For a balloon ride. Perfect for a sea breeze too. Matthew Sheahan reports on a day in Valencia that went to plan

 “The weather is perfect, no wind,” said the man operating the tethered balloon in the America’s Cup Park as we climbed aboard for an early morning flight. Despite being absolutely right as far as his fairground attraction was concerned, his comments would have seen him lynched had he voiced them closer to the media centre where the frustration at the prospect of yet another day’s lost racing looked set to push journalists, broadcasters and the media even closer to breaking point.

As we reached our 150m vantage point above the harbour, from which the panoramic views across the city and out to sea were breathtaking, there was a strange sense of irony in the text message that came though on my phone alerting me to the fact that for the first time in this event, race director Dyer Jones had issued a postponement ashore.

With the entire Cup ensemble held at the dock, boats, judges, umpires and spectators included, the message sent a collective groan around the park as spectators and commentators feared the worst. But the weather had other ideas.

Today was the first day in a while that we’ve seen such a weak gradient breeze to allow the sea breeze to get going. Had two of the races not have been quite such outstanding matches, the relief following a change in the weather could have been the biggest story of the day. Instead it was the outstanding Shosholoza victory over one of the ‘big guns’ Luna Rossa that was talk of the first flight. The South Africans stole a march on the Italians early in the play and then defended their position perfectly around the course. Cool calm and collected this was yet another display of how far this team has come. On the last downwind leg they even appeared to start experimenting with different modes, such is their confidence and in doing so discovered another gear that allowed them to stretch even more distance out from Luna Rossa.

“I think a lot of the teams are underestimating us and they are maybe more surprised that we are,” said pitman Tim Kroger. “We’ve been working away, focussing on the boat, chipping away, bit by bit, working on the boat, working on the sails and it’s very rewarding, because we have been through some very dark days on this campaign, but we rise from the ashes.”

Paolo Cian was equally clear what success had meant for the team.

“It was very emotional, but I think the team deserved this kind of result?it’s been really tough for us to lead for three-quarters of race and then losing the match from a couple of small mistakes,” he said referring to the close match against BMW Oracle. “Today, we led from the beginning, we put a lot of pressure on the other team and we were calm and cool and the boat is competitive.”

The Italian loss is the second match where a big team has tripped up, the first being the Kiwis loss to Mascalzone Latino.

The news didn’t get much better for Luna Rossa later in the day when, despite a very close match with BMW Oracle, the Italians lost again, this time by just 6 seconds. But a loss is a loss and aside from BMW Oracle who are currently the only undefeated team so far, the big winners were the spectators who saw a real needle match between two very closely matched teams.

Elsewhere the other news worthy story was of the Spanish beating Mascalzone Latino. This was an important win for the Spanish who’d already given away a result to a middle ground team, a mistake that could count against them if they are serious contenders for the semi finals. But today they kept things together and knocked the Latin Rascals off their perch after a head to head battle up the first beat. A leg that defined the rest of the race.

Unfortunately for them, while Mascalzone Latino might have pulled off a win against the Kiwis, the Spanish never looked likely to, the Kiwis sailing a perfectly executed race.

Perfect weather, perfect results for a few successful teams and some perfectly good reasons for those that under performed to get wound up.

Success can lift a team, but in the America’s Cup, unexpected defeat can have an equal and opposite effect. Watch for the fall out.


Emirates Team New Zealand BEAT Areva Challenge
Desafio Espanol BEAT Mascalzone Latino

United Internet Team Germany BEAT China Team
Team Shosholoza BEAT Luna Rossa
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT Victory Challenge

Mascalzone Latino BEAT Plus 39
Emirates Team New Zealand BEAT Desafio Espanol

Victory Challenge BEAT United Internet Team Germany
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT Luna Rossa
Team Shosholoza BEAT China Team

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