Three flights of the closest and most dramatic racing we've seen so far in Act 2
First the breeze came from an unusual direction for Valencia, the South West, then it came in double the strength that most had forecast, hitting 25 knots at times and pushing the boats and their crews to the limits and beyond. But that was just the beginning.
In the first match of the day, and one that many believed would be the closest, BMW Oracle led Alinghi around the course to beat the Swiss by 1min 15sec, a big margin. It’s not often you see the Swiss on the receiving end of a delta of this size. To add to their woes, the normally slick team blew two kites out, broke their vang and jib cunningham.
In match two the Kiwis made mincemeat of Le Defi. But the real match and possibly the best of the day, was between K-Challenge and Shosholoza. This was the South African’s best opportunity to score a point in this Round Robin, as a victory over Alinghi in the final match of the Round Robin looked unlikely.
Even so, given the confidence that K-Challenge looked to have, the chance of a win here still looked slim for the South Africans here but it was to be their proudest race by far.
Trailing the French team at the first weather mark the South Africans decided to go for a gybe-set, a brave move for a young inexperienced team in strong winds, but not only did they pull it off but they spooked the French into a gybe that didn’t go as smoothly as they wanted. The South Africans capitalised on this and gained the lead.
At the next weather mark they were still ahead as they rounded for the last downwind leg. But in the shifty conditions Shosholoza went too far to the right, banged the corner and were then slapped in the face as the breeze went further round and left them struggling to lay the finish. This gave K-Challenge the opportunity to close the gap and roll over the top to beat Shosholoza by just 5 seconds.
Sickening perhaps that the South Africans had failed to put a point on the board, but deeply encouraging for a team that seem to excel in the stronger breeze and aren’t afraid to throw their boat around.
“Every now and again we can do it well, but we don’t have consistency yet,” said skipper and helmsman Geoff Meek. “Our crew have come a long way considering half of them hadn’t sailed big boats until four months ago.”
Elsewhere on the race course there were kites blowing out, sheaves exploding, sheets jamming, pole end breaking, mainsails tearing and tempers fraying. OK, the last bit I guessed, but it’s difficult to imagine that there was anything other than a dark cloud over the BMW Oracle crew following their performance against Luna Rossa.
The American’s having dealt with James Spithill and pushed him away from the line, found themselves over the line at the start and had to duck back. A daft error given that they were under no pressure from the Italians.
After a race that saw them trail Luna Rossa most of the way round, the crew of BMW Oracle managed to squeeze past the Italians on the last downwind leg only to hit the finish mark with a spinnaker sheet. Once again Luna Rossa was nowhere near them.
“I heard someone say we crossed the line two seconds ahead of them,” said Eric Doyle, BMW Oracle’s strategist. “But as we sailed by the finish, the lazy sheet on the spinnaker flipped out and hit the pin buoy. And so we had to take a penalty for that. That was a low point.”
A taxing day for everyone. But if you still don’t believe that this was for real, take a read of Iain Percy’s take on the day aboard their 39 boat.
“I think we nearly lost the rig a couple of times,” he said after the race. “One thing I keep on needing to remind myself is that it’s safety first. When you’re in the heat of the battle in these races, it’s about not damaging the boat and more importantly not damaging people. I’m learning this lesson very quickly, particularly coming from small boats where the loads are never so big that they’re dangerous.
“On a day like today the noise involved – it doesn’t half bring it home to you the loads in these boats. You don’t want something breaking and it killing someone. The real noise when you let out the mainsheet is deafening. I remember I was out in New Zealand having a coffee and I heard Team New Zealand bearing away and they must have been three miles away. I can’t make myself heard sometimes.”
Maybe not, but we could feel the pressure.
More action tomorrow with 20 knots – yummy!
Round Robin One – Flight 7
Match 1 USA 71 beat SUI 64, delta 1:15
Match 2 NZL 81 beat FRA 69, delta 4:15
Match 3 FRA 57 beat RSA 48, delta 0:05
Match 4 ITA 74 won, ITA 59 did not finish
Round Robin One – Flight 4
Match 3 SUI 64 beat RSA 48
Match 4 ITA 74 won, FRA 69 did not finish
Match 1 NZL 81 beat ITA 59, delta 1:14
Match 2 USA 71 won, FRA 57 did not start
Round Robin Two – Flight 1
Ma tch 3 SUI 64 won. ITA 59 did not start
Match 4 ITA 74 beat USA 71 delta 4:45
Match 1 NZL 81 won, RSA 48 did not start
Match 2 FRA 69 beat FRA 57 delta 1:03
LEADERBOARD Team Name: (Points) Matches Won / Sailed
Luna Rossa (7) 7 8
Emirates Team New Zealand (7) 7 8
Team Alinghi (6) 6 8
BMW ORACLE Racing (5) 5 8
LE DEFI (3) 3 8
K-Challenge (3) 3 8
39 (1) 1 8
Team Shosholoza (0) 0 8
Follow the action live from Valencia as Matthew Sheahan, Andy Rice and James Boyd report from the course.
To listen to the daily commentary log on to the official site at;