Alinghi Wins Again
Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts got the better of his young protégé, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker on Sunday in a thrilling race to go up 2 – 0 in the America’s Cup Match. Coutts made an incredible pass on the final run, breaking hearts across New Zealand as Alinghi slipped by just a few hundred metres from the finish.
Racing was delayed for over two and half hours to allow the sea breeze to stabilise on Sunday, and the warning signal eventually sounded with 8 – 10 knot Northeasterlies on the race course.
Coutts and Alinghi looked strong in the pre-start as the Swiss team won the favoured left side of the start line. Halfway up the first beat Alinghi crossed ahead of Team New Zealand, and hometown sailing fans had their hearts in their mouths.
But after trailing around the first mark, Team New Zealand showed an impressive display of speed on the first run, and 40-minutes into the race, the Kiwi black boat crossed ahead of its opponent for the first time in the XXXI’st America’s Cup match.
Team New Zealand completed the first lap of the course with a 34-second lead and looked as if they would hold on the rest of the way. But on the final run to the finish, Alinghi rolled past NZL-82 after some ferocious luffing duels, and Coutts enjoyed his 11th consecutive America’s Cup win.
Monday is an ‘off’ day. Race Three is scheduled to start at 13:15 on Tuesday afternoon.
31ST AMERICA’S CUP MATCH
Alinghi (SUI-64) beat Team New Zealand (NZL-82) – Delta: 0:07 Alinghi leads Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series, 2 – 0.
Race Two of the America’s Cup got underway in light conditions with the breeze struggling to top 10 knots. With positions reversed for the entry into the starting box, Alinghi entered from the left and Team New Zealand from the right. But as the breeze started to shift around to the left further up the course it became clear that the left hand side of the start line would be favoured.
After a close quarters pre-start tussle, Alinghi held on to the favoured end of the line, forcing Team New Zealand to tack away and start on port.
As the first leg unfurled Alinghi did indeed appear to have the advantage as the breeze slipped to the left. Yet even though Team New Zealand was further to the right, they didn’t seem to be losing out.
At the weather mark the Kiwis were 12 seconds behind Alinghi.
As both boats sailed downwind from the weather mark on port, Team New Zealand kept the pressure on by appearing to sail at the same speed but lower than the Swiss. Eventually they gybed away and shortly afterwards started to pull ahead rapidly.
On rounding the first leeward mark they had overtaken the Swiss to lead for the first time and were 130m ahead with a delta of 34 seconds.
The second beat saw Barker and his crew hold onto most of their lead despite the tricky conditions. At the weather mark, Alinghi were 26 seconds behind but by the leeward mark Alinghi had hauled back some of this advantage to close to the gap to just 14 seconds.
On the last beat the breeze had dropped to 7-8 knots and Coutts’ team seemed keen on engaging Team New Zealand in a down-speed tacking duel. But as the pair bounced off each other it was Team New Zealand that appeared to gain the advantage, stretching their lead metre by metre with every tack.
At the last weather mark rounding, both boats had thrown in 33 tacks and Team New Zealand was ahead by 26 seconds. Choosing to perform a bear away set may have cost them the race as Alinghi opted for a gybe set. Team New Zealand were quick to respond and gybed over onto starboard but as the pair sailed downwind Alinghi, to weather, managed get the puffs first, sailing deeper at the same speed and soaking down to Team New Zealand.
What followed next was one of the closest finishes of the series, as Coutts’ team fought to break through. Initially, Barker managed to hold Alinghi off, carrying the Swiss team out to and beyond the port gybe lay line. But after the gybe, Alinghi managed to drive over the top of NZL-82 yet again to win by seven seconds.