Never underestimate the ability of a small team to embarrass a big one.
After a late finish last night playing catch up after a very busy opening day, K-Challenge got us all into the office early today to announce their new sponsor Aigle, a French outdoor clothing company for a French team. Or at least that’s the message you might have expected to receive.
While acknowledging the support from this well known brand in the team’s campaign, skipper Thierry Peponnet was clear about the objectives of this team.
“We don’t want to build a French Challenge with just French people,” he said, before listing the number of sailing team members from other countries. If nothing else, it shows how open minded this team are and provides a clue as to why they appear to have grasped the AC scene so quickly and have stirred up trouble for the big boys on the race course.
Today was good case in point as the team went head to head with Alinghi in the first race of the day and caused the Cup holders some stress, both in the pre-start and the next two legs of the race, leading the Swiss team around the course. Sadly for them they couldn’t hold onto their lead but proved just how determined they are to mix things up a bit.
But for one of their crew, the challenge of competing at the highest level was fought on a more personal level.
“Eight days ago I was terrified of heights. But I figured it was my only chance of getting on the boat. So if I have to go up the rig, that’s what I’ll do,” said Meg Gaillard, K-Challenge’s wind spotter.
The other race of the day was the battle between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand which began with some butt kicking for the Kiwis as James Spithill came barrelling into the ring, all guns blazing.
“We muffed the start,” said Grant Dalton after the race. “We’d lost it with four minutes to go.”
That was how looked off the boat too as Spithill pushed the Kiwis into the spectator fleet first, then threatened to force them above the committee boat on the return to the start line. After that the Italian team demonstrated how confident they were by allowing Emirates Team New Zealand to break away on just about all of the legs yet still coming back to remain ahead.
“He’s starting better than us,” said Dalts of Spithill. “I think when you’re starting it’s a team thing, but the helmsman has a much bigger effect on the result than the rest of the team. The helmsman is the key to the start. There was a point in the past where Dean was kicking Russell [Coutts] in the starting, and he’s got to get back there.”
Did he know what was going on in the pre-start?
“No, I haven’t got a lot of idea, but I know when you’re in trouble.”
A bit of a team talk tonight then?
RESULTS and LEADERBOARD
Match 1 SUI 64 beat FRA 57 delta 1:17
Match 2 FRA 69 beat ITA 59 delta 1:55
Match 3 ITA 74 beat NZL 81 delta 0:57
Match 4 USA 71 beat RSA 48 delta 4:01
Team Name: (Points) Matches Won / Sailed
Team Alinghi (3) 3 3
Emirates Team New Zealand (2) 2 3
BMW ORACLE Racing (2) 2 3
Luna Rossa (2) 2 3
LE DEFI (2) 2 3
K-Challenge (1) 1 3
39 (0) 0 3
Team Shosholoza (0) 0 3
Follow the action live from Valencia as Matthew Sheahan, Andy Rice and James Boyd report from the course.
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