Previously undefeated, both Team Origin and Team New Zealand lose in dramatic races. Matthew Sheahan reports from Auckland
Split into Gold and Silver fleets after the end of Round Robin 1, Team Origin and Emirates Team New Zealand were riding high after a string of victories and dominant performances.
In the draw for the match between the British and Swiss, which was to be raced in the Kiwi boats, skipper Ben Ainslie had raised a smile when his team was awarded NZL92 and his opponents NZL84. But why?
The dockside chatter of the last few days has suggested that 92 is the faster of the two boats, easily beating 84 in the majority of earlier matches. As Team New Zealand’s former ‘B’ boat driver, Ainslie knows both boats well. Was he relieved at being dealt 92, or was something else on his mind?
Within hours, conspiracy theories started to gather pace as various people set about spending the morning’s postponement trawling through the results to see whether there was any truth in the alleged difference.
Yet, just a few hours later, once the match was underway and with no decisive data, the effort had been wasted as it became clearer that 84, the boat sailed by Alinghi, was no pushover.
Having entered the start zone on the right, the Brits had picked the left hand side of the course as the area offering the greatest potential. By the first weather mark the call seemed to have paid off as Ainslie and crew led Alinghi around the mark by 15 seconds. A narrow margin but enough. At the bottom the advantage had increased to 20 seconds as the Brits continued to control the proceedings.
At the weather mark for the second time, the gap had closed significantly and a gybe by Team Origin back towards the middle of the course was not matched by Alinghi. Presumably Ainslie’s wind spotters had seen more breeze towards the middle of the course. But whatever had lured them there, wasn’t in evidence when the team arrived and their pace slowed significantly. Alinghi’s didn’t and the lead swapped for the first time in the race.
Ed Baird, helming Alinghi, was giving nothing back and crossed the line 15 seconds ahead.
In the second of the Gold fleet matches, Vasco Vascotto, skipper of the new Damiani Italian Challenge capitalised on an apparent hesitation by Dean Barker and his Kiwi crew Emirates Team New Zealand in the pre-start and took the favoured right hand side.
From there the Italian team stretched out its lead inch by inch, refusing to fall for the Kiwis variety of tactical manoeuvres. Instead, each mark rounding saw a gradual increase in the distance between them to finish 19 seconds ahead.
In the third match in the Gold fleet, Russell Coutts demonstrated first that he is not infallible by stalling twice on the start line before storming the start at breathtaking pace and precision and taking the early initiative. From there the advantage only went one way, up, in favour of BMW Oracle Racing.
Elsewhere in a busy day’s racing China Team took a well earned victory over Shosholoza while Pataugas K-Challenge beat the Greek Challenge.
Alinghi (SUI) beat Team Origin (GBR)
Damiani Italia Challenge (ITA) beat Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)
BMW Oracle Racing (USA) beat Luna Rossa (ITA)
Pataugas K-Challenge (FRA) beat Greek Challenge (GRE)
China Team (CHN) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA)
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