Alinghi wins Act 6 with eleven wins on the trot, a reminder of how much boat speed the Swiss have. But why are they showing their hand?
The trophy was theirs, Alinghi was clearly back on form and Act 6 was in the bag.
But that was yesterday.
Today there was no need at all to make a public display of just how blisteringly quick SUI-75 can be when she’s in the groove. Today’s demolition of Emirates Team New Zealand proved that it’s not just an extra sprocket that the Swiss have on the back of their bike, but an extra chain wheel on the front, allowing them an additional full range of modes.
A good showing from the Kiwis at the start and some slippery behaviour in the opening phases of the first beat suggested that this was going to be closely fought match. The Kiwis needed to win this one to come second overall. Yet by halfway up the Swiss had crossed ahead and engaged the secret gear, lifting their bow up and away from the Kiwis with no apparent loss in speed.
On the downwind leg they played the current better and stretched out a little further, but it was the demolition job on the second beat that surprised most. By the weather mark they were just under 2 minutes ahead, the kind of margin that the Kiwis are used to dishing out, not receiving.
So what’s the point in Alinghi going so quickly? If there’s one team that’s guaranteed to be participating at the next Cup proper in 2007 it’s the Swiss. They have no reason to show how much they have in reserve.
But Ernesto Bertarelli doesn’t see it like this.
“It’s better to be in front than to try to catch up and I would agree that there is a bit more speed in our boat than in some of the other teams. But that can change very quickly,” he said shortly after the race.
“In San Francisco and in Newport we couldn’t find our mode and it didn’t take much for us to fall off the edge. But right now we’re in the zone and the team is doing well. Winning helps you stay in the zone.
“What’s important for us is to have the fastest possible boat of the 2003 version so that we have a benchmark against which to test our new boat. If we’re fast today and our new boat is faster than that, at least that’s something we will know.”
A good point, especially as all the teams, bar Shosholoza, get closer to launching their new boats. While many are still learning to get their 24 tonne machines around the corners without breaking gear or crew, others are climbing the learning curve fast in old boats. For these teams, new machinery could level the playing field more quickly than Alinghi expect. Iain Percy’s 39 has been a case in point this week.
In the oldest boat in the fleet, the blue and orange team finished half way up in 6th, an impressive improvement from their struggle in Valencia. How had this result compared to what Percy had expected?
“At the beginning of the event I thought we’d finish up 9th or 10th”, he said. “So yes, I am surprised.
“But I think our position is a confirmation that we’re going along the right route. People in the team like Luca [Devotti] are steering the grand ship that is the plan for us. It’s good for him to have validation. It also provides a guide for sixty or seventy percent of the crew, that aren’t that experienced in the Cup, that they can raise their game to the level required fairly quickly. We’re not there yet by any means, yet with some of the performances we’ve put in this week it’s clear that it’s not impossible.”
While success is a team effort, Ian Walker’s presence aboard the boat may only account for the last few days, but he too is clear as to what the results show.
“I think that we’ve showed that in a slower boat we can take wins off some of the faster teams, so give us a new boat and, yes, I think we can start to do it on a regular basis,”he said.
Another person keen to get hold of their new machine is Grant Dalton who was on the receiving end of Alinghi’s Act 6 finale.
“They’re just quick. We won the right, got the start, controlled the right and even with the shifts going to us, they moved forward on us. As a unit I think we’re okay, but as a boat, we need something new,” he said.
Finishing in second place overall, BMW Oracle’s skipper was also in no doubt as to what the message from Alinghi was.
“We’d like to win the 2005 season. We’d like to win Act 7 and would have liked to have won Act 6,” he said. “We go out to win every race. The reality is we’re not going to win every race. The reality is that we were second in Act 6 and that Alinghi has got a pretty good jump on the rest of us.”
With a score line of 11-0 it’s difficult to argue with this.
Next up is Act 7, three days of fleet racing which starting on Friday 2 September.
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) beat Victory Challenge (SWE 73), delta 1:01
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) beat Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74), delta 1:11
Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82), delta 2:03
Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) beat China Team (CHN 69), delta 0:43
39 Challenge (ITA 59) beat United Internet Team Germany (GER 72), delta 0:51
Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67) beat K-Challenge (FRA 60), delta 0:20
Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 Points Leaderboard
Alinghi – 11 points
BMW ORACLE Racing – 10 points
Emirates Team New Zealand – 8 points
Luna Rossa – 8 points
Desafío Español 2007 – 6 points
39 Challenge – 6 points
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team – 5 points
Victory Challenge – 4 points
K-Challenge – 3 points
United Internet Team Germany – 2 points
Team Shosholoza – 2 points
China Team – 1 points
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