THREE OF FOUR MATCHES FOLLOW FORM WITH TEAM DENNIS CONNER TURNIGN THE TABLES
Victories by Switzerland’s Alinghi Team, Oracle BMW Racing of the U.S., and Sweden’s Victory Challenge on the second day of the Louis Vuitton Cup Quarterfinals put them halfway to winning their respective matches.
While those three teams stand at 2-0 in their matches, Team Dennis Conner evened its series with GBR Challenge at 1-1 after a start-to-finish triumph. Conner’s Stars & Stripes, USA-77, was the only team to reverse the opening day’s outcome.
The second day of the quarters saw more fine weather, with a shifty 15-knot breeze from the south/southwest. Although there weren’t as many lead changes or penalties as on the opening day, the finish deltas tightened up to 43 seconds. Overall, the matches were no less intense, especially on the final runs.
Oracle BMW Racing’s lead came under threat when their spinnaker pole broke during the set, allowing OneWorld to close up.
Alinghi saw most of its 36-second lead evaporate when they split with Prada for the other end of the finish line.
Sweden’s Victory Challenge honoured the spirit of their founder by dominating France’s le Défi AREVA for a second day. Syndicate founder Jan Stenbeck would’ve turned 60 today, but he passed away last August just hours after the team had launched Orm, SWE-73. Stenbeck’s son, Hugo, was aboard as 17th man today, as he has been for nearly every race.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP QUARTER-FINALS, RACE DAY TWO
ALINGHI (SUI-64) BEAT LUNA ROSSA (ITA-74) – DELTA 0:08 ALINGHI LEADS THE BEST-OF-SEVEN BY 2-0
If this were a downwind race, the result would have been very different with Prada’s Luna Rossa gaining over one minute combined on the downwind legs. But Russell Coutts and Alinghi were very quick and dominant upwind, and led the race from start to finish. Coutts started well and converted a small favourable windshift into a 17-second lead at the top mark. Italian skipper Francesco de Angelis cut that lead in half on the first run, but Coutts sailed a smart second beat, picking the shifts and extending to what seemed to be a safe 37-second lead. But again, Prada’s silver bullet was blazing downwind, and cut 24 seconds off the advantage. The final beat was similar with Alinghi stretching away again. Luna Rossa didn’t appear to make in-roads until the very end of the final run when it split off for the opposite end of the finish line. Good pressure and a slight shift allowed Luna Rossa to close right up, but the Italians ran out of room, finishing a couple of boatlengths behind.
USA-76 BEAT ONEWORLD (USA-65) – DELTA 00:17 USA-76 LEADS THE BEST-OF-SEVEN BY 2-0
After a long dial-up, both yachts held head-to-wind and slid backwards for more than two minutes before breaking off. At the gun, both yachts were on starboard tack, with USA-76 to windward and very slightly ahead, hitting the line at pace. The first beat was a test of strength, with the yachts showing very similar boatspeed. USA-76 controlled the right-hand side and used the starboard advantage to gain control. For the next two legs, OneWorld was not able to make any impression, but on the second run skipper Peter Gilmour, helmsman James Spithill and crew broke off to the right hand side, while USA-76 let them go. By the end of the leg, that decision proved costly for the Oracle BMW Racing team. OneWorld were back in the game and very close. They kept it that way up the final windward leg and then it was all on for the run to the finish. USA-76 continued to lead, but then disaster struck as their spinnaker pole broke against the forestay. This was a similar situation to the second round match against Sweden’s Victory Challenge. Once again, the Oracle BMW Racing crew were impressive under intense pressure as they wrapped the broken pole in a splint and got it working again. Trying desperately to use the situation to their advantage, OneWorld attacked repeatedly from behind, but skipper Chris Dickson, helmsman Peter Holmberg and the USA-76 crew kept their composure and nursed their yacht across the line to take their second win in this best-of-seven battle.
ORM (SWE-73) BEAT LE DÉFI (FRA-69) – DELTA 01:10 ORM LEADS THE BEST-OF-SEVEN BY 2-0
Philippe Presti at the helm of le Défi did well to take a close leeward position next to Victory’s Orm, SWE-73, on the approach to the start line on starboard tack and forced the Swedish boat to make a late double tack seconds before the gun. The yellow boat hit the line with speed and took a short-lived lead. A right-hand shift seconds later, however, allowed the Victory Challenge boat to pick up the initiative on the right-hand side of the course. Jesper Bank, at the helm of Orm, soon guided the Swedish boat into a comfortable lead with fractionally better boatspeed to round the first windward mark 17 seconds ahead. Downwind the Swedes were able to extend with the help of slightly better boatspeed and, in a similar fashion to their first quarterfinal match, built an unassailable lead by the leeward mark. Tactician Stefan Rahm onboard Orm then did an efficient job of close covering and gave le Defi little chance to get back into the match.
STARS & STRIPES (USA-77) BEAT WIGHT LIGHTNING (GBR-70) – DELTA 01:17 BEST-OF-SEVEN SERIES TIED 1-1
A conventional dial-up marked the opening of the second match between Stars & Stripes and Wight Lightning. After a long hold head-to-wind, the pair eventually fell away to port. For the next few minutes Stars & Stripes were chased by Wight Lightning in the pre-start as the pair sailed back into the safer right-hand side of the box. Shortly before the start both peeled away, Stars & Stripes to the right and Wight Lightning to the left and there was no further engagement in the pre-start manoeuvring. Stars & Stripes crossed the line four seconds ahead and to weather. Both boats still appeared to be evenly matched, as far as speed and height were concerned. But as the race progressed it was the crew of Stars & Stripes who appeared to be more in phase with the shifty conditions. Working the shifts both upwind and down, Team Dennis Conner extended their lead throughout the race until the penultimate leg.