Dubai starts with a bang - literally

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It was mixed fortunes for Mascalzone Latino Audi Team on day one. They had a magnificent victory over Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) in the opening race, followed by a forced retirement in the second one after being hit by the kiwis (see image above). CLICK HERE to see footage of collision.

The very first race of the event started with a 30-minute delay, as race officials waited for the breeze to stabilize, and was dominated by the ‘Latin Rascals’ from the very onset. After a good start, on the left, the crew led by New Zealander Gavin Brady built a comfortable advantage during the first beat and was able to maintain it halfway through the first run when an erroneous gybe onboard Mascalzone Latino gave their opponents the opportunity to take the lead from Vincenzo Onorato’s team.

However, it was meant to be a very short-lived lead when a good tactical call from the afterguard of the Italian boat allowed them to sneak in and round the second mark ahead. From there on it was game over, as the ‘Latin Rascals’ sailed flawlessly, in sync with the wind, gaining meter after meter until they crossed the finish line 27 seconds ahead of the kiwi yacht, helmed by Dean Barker.

In the day’s second race, after a very tight start, Mascalzone Latino Audi Team and ETNZ collided at the weather mark. The spinnaker pole of the yacht helmed by Dean Barker literally pierced through the right side of NZL-84, helmed by Gavin Brady.

Despite the dubious kiwi maneuver, the umpires flagged Mascalzone Latino Audi Team with two penalties, and one being red had to be immediately offloaded.

Both teams sailed on spinnakers to the leeward gate but the Italian boat was suffering from clearly visible damage, not far from the runners. As a result, when they were about to drop their spinnaker, Mascalzone Latino Audi was told by the Race Committee to abandon the race, while ETNZ sailed off to finish.

Once on shore, the Jury heard the arguments of both teams and penalized them for the damage caused by the incident. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team lost one point while Emirates Team New Zealand half a point.

Cameron Dunn, strategist on Mascalzone Latino, commented after the Jury decision: “We are not happy with the Jury’s decision. Quite clearly we think it’s a poor decision and we are adamant there is no way why Team New Zealand needed to have a collision with us. They made a very bad decision, trying to go behind us, get locked and thrust into us. It is a disgraceful decision for us to lose one point while they lose only half a point. We feel that Team New Zealand created the collision 100% on their own doing. We don’t understand the decision.

We were told on the radio to stop racing. We didn’t retire, it was the race committee that told us to stop and that’s what we did. I think it’s something being discussed at the moment, to try and see what happened. It’s our understanding Team New Zealand didn’t win the race because we were told to stop. It’s up in the air right now.

However, we don’t want to let this thing ruin our day, because actually it was a very good day. We had a really good win in the first race and we were having another very good one in the second one. As far as our sailing goes, we are very happy. We have a very good feeling on the boat and we are not going to let this get us down. It’s a long round robin with a lot of points left on the table.”