split gybes in an effort to get back on terms. After gybing simultaneously on their respective sides, it became clear that Luna Rossa had squeezed a lead. As they closed on the line, the Italians hoisted their jib ready for their penalty turn. With the British piling down on them, the Italians showed their experience, handing the spinnaker neatly, completing her 360 and hitting the line just half a boatlength – six seconds – ahead of the British.
“I was really disappointed,” said Walker, aware that a simple mistake had completely changed the balance of power. “I’m probably as disappointed as I’ve ever been in a sailboat. But I’ll sleep on it, and I’ve got a feeling this is part of the learning curve. We’re still new at this and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we have a tough ending.”
“It’s always difficult to sail and race here,” said Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis. “But we learn something every time we go out and race, and we’re really happy we won.”
In the petit final, GBR-41 was comprehensively dealt with by Team New Zealand and team head Tom Schnackenberg took the chance to remind GBR Challenge that, although they had done well, this wasn’t the real deal. “We’ve had a great deal of fun and enjoyed some really good racing. On the other hand, the conditions here are very different to those in Auckland so any lessons learned will only be very general. But it’s been a fantastic week.”
Walker agreed but focused on the huge advances GBR Challenge had made. “Doing well in the Jubilee regatta here is very different from doing well in the America’s Cup, but this has been a very good week for the British Challenge, and a very good week for the America’s Cup. We’re happy.”
And so are we. Congratulations on turning faltering steps into giant strides so quickly. March on.