The first of the new format America's Cup series finished today

 We’d already seen the closing scene from the first Act yesterday when Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle won the first event with a day to spare, but there was still more golf in the hole today for the remaining teams. Two in particular promised to be interesting.

First off this morning were Le Defi and Shosholoza, two teams as equally likely to pull the rabbit out of the hat as they were to trip up. The result of this match was particularly important for Le Defi as beating the South African’s would help to pull them off the bottom of the overall results and launch them up into fourth.

For Emirates Team New Zealand, the final result depended on the match between BMW Oracle and Alinghi, assuming that the Kiwis beat K-Challenge – which they did. Unfortunately for the Kiwis, Alinghi beat the American team leaving the Kiwis in third.

But now we’ve seen the first Act played out in full, there are several issues that stand out. First is that if Valencia is anything like this event has been, the Cup in Europe is going to be big, very big.

Next, there were times during the week when the racing really mattered, you could see it on the race course and you could see it in the faces of the sailors when they got back to shore to explain themselves to the press. This was far from being pure showcase regatta.

The big three teams didn’t really pull any surprises, they’re experienced professionals and while they might not have pushed their boats or themselves to the same degree as they might have done in the cup proper, they were still here to win and did nothing less than you’d expect.

What took most by surprise was K-Challenge’s performance. A 2000 generation boat with a crew that had little Cup experience and virtually no hands-on experience. The South Africans displayed the same kind of spirit but with a largely amateur crew and also proved what can be achieved with enthusiasm.

Particularly impressive was talking to some of the crew and their skipper Geoff Meek and discovering that there are still people out there who want to play with the big boys simply for the fun of it. It didn’t seem to matter where the South Africans came, the smiles on their faces said it all.

“Our final position was good to place us where we want to be to know we must learn,” said Meek after the last race. “If we’d done any better than this did we might have come away with the wrong idea as to the size of the mountain we’ve yet to climb.”

A great way to look at their result and one I must remember for the future.

Here’s what went on afloat.

LV Act 1 – Match Racing – 5th session Course – 2 laps, 2nm per leg Wind 8-10 knots 155 degrees

Le Defi v Shosholoza A four minute dial up characterised the pre-race tactics for this match, both boats playing a game of chicken as they sat head to wind on the line. Only at one minute to go did the pair start to make their way back to the line, Shosholoza leading the way but accelerating more slowly than Le Defi, a problem that was to cost them dearly 40 seconds later.

As the start gun went, Le-Defi was on the line heading up, Shosholoza was OCS and still struggling to get back behind the line.

Both boats went out to the right up the first beat and by the time they had reached the weather mark Le Defi remained in the lead. A position the French team held onto until the finish, a result that moved them up to 4th overall check

Result – Le Defi wins

K-Challenge v Emirates Team New Zealand.

Once again K-Challenge’s helmsman Bertrand Pace danced around in the pre-start like a boxer in the ring for the first few minutes as he twisted and turned around Emirates Team New Zealand.

But by the time the start gun went, both boats had settled down to a simple but accurate start hitting the line bag on the gun. While the start might have been even, Emirates Team New Zealand’s speed shone through and at the weather mark the Kiwis led. By the bottom mark they were still in the lead but K-Challenge had demonstrated again just how quick this vintage ex-NZ boat still is, along with how sharp K-Challenge’s crew work has been.

The racing continued to be close, but not close enough to change the result come the finish.

Result – Emirates Team New Zealand win

Alinghi v BMW ORACLE

BMW ORACLE had already won Act 1 on the previous day and the outcome of today’s match was more likely to influence Emirates Team New Zealand’s final standing. If BMW ORACLE beat Alinghi, and the New Zealanders beat the K-Challenge Alinghi would finish third in this event. With two such experienced teams the start could have been quite spicy, but as it turned out the pre-start jostling proved pretty tame with the boats well separated at the start.

After a little tacking duel both headed for the left hand side of the course and things looked pretty even until a left hand shift lifted Alinghi up towards the weather mark giving her a 23 second lead at the first mark.

By the leeward mark the Swiss team had increased their lead and refused to hand any of it back for the rest of the race.

Result – Alinghi win

Overall today’s racing moves Le Defi up to fourth on a tie break after they scored more wins in match racing, a late final charge from the French team.

Overall and final standings

1st – BMW ORACLE – 46 points

2nd – Team Alinghi – 44 points

3rd – Emirates Team New Zealand – 42 points

4th – Le Defi – 17 points

5th – K-Challenge – 17 points

6th – Team Shosholoza – 8 points