The opening day at Trapani proved once again that you can take little for granted in America's Cup racing
Having struggled to show even a fraction of the form that had people talking about them last season, K-Challenge came out of the box fighting to take two wins on the opening day of racing at Trapani. Two points against anybody would have been good cause for some smiles and back slapping, but the second of their victories must have tasted particularly sweet. Beating the Kiwis is unlikely to have been on their list of expected results today but, in shifty and light conditions the French team demonstrated just how quickly things could change.
Rounding the weather mark behind the Kiwis, the French gybed onto starboard, a move that the Kiwis had anticipated and planned for.
“We wanted to be able to match them in the gybe,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. “We went to gybe and there was a bit of a crew mistake and we were forced to gybe back. That forced us into a dying breeze that was already heading. We never wanted to be there. We can’t blame our result on the conditions.”
Accidents happen, but for the Kiwis, this is the second time they have conceded a point to a smaller team. In Malmo a few weeks ago, Iain Percy took a point off Barker and his boys in an impressive race.
Losing points to smaller teams isn’t the way to dominate the top of the leader board but some are quick to point out that at this stage, with 18 months to go before the Cup proper, such results don’t make much difference. Yet on the other hand, it’s clear to see both how quickly things can turn pear shaped for the big boys and how the smaller teams are now frequently close enough to capitalise on their mistakes.
But it wasn’t all picking up scraps for the French team. Earlier in the day, K-Challenge had beaten Mascalzone Latino in a closely fought match to prove that they can keep their nerve under pressure.
Another team to be smiling today was the United Internet Team Germany. Having suffered a good share of internal problems during the last Act, Jesper Bank and his crew were impressive in the pre-starts, until that is, they found themselves OCS in their race against BMW Oracle and had to head back to the line. Realistically, their chances of beating the American team were slim, but nevertheless, Bank’s team demonstrated some spark today and beat Mascalzone Latino in the second race by what must be the biggest margin of the season that hasn’t been due to gear failure. The red Italian boat crossed the line 10min 29 seconds astern of the Germans and were even beaten across the line by the lead boat of the second flight, K-Challenge.
Rumours and dockside chat suggest that all is not well within the Mascalzone camp and that former tactician Hamish Pepper has left the team a few days before the 180 day limit that binds a crew member to a campaign. Today’s results on the water won’t make life any easier.
So is the prospect of performing in front of a home crowd that daunting? Luna Rossa didn’t seem to think so as they put two easy points on the board and came home to rousing applause from the crowds that lined the harbour walls of this elegant town.
So what of the venue?
There’s no question that the area has character ashore and some beautiful waters to sail in. But today’s racing was confirmation that this venue could prove to be the trickiest yet. With courses set close to the shore, a wind funnelling effect between Sicily and the islands lying just off the coast and some south going current to contend with, some might say this is hardly America’s Cup racing as we’ve known it. In addition, very few teams have any practical experience of the local conditions other than those they’ve observed over the previous few days in practice.
Just like real life some might say. Not something you can often say about America’s Cup racing.
****** RESULTS ******
****** LIVE AUDIO ******
Follow the action live from Malmo as Richard Simmonds, Mark Covell, Andy Green and Matthew Sheahan report live from the course.
Broadcast starts at 12:15 local time (11:15 GMT)
To listen to the daily commentary and recorded highlights of the racing, log on to the official site at;
If you’re in town, listen on either;
VHF Ch60 – English or FM 89.6
VHF Ch62 – Italian or FM 102.0