If you like flashing lights and full on match racing, today's racing was for you. Matthew Sheahan reports

 The penultimate day of Round Robin 1 saw a penalty shoot out of matches with more flashing lights on the course than a motorway contra-flow system.

First up to take a card from the umpires were the German’s who, in their match against the Spanish, tried to sneak across the bright green bow of the starboard tacked Spanish boat. Once they had committed, it was clear that the move was never going to work. It didn’t and on came a flashing light on the umpire boat.

Despite taking the upper hand on the first beat, the Spanish made a bad call on the tactics in the second half of the downwind leg and let the Germans through at the leeward mark before a shift to the left switched the advantage back to the Spanish. From there the result stayed.

Next up for a flag and a flashing light was the Swedish Victory Challenge in their match against the French Areva Challenge. The French, who had the upper hand at the start, gave away their advantage up the beat only to be handed it back when the Swedes tacked too close under the lee bow of the French two thirds up the first beat.

Out came the flag and on went the flashing light on the umpire boat. A careless error by the Swedes, although they still managed to squeak a tight 9 second lead over the French by the weather mark. During the next three legs Victory Challenge managed to extend their lead to 130m over the French. Good, but was it good enough to offload their penalty at the finish? The answer was yes, but only thanks to some superb boat handling and planning as the Swedes crossed the line just five seconds ahead.

Victory Challenge then went on to sail against the Spanish, (also hot from a win), but lost in a very close match that was great to watch. Here there were no penalties.

But in the next match there were. Entering from the left, (on port), Emirates Team New Zealand were facing Luna Rossa and in the familiar dial up, the Italian team managed to convince the umpires that the Kiwis hadn’t responded quickly enough to their challenge on starboard. Result, a penalty to the Kiwis and yet another flashing light.

This match in particular was a cracker yet bizarre. In the closest match of the day, the boats were almost as far apart as you can get on a match racing course that is 2.5 x 2.5 miles. Each team trusting their tactician implicitly, while testing the nerve of the other.

A luffing match at the weather mark, a head to head in the gybes on the downwind leg before a similar set up for the next upwind and downwind legs. It didn’t seem to matter how much water these two put between them, when they came back together they remained bow to bow. But the Kiwis were still carrying a penalty.

Squeaking an advantage over the Italians in the last few hundred metres to the finish the Kiwis’ only option was to put a penalty on the trailing Italians. So the Kiwis hoisted their headsail, dropped their spinnaker early then turned back upwind to chase down the Italians. But Luna Rossa skipper Spithill and his team had seen the issue coming and ran around the outside like a sprightly kid outpacing the school bully.

Bad news for the Kiwis, good news for the Italians, (who desperately need to prove they can take a big win) and superb for the spectators who saw more match racing manoeuvres in this single race than the whole of the previous week. (OK, not difficult given the week’s track record but you know what I mean.)

But still the flashing wasn’t over.

In the match between Mascalzone Latino and BMW Oracle the sparky Italian team refused to be intimidated by the mighty muscle of the American team and managed to get on the right side of the first shift to lead Dickson’s team up the first beat. As the boats came head to head up the first beat Mascalzone Latino were protecting the right hand side tacking under the bow of the American boat and bouncing them back to the left. But one tack was clearly too close, at least that’s how tactician Gavin Brady saw it as he waved the protest flag with vigorous indignation. The umpires took little time in agreeing and on came the flashing light.

Despite a brave attempt, Mascalzone Latino made never got back in front of the current leader of the pack.

At last as the flashing lights on the race course were switched off, they were replaced by those of the container port nearby as darkness started to fall. Flights 8 and 9 had been the most exciting of Round Robin 1 but they had also been the longest.

If you were at work this week and have yet to catch up with the video recordings of the week’s racing, this is the day to watch first.


Desafio Espanol BEAT United Internet Team Germany
Victory Challenge BEAT Areva
Emirates Team New Zealand BEAT China Team (DNS)
Mascalzone Latino BEAT Team Shosholoza
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT Plus 39

Desafio Espanol BEAT Victory Challenge
Luna Rossa BEAT Emirates Team New Zealand
Areva BEAT China Team (DNS)
Team Shosholoza BEAT Plus 39
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT Mascalzone Latino

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