DRAMA IN THE LOUIS VUITTON CUP AS TWO UPSETS SHAKE UP PRE-REGATTA FORM
The second day of racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup brought real drama to the contest with upset results in two matches overturning the form books. Pre-regatta favourites, Alinghi of Switzerland, fell to OneWorld Challenge in a cliffhanger and the defending champions, Prada, were handily beaten by Team Dennis Conner. The shock announcement that Prada’s lead designer Doug Peterson was to be removed from his position preceded a difficult day on the water for the crew on Luna Rossa. Prada’s second loss in two races added to the air of embattlement surrounding the Louis Vuitton champions.
Alinghi, which gained its favourite status by winning most of the pre-regatta informal races, was beaten off the startline by OneWorld and the US team led for the rest of the race.
The French Le Défi AREVA team, which has yet to post a point on the scoreboard, suffered from a ripped spinnaker and trailed the Swedish Victory Challenge team all the way round the course. Mascalzone Latino drew another strong competitor in Oracle BMW Racing and notched up their second loss in succession.
After losing two days of racing due to high winds, the weather over the course today was sunny and fine, with southerly winds of 15 knots at the start.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP ROUND ROBIN ONE, RACE TWO
STARS & STRIPES (USA-66) BEAT LUNA ROSSA (ITA-74) – DELTA 00:35
After a lively pre-start, Team Dennis Conner hit the first shift of the race and then stayed in phase to defeat Prada Challenge by 35 seconds. Rod Davis again helmed Luna Rossa (ITA-74) in the pre-start and seemed to get the better of Stars & Stripes’ (USA-66) Ken Read.
Davis got to windward of Read with about one minute to the gun as both boats were on starboard. Read tacked to port toward the committee boat end and Davis covered. Read tacked away to starboard less than 10 seconds to the start and Davis again covered, riding the Americans off the startline.
Just minutes into the match, however, Luna Rossa tacked to port, away from its covering position. Stars & Stripes held starboard toward a 14-degree windshift. When the Americans tacked to port they immediately gained the lead. Then their narrow sloop seemed to have a slight speed advantage and they led by 32 seconds at the windward mark.
Stars & Stripes did a masterful job of playing the shifts on the treacherous Hauraki Gulf. They lost time on just two legs, the second and third runs, and finished 35 seconds ahead of Prada.
ONEWORLD (USA-67) BEAT ALINGHI (SUI-64)-DELTA 00:10
As two of the highly rated campaigns, the match between OneWorld and Alinghi was bound to draw plenty of attention. When the entire race was conducted with no more than 22 seconds between the boats and often considerably less, it was a cliffhanger.
The race got off to an interesting start with Alinghi opting not to go into the classic dial-up. As the boats came head to head, OneWorld rounded up into the breeze while Alinghi dialed down and into a gybe. Coming into the line Coutts pushed and shoved OneWorld’s helmsman James Spithill all the way back to the line before the boats split tacks with just a few seconds to go. Shortly after the start OneWorld led by less than a boatlength and as the pair bounced off each other up the middle of the first beat there seemed little difference in their speed.
By the weather mark the delta was 22 seconds in favour of OneWorld, a difference that was to be repeated on several mark roundings throughout the race.
Downwind the boatspeeds again looked very similar and the biggest differences seemed to be in each boat’s local wind strength.
USA-76 BEAT MASCALZONE LATINO (ITA-72) – DELTA 02:03
It was another difficult day for Vincenzo Onorato and his men aboard Mascalzone Latino (ITA-72) as they fell to Larry Ellison’s USA-76. It was the second consecutive race for the Italians against a strong American team, and the result was very similar. ITA-72 helmsman Paolo Cian had a solid start, positioned upwind of USA-76, but the Americans simply sailed away from the ‘Latin Rascals’ earning a 54-second lead at the top mark.
Although Mascalzone Latino made up a few seconds on the first run, the pattern was set, and the Oracle BMW Racing team used its better pace to claim its second win over an Italian challenger in two races. Oracle BMW Racing boss Larry Ellison took the helm of USA-76 during the race, his first experience of hands-on racing in an America’s Cup Class yacht in the Louis Vuitton Cup.
ÖRN (SWE-63) BEAT LE DEFI (FRA-69) – DELTA 01:06
An accomplished debut for the black Swedish boat Örn. Steered by double Olympic champion Jesper Bank, the Dane won the battle for the pin end and hit the line one second ahead of le Défi ARÉVA and with greater speed. Both boats lined up for a long tack on port shortly after the start and it quickly became apparent that Örn looked able to sail slightly higher.
The French boat fought hard all the way up the first beat. On the run, both boats went for a bear away set and sadly for the French their spinnaker blew out seconds after hoisting, allowing the Swedes to extend further. The Swedes slowly extended on each of the subsequent legs to win by 1:06 and their conservative tactics never gave the French a chance to get back into the match.