Percy's perfect performance? Two wins back to back and 39's best day yet, is this their turning point?
In the new format, media hungry America’s Cup you need broad shoulders to compete. Gear failures, crew errors and general blunders are pounced upon by the international media as soon as the boats hit the dock at the end of every day. Some have standard replies when the questioning gets tough, frequently talking about strong teams, great shore crews and how things generally weren’t as bad as they might have looked from off the boat.
Others face up to the issues and tell it how it is. Iain Percy, skipper of the Italian Challenge 39 is the latter, has broad shoulders and since the team’s entry into the 32nd America’s Cup has spent more time than many facing up to and reliving a string of disappointments. But today was different.
In their most successful day since launching their campaign, the 39 team pulled off two wins to bring their total of victories so far to three. Not a great deal you may think, but this puts the orange clad crew, (that look like they’ve been Tango’d), up into equal 5th the middle rankings and top of the ‘B’ division in this 12 team series – a position that seemed a long way off just a few months ago.
Today’s points weren’t easy ones either, Percy and his team fought hard in a very close match to beat the Swedes who, having left Valencia on a high, are struggling to show the same level of form on their home patch. In the second flight of the day, 39 had an even tougher match with Mascalzone Latino Capitalia in a race that saw the lead switch several times in the four leg race.
So what is it that’s making Percy’s team a stronger force?
Many are looking to the new boy at the back, Ian Walker, former GBR Challenge skipper, who has joined the afterguard for this event and the next one in Trapani, as one of the reasons for the improvement. Yet Walker himself is keen to play this down.
“I’ve only had three days on the boat so it’s easy when you’re new, to sit at the back, watch what’s going on and keep quiet,” he said shortly after coming ashore.
“Of course I’m not that good at keeping quiet for very long, but I did enjoy the more relaxed feel. I was however apprehensive. I haven’t match raced since Auckland and haven’t sailed an America’s Cup boat since then so I was desperately trying to read my notes, watch videos and catch up on all the new rules before I came out so I was apprehensive.”
But while Walker may play his own part down, another pair of eyes and ears has relieved some of the pressure on Percy.
“Ian [Walker] calms it down, he takes responsibility off me, as did Tommaso Chieffi and that’s good for the whole team. Otherwise, because we have so much inexperience, I have to take a lot of the weight because the tactician doesn’t necessarily know all the moves, not that I do either.
“It helps having someone to take that pressure off. Being told not to worry about looking for the mark is good, otherwise you get distracted and the boat slows down. In my limited experience of America’s Cup, you have to respect the division of labour. You can only do that if you have a guy beside you that you really trust to get on with doing the job and Ian is that person at the moment.”
But it’s not all down to people, improvements in the hardware have also contributed to their better performance.
“We’ve got the big rudder back, a new version of the one we snapped in Valencia and this makes the boat a far more manageable machine, coupled with the fact that the whole crew work issue has improved,” continued Percy. “This all means that I feel very comfortable in the pre-start now.
“It’s one thing knowing what you want to do, it’s another being able to do it.”
All of which stacks up to yet another reshuffle of the leaderboard in the ‘B’ division.
Alinghi (SUI 75) beat BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76), delta 1:29
39 Challenge (ITA 59) beat Victory Challenge (SWE 73), delta 0:16
K-Challenge (FRA 60) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83), delta 1:24
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82) beat Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74), delta 0:30
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) won, United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) DNS
Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67) beat China Team (CHN 69), delta 0:55
EmiratesTeam New Zealand (NZL82) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83), delta 1:21
Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) beat K-Challenge (FRA 60), delta 0:21
39 Challenge (ITA 59) beat Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) delta 0:50
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) won, United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) DNS
Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67), delta 1:01
Victory Challenge (SWE 73) beat China Team (CHN 69), delta 1:28
Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 Points Leaderboard
Emirates Team New Zealand 6
BMW ORACLE Racing 5
Luna Rossa 5
Desafío Español 2007 3
39 Challenge 3
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 2
Victory Challenge 2
Team Shosholoza 1
United Internet Team Germany 1
China Team 0
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