Louis Vuitton Act 1 and the second phase, match racing puts six teams head to head
After the frantic fleet racing of the previous three days there was a suggestion in some people’s minds that the match racing would be an anticlimax by comparison. One-on-one matches in light conditions with a few potential misfits where the big guns were going to dominate the smaller teams, would make for a dull looking affair. How wrong this proved to be.
Instead, three pairs starting at ten minute intervals on a course that was just eight miles long over four legs kept the action fresh. By the time the last pair had started it was time to watch the action around the bottom gate. And that was just for starters.
Seeing the pre-start battle between between Oracle and Team New Zealand was as fascinating as seeing things go pear shaped for Peponnet when the K-Challenge skipper threw away a great fight against Alinghi by getting squeezed the wrong side of the committee boat 10 seconds before the start.
And then there was the classic match racing shenanigans at the weather mark when BMW Oracle forced Team New Zealand above and beyond the buoy before diving off to stretch their tiny lead.
With the breeze, the breakages and the drama of the previous three days I’d almost forgotten how much fun match racing could be. So here’s what happened.
LV Act 1 – Match Racing – 1st session
Course – 2 laps, 2nm per leg
Wind 7-8 knots 160 degrees
Shosholoza v K-Challenge
After the traditional dial up, Shosholoza who had entered from the left hand end of the line gained an early advantage as they got onto the tail of the French. K-Challenge tried hard to wriggle free, but Shosholoza managed to keep control. Both boats were early for the start and as they slowed to a near standstill K-Challenge lost control and stalled 10secs before the start and in doing so handed the race on a plate to the South Africans. Or so it appeared.
By the bottom of the first downwind leg Shosholoza held the lead but by the time the pair rounded the weather mark the French had taken control.
Result – Le Defi – FRA-57 wins
Emirates Team New Zealand v BMW ORACLE
ENTZ gained control early in the set as BMW ORACLE peeled away to starboard after the dial up. Although the Kiwis managed to control for a while when the start gun fired, the boats were on opposite tacks at opposite ends of the line.
ETNZ rounded the top mark 15 seconds ahead of Oracle but took a gamble on the downwind leg and let the American’s break free, a mistake that cost ETNZ their slim lead.
At the leeward mark both boats went around the separate gate marks with nothing between them and although both went right initially, there was always separation between the two teams.
By weather mark 2 we were treated to some real match racing as Oracle forced ETNZ beyond the layline, pinning them up head to wind before bearing away to return to the mark. A manoeuvre that consolidated BMW ORACLE’s lead – A lead that they held to the finish.
Result – BMW ORACLE win
Alinghi v Le Defi
While some might have expected the Swiss to run circles around the French team this was not how the start was played out. Instead, Alinghi appeared to let the French take control, at least for some of the start.
At the gun the Swiss were fully powered up and spot on the line. While Le Defi looked OK on the line they were still behind and by the first weather mark they trailed by a margin and never recovered leaving the Swiss to win with ease.
Result – Alinghi win
LV Act 1 – Match Racing – 2nd session
Course – 2 laps, 2nm per leg
Wind 10-12 knots 170 degrees
Team Shosholoza v Emirates Team New Zealand
More classic match racing as Emirates Team New Zealand plants a penalty on Team Shosholoza in the second pre-start dial up. Despite some frantic manoeuvring by the South Africans they didn’t manage to put a penalty back on the Kiwis and were forced to start the race one penalty down against a boat that sailed away from them up the first beat. ETNZ never looked threatened after that.
By second weather mark ETNZ was 1 min 27 seconds ahead with the South Africans still carrying a penalty.
Result – Emirates Team New Zealand win
Alinghi v K-Challenge
Thierry Peponnet’s spirited attack on Alinghi in the pre-start went well to begin with as he managed to out manoeuvre Holmberg on the Swiss boat by sailing deep into the box. But on the return to the line the French team found themselves tight up against the committee boat with Alinghi sitting to leeward, easily within striking distance. Within the last few seconds it went pear shaped for Peponnet as Holmberg luffed and squeezed him the wrong side of the committee boat just seconds before the starting gun fired.
By the time K-Challenge had returned and crossed the line they were 50seconds behind Alinghi. From there on, the die had been cast.
Result – Alinghi wins
BMW ORACLE v Le Defi
A split tack start with the teams swapping sides saw Le Defi sail out to the left and BMW ORACLE to the right. By the weather mark Le Defi led BMW ORACLE by 21 seconds, their best race of the event so far and a welcome boost to morale.
BMW ORACLE tried to force the French into an error on the downwind leg by trying to instigate a gybing duel, something the French team had been weak on in the heavier conditions. But today they kept the plot together and rounded the leeward mark just a few seconds ahead.
Sadly for the French their lead wasn’t to hold as on the second beat Oracle’s better pace saw them overtake Le Defi from where the American crew sat on the French all the way up the beat. Little changed on the downwind leg.
Result – BMW ORACLE win
More tomorrow with two more flights of match racing and some more breeze to spice things up.