Louis Vuitton Act 1 - Flights 3 & 4

 Of the six races that took place today, four were mis-matches, two were tight and one was a conclusive win. First the victory.

BMW Oracle have won the Louis Vuitton Act 1 with a day to spare after they beat the South African team in the morning and K-Challenge in the afternoon. Neither were difficult wins, although both opponents put up good fights in the pre-start to come off the line in good shape with speed, height and accurate timing on each occasion.

But the best match of the day by far was the tussle between Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi. A grudge match or just a chance to get get one over on the boat that caused them so much grief last year, it didn’t matter how you looked at it, beating Alinghi in a bona fide race would be a significant moment for Dean and his Kiwis. And as the results now show they did, but it wasn’t as simple as that.

The start sequence got under way with a long dial up, a game of chicken to see who could hang on the longest. Both sailed backwards, both dialled up again, ETNZ determined not to give up the left hand end of the line.

By the start, the Kiwis had held their side of the line and for the first few minutes there was little to separate the pair until Alinghi suffered headsail damage and was forced to change genoas in a lightening quick operation that cost them just 2 boat lengths.

At the weather mark ETNZ rounded a boat length ahead. The last time they’d occupied this position against the Swiss was in race 2 of the America’s Cup when Russell Coutts and his crew hunted the Kiwis down from a seemingly impossible position on the last downwind leg to take the race against the odds. But plenty has changed since then, the Kiwis are revitalised and the Swiss still coming to terms with the loss of Coutts.

This time instead of losing their lead, the Kiwis remained ahead at the leeward mark, and by the second weather mark they had extended their lead to 39 seconds thanks to bit more pressure in their part of the course.

But at the top mark it really was a case of deja-vu. The Kiwis performed a bear-away set while Alinghi chose to gybe set, just like in 2003. Seconds later and the Swiss were eating into the Kiwis’ lead as ETNZ appeared to sail higher for a bit more pace. Their paths appeared to converge – Not again surely?

Fortunately no, although the Kiwis had lost a little bit of time to Alinghi, they held onto their lead to the finish to cross the line 13 seconds ahead. A close match.

“It was nice to win one, it’s been a while coming,” said a beaming Barker. “It was disappointing for us yesterday as we had a very good chance to win the race against Oracle so to win the other big one today was great.

“There were a couple of situations that felt a little bit too familiar,” he continued. “It wasn’t an easy race and there was plenty of pressure on both of the crews. It could easily have gone the other way.”

Elsewhere on the race course the other tight match was the all-French battle between Le-Defi and K-Challenge. At the start there was little to separate the pair and by the weather mark Le Defi led by just two boat lengths. Having got themselves ahead, could they now avoid their downwind jinx and keep the spinnaker in one piece at the bottom mark? Ten minutes later and the answer was yes, after some good crew work and some well executed gybes, Le Defi seemed to have got over the problems that have dogged them throughout this event.

K-Challenge knew their opponent’s potential weakness and looked as if they were trying to force an error aboard the red boat by instigating an early gybe. But the crew aboard le Defi held their nerve, keen to shake off the demons of the last few days and kept their lead.

At the next weather mark Le Defi had stretched out their lead to 19 seconds and executed a near perfect hoist and a first gybe, things really had changed – Until a few minutes later when kite number 8 blew out. If there’s one thing that this French team have got good at it’s hoisting a replacement chute at short notice. Which is precisely what they did to hold their lead into the finish and score their first victory in the match.

So what of the other matches?

BMW Oracle v Shosholoza A one sided affair with BMW ORACLE dominating the racing from the word go. At the top mark BMW ORACLE rounded 1 min 4 seconds ahead. Little changed after this apart from the delta. Quelle surprise, as they say down here.

Result – BMW Oracle won

Le Defi v Emirates Team New Zealand A pretty even start given the potential difference between the two teams. ETNZ started at the pin end, Le Defi just above. But by the top of the first leg ETNZ were well in front. Next time around the gap was even bigger. ETNZ barely needed to hoist a kite to win this one.

Result – Emirates Team New Zealand won

Shosholoza v Alinghi An interesting session of pre-start wriggling resulted in both boats crossing the line at the same time and at pace, the South Africans to weather. By the weather mark the Swiss had pulled out a healthy lead and looked unlikely to lose it. They didn’t.

Result – Alinghi wins

K-Challenge v BMW ORACLE While the previous two starts were fairly even, this pre-start match involved some less commonly seen pre-start manoeuvres with BMW Oracle getting the upper hand – but only just. As the pair sailed off to the left of the course, both boats were bow to bow as they headed towards the beach. But this was to be a one tack beat.

As BMW Oracle carried the French into the shoreline, K-Challenge overstood the layline, a mistake that cost them badly by the weather mark. From there it was game over.

Result – BMW ORACLE win

Tomorrow’s the last day of racing with just one flight to go.