ALINGHI CAPTURE A BIG SCALP, FRANCE TAKE ONEWORLD TO THE WIRE IN NEAR UPSET
Windshifts and some very tight tactical racing saw several lead changes in the Louis Vuitton Cup fleet today, with some of the star teams forced to work extremely hard for their point.
The heavyweight bout of today’s racing saw the Swiss Alinghi team turn early disadvantage into a handy lead over Oracle BMW Racing in the space of a single leg. Having stamped their authority on the match, the Swiss consolidated to add another point to their tally.
But, the battle of the day belonged to the so-far luckless French le Défi ARÉVA team, which put on an impressive display and came close to an upset win over the mighty OneWorld Challenge. OneWorld again sailed a textbook match to protect its lead, however, and are now the only unbeaten team in the fleet.
Sharing bottom ranking with the French, the Italian Mascalzone Latino crew had early hopes of scoring their first point when they led Team Dennis Conner during the first windward leg. But Stars & Stripes used the power of the right to gain a starboard advantage, reclaimed the lead and extended away for a convincing win.
Another race that saw fortunes overturned was between the Swedish Victory Challenge and Britain’s GBR Challenge. After the British won the start, the Swedes played the shifts to perfection and overtook on the second leg, only to see the lead snatched away again by the British.
There will be just one flight of matches scheduled for Saturday, Flight Nine.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP ROUND ROBIN ONE, RACE DAY EIGHT
STARS & STRIPES (USA-66) BEAT MASCALZONE LATINO (ITA-72) – DELTA 01:36
After their fourth consecutive loss yesterday, Team Dennis Conner’s crew held a meeting in the cockpit on the tow back to Viaduct Basin. Vowing to keep their heads, the crew came out aggressive in the pre-start against Mascalzone Latino. Helmsman Ken Read forced Mascalzone into two downspeed tacks as the start gun sounded, and took the early lead beginning the beat. Mascalzone, helmed by Paolo Cian, gained the lead one-third of the way up the leg due to a left-hand windshift. But Stars & Stripes overtook again by staying to the right and using a lift to cross on starboard. Stars & Stripes controlled from there. Mascalzone gained 25 seconds on the second beat, but couldn’t overcome a determined American squad.
ALINGHI (SUI-64) BEAT USA-76 – DELTA 01:43
This race was initially much closer than the final delta would indicate. The pre-start was ferocious with Alinghi (SUI-64), skippered by Russell Coutts, and Oracle BMW Racing (USA-76) attacking each other at every turn. Although the boats were at times just inches from touching, no penalties were assessed and both yachts started cleanly, with USA-76 helmsman Peter Holmberg on the right, and Alinghi close to leeward. Within seconds of the start gun, Coutts luffed hard and forced USA-76 to tack. The yachts drag-raced up the right side of the race course and, when Holmberg tacked onto starboard tack, Coutts couldn’t cross ahead and tacked into a safe leeward position. Holmberg initially looked strong here, with enough separation to sail Coutts out to the port tack layline, but the Swiss skipper was able to squeeze up and eventually forced Holmberg to tack away. Instead of leading in from the port tack layline, Holmberg soon found himself following Alinghi down the starboard tack layline. That allowed the Swiss boat to round the top mark with a 32-second advantage and Coutts was able to extend that lead on the first two laps of the course. Oracle BMW Racing never closed within one minute the rest of the way.
ONEWORLD (USA-67) BEAT LE DÉFI (FRA-69) – DELTA 00:21
James Spithill stepped up to be skipper of OneWorld today in place of a resting Peter Gilmour and beat Luc Pillot’s Le Défi after a close final tussle and a great fight back by the French. After an initial ‘dial up’ that lasted for two minutes, with both boats sailing backwards, OneWorld started just ahead and to the right of Le Défi. Pillot’s charge stuck close to the coat tails of the Seattle Yacht Club boat up the first beat, but Spithill took the French boat well past the port lay-line into the first windward mark. Rounding only 7 seconds ahead, OneWorld then extended well downwind, quickly opened a lead of over a minute by the next mark and looked to be sailing to a comfortable lead. The French team picked their shifts well up the beats and gained with a big ‘right hander’ on the final run to close to within two boat lengths in the closing stages of the match. Spithill kept a cool head to repel the French advances and, despite a last-ditched gybing duel, held on to just pip Le Défi over the line.
WIGHT LIGHTNING (GBR-70) BEAT ÖRN (SWE-63) – DELTA 00:48
GBR Challenge’s second starting helmsman, Andy Beadsworth, stamped his mark on today’s start in the match between Wight Lightning and Swedish Victory Challenge’s Örn. A conventional looking dial up quickly turned into a bear away to the left for Örn, chased hard by Wight Lightning. From then on there were several more dial ups, after which Wight Lightning seemed to come out with the upper hand, only to apparently turn their back on the advantage and sail away from their opponents. But there was clearly a bigger plan aboard the British boat and, in a deft final move, Wight Lightning chased Örn down to the pin end, forcing them into a premature start, while the British boat hit the line at speed and on the gun. Örn was forced to round the pin end and restart, putting her several boat lengths behind the British. The race from then on saw frequent large wind shifts in both directions, the breeze playing chicken with each boat every time they got close to the laylines. Losing 150 metres in this match could happen as quickly as flicking a rope clutch, but in the end, despite a big gain for the Swedes on the second beat, Wight Lightning went on to win by 48 seconds