Louis Vuitton Round Robin 1 stalls just short of the line, but with stacks of action. Matthew Sheahan reports.

 The wind might have blown through my apartment at breakfast, but by lunchtime the forecasted decrease in the breeze was already happening and about to cause huge disappointment on the south course where all the juicy matches today were postponed.

Up on the north course, racing was underway in around 8-10 knots of breeze and while this was far from the top end of the range for these boats, there was plenty of action in the few races that took place.

The first of the four matches that did was a one sided affair with Plus 39 crossing the start line alone after the China Team failed to show for the match. Not that this was a surprise, technical problems that had forced the China Team back into the harbour before racing had started yesterday had taken an even more serious turn with problems in the hull to keel interface. A full repair isn’t expected until Sunday.

So in the Chinese absence, Iain Percy’s 39 team had managed to post a win, their first, on the board, albeit not in the way they would have liked.

The match between the French Areva Team and United Internet Team Germany, was the first hint of some action.

After a split tack start, the Germans didn’t look happy punching into a sloppy swell in just 8-9 knots of true wind, their boat speed suffering with every wave. Once the French had pinned them onto the left hand side of the centre territory of the course, the hard work transferred to the grinders as the pair engaged in a tacking duel that saw each boat tack every 45 seconds for most of the beat.

But at 75 percent of the way up the beat, there was confusion as a luffing match resulted in a penalty for both boats, (cancelling each other out), but thanks to a light failure on the umpire boat, only one penalty light was flashing. While spectators were confused on the finish, the German’s knew that they were in the clear albeit with the French crossing the line more than 200m ahead.

Fresh from defeat, the Germans then had to face 39 in a battle of the (near) basement. Keen to prove that they could score points against real competitors, 39 were determined to beat United Internet Team Germany and had spent the entire day to that point tuning and tweaking the rig. Yet in the back of their minds they knew they would have problems in the lighter breeze. And they did.

In a match that was great to watch with the lead changing on a number of occassions, it was the final leg to the finish that saw Iain Percy’s team run around the outside to a win.

But the best was kept until last.

In the match between Shosholoza and Areva, a bold and frankly risky manoeuvre in the last few seconds of the pre-start saw the South African’s get greedy and throw away an advantage by gybing back in an attempt to nail the French at the gun. Instead, Mark Sadler’s team simply stalled in front of the French allowing the battleship grey beast to slide away in front. Forty five seconds passed before Shosholoza crossed the line.

But the South African boat is a rocket ship in the light and hauled back the French on the first beat. Then came a luff from Shosholoza and a slow response from the French that copped them a penalty.

Despite rounding the first mark ahead, the South Africans went fishing with the kite after they caught it on the jumpers in a gybe. Advantage Areva by the bottom gate.

At the top mark for the second time, the French rounded the weather mark ahead but were borderline as to whether they had enough distance to offload their penalty at the finish.

A seemingly perfect execution around the pin end to cross the finish half a boat length ahead of the South African’s was a huge relief for the French – until they saw the blue flashing light. In rounding the pin the boat had not fully returned to the course side of the line, its masthead heeled over the mark and on the wrong side of the line.

The French had not finished and the match awarded to the South Africans.

With a protest lodged by the French and as darkness fell the message seemed to be that, it’s never over until it’s over and even then that might not be the end of it.

Tomorrow sees the final matches of Round Robin 1, a round that has felt more like an entire season.


Areva BEAT United Internet Team Germany
Plus 39 BEAT China Team

Plus 39 BEAT China Team
Team Shosholoza BEAT Areva ** Subject to protest

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