There's evidence of some seriously fast boats. Matthew Sheahan reports
You may think that Alinghi are here as spectators this season, there are plenty who might agree with you. With their three main competitors getting to grips with their new boats and climbing the steep section of the development curve once again, the Defenders can watch and learn while the Challengers slug it out.
But if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to grab headlines its news of an Alinghi defeat, so few and far between are these moments. Today wasn’t one of those and didn’t dent Alinghi’s impressive results sheet, but it was close, very close. Last time the Swiss were beaten it was K-Challenge in Trapani last season, this time around, another small team, Mascalzone Latino Capitalia threatened to give Alinghi a bloody nose as the cheeky red boat rolled the Cup holders on the first run and refused let go of the Swiss transom. In the end the Cup holders managed to snatch a hard fought and narrow victory, but it was great to watch.
Luna Rossa found themselves in a similar position when they were hosed at the start by Desafilo Espanol who then then held the new Italian boat at bay throughout the race to take their first big scalp ever. This was a big day for the Spanish who had christened their new boat and entertained the King as 18th man in the first race. And as the sun went down in Valencia, Luna Rossa were playing down a serious defeat.
But aside from the racing itself, the talk of the dock at the moment remains as to just how much of a leap in performance the big boys and their new toys have taken. Many are impressed with the new Kiwi boat and point to this as being an example of a good looking boat with early results to match.
BMW Oracle is still attracting plenty of attention, especially when skipper Chris Dickson wound her into an impressively tight turn in a pre-start manoeuvre. Once across the line there was nothing to stop them and they cruised to easy wins.
United Internet Team Germany’s skipper Jesper Bank was one of the American team’s victims and was left seriously worried about the huge leap in performance between the haves and the have-nots.
“We were sailing close to them for some time and suddenly it was all over and they were off,” he said.
“I am really surprised at how much Team New Zealand and Oracle have improved from their last boats. I just wonder if we’re only catching up to the level that they’ve already left. I could be afraid that we’ll just catch up to the level that Oracle have left, or a little better than Prada.
“This kind of difference could force us to consider things more radically and we’ll have to go back to school.”
Too soon for a shake up, or too late for a big change? For some teams these are critical races, for others they’re fascinating to watch.
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