Shifty, short and action packed, today's America's Cup fleet racing saw a return to form for the big players
Enough is enough, it’s time to get back in the action. The top teams may not have said it but their behaviour on the water suggested it and turned in results more in keeping with what we’d expect of the better funded and most experienced teams.
“Well, we get to feel good about finishing second like we did today. You don’t feel good coming second in a Match Race,” said BMW Oracle skipper Chris Dickson after a day in which his team appeared to start their return to form.
Having found theirs a few days before, Emirates Team New Zealand got off to another blistering start in the first race today, scoring an easy win after Alinghi, BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa and K-Challenge jumped the gun and had to return to re-cross the line.
But after yet another polished performance in the first race, the Kiwis tripped up at the start of the second and were over the line for no real reason other than simple misjudgement.
“The first race we did exactly what we wanted to do. We won the pin, and everything went well from there,” said Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Terry Hutchinson.
“The second race we were over early and although there were some opportunities, it didn’t go our way in that one. On the positive side, we learned a lot about ourselves in an hour and a half.”
They also witnessed how quickly you can fall from grace in this quick-fire fleet racing format, their sixth place dropping them off the overall lead and placing Alinghi at the top of the table.
With the wind blowing from the west and the risk of the land heating up enough to distort the gradient breeze, the conditions were always going to be taxing for the tacticians and strategists today. Not everyone came out smelling of roses and there were some rapid place changes going on through both races.
“We thought we had the best start in both races, but our upwind speed is not so good,” said Shosholoza’s skipper Geoff Meek. “But we are learning a lot in the fleet racing. You are trying to sail at max speed all the time, unlike in match racing where you often need to sail slow. Everyone gets mixed up, and a good team can be over the line at the start, so there is more opportunity.”
Alinghi’s Brad Butterworth is also keen on fleet racing.
“I like it,” he said. “When all the boats line up together it’s far more interesting. You can sail the other teams, and some of the good boats are coming quite far back.
“I don’t how we can get it into the Cup, because it is driven by the Deed, which talks about two yachts from two yacht clubs racing against each other. But I’d like to have fleet racing in the morning and match racing in the afternoon.”
But he’s not so keen on the short courses.
“You can easily get it wrong by being bounced to the wrong side. I think the short courses are OK for this type of event, but when we back in the races where it really counts, I think it would be better to go back to full length courses.
“It’s a hard place to pass on these courses. When we do boat test runs we sail for 10 minutes, but here we’re reaching laylines in six or seven minutes.”
Meanwhile others appeared to be having a more stressful time. Luna Rossa, so dominant in the match racing, appeared to be struggling today as they rounded the weather mark in the first race last and only managed to haul one place back by the end of the race.
“James [Spithill] this morning was resuming what our plan was,” said Francesco Bruni, strategist aboard Luna Rossa. “We have been changing the afterguard during these two weeks, which is why sometimes we sail in a strange way.
“James likes the idea of trying every role, so this is what we are doing even if the result is not always 100 per cent what it could be. For us at this regatta, winning is not the most important goal.”
The day was even worse for Iain Percy’s team aboard Plus39 who gained a late penalty in the second start and then later damaged a jumper strut and had to retire from the race.
And talking of retiring, the closing comments for today must come from Brad Butterworth as he considers the end of an era in just a few days time.
“After this regatta it will be time to cut the boats up to make them ready for Version 5. It will be a sad day, when we cut this one up. You build up some affection for a boat that helped you win the Cup.”
ACT 3 – Day 2 RESULTS
Team Name: (Points) Race 1 2
Team Alinghi (27) 4 1 3 1
Emirates Team New Zealand (26) 1 2 1 6
Luna Rossa (20) 3 4 7 2
BMW ORACLE Racing (20) 5 6 2 3
K-Challenge (17) 8 3 4 4
LE DEFI (14) 2 7 8 5
Team Shosholoza (12) 7 5 5 7
39 (7) 6 8 6 DNF
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