Alinghi wins the America's Cup. Matthew Sheahan reports from Valencia
Alinghi won the 32nd America’s Cup by a margin of just one second in the most dramatic finish to the America’s Cup. (Listen to the edited audio highlights.)
As the two boats approached the finishing line on the final run of race seven, Alinghi led the Kiwis, who also had to unload a penalty imposed on them after a ‘dial down’ issue at the second weather mark. Some were already calling a Swiss victory.
But as the wind dropped and swung around through 160 degrees, both boats found themselves on a beat to the finish. The Kiwis were the first to respond and took the lead. In the drama that ensued over the next few seconds, the Swiss broke their spinnaker pole, used their spinnaker as an airbrake and sailed straight into a windless hole.
The seemingly impossible started to happen as the Kiwis slipped closer towards the finish, stretching out a margin that could see them not only cross the line first, but offload their penalty to keep their Cup hopes alive.
But as Dean Barker turned the wheel to tack the boat and clear the penalty, the way back to the line involved another tack. In just 6 knots of wind, the double manoeuvre killed the boat speed and as the Kiwis struggled for pace, Alinghi had brought herself up to speed and climbed back onto the lay line for the committee boat end of the finish.
With the two boats just metres from the line, there was no clear winner and all eyes were trained on the committee boat, including those of the crew themselves.
“What was I thinking when we crossed the line?” said Brad Butterworth in response to a question at the press conference shortly after the race . “Please put up the blue flag!”
With one second separating the two bows as they crossed, only the raising of the blue flag signified that Alinghi had won. For a split second Butterworth’s crew seemed speechless, not sure whether to believe what they had seen. But as the flag continued to flutter in the light breeze, the reality of what Ernesto Bertarelli’s team had achieved started to sink in.
Alinghi had ticked the other important box in the America’s Cup. In 2003 they had won it, this time they had defended it.
“This is definitely bigger and better than last time,” said Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli after the race. “It has been much, much harder than I ever thought it would be. I think I was a bit naive in 2003 when I won, I have learnt more about the America’s Cup over the last ten days than I have learnt over the last seven years. It has really been an unbelievable experience in team building – to work with unbelievable people, through highs and lows and we have had a lot of them.
“I want to thank and mention the whole team. It’s been a real lesson in life. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done and today is probably, beside the birth of my kids, probably the best day of my life.”
For Kiwi team boss Grant Dalton and his team the defeat was a crushing blow.
“The guys have done an amazing job and right now the guys aren’t feeling that sharp, he said on the tow back to the dock. “It’s been a long four years. I’m enormously proud of them, but Alinghi did a better job than us.”
“We enjoyed the Louis Vuitton, but we knew it was a just a step along the rung to the ultimate prize of the America’s Cup. We didn’t come here to take part, we just came here to win it and we haven’t done that. So now we have to re-group and see what the future holds.
“We don’t have a clue what is going to happen and we have been focussed on the now and we just need a bit of time now.
“The New Zealand fans have been absolutely marvellous – so supportive both here in New Zealand and out and I take my hat off to them.”
After such a dramatic end to an outstanding America’s Cup, most here in Valencia are still reeling from the roller coaster ride over the last few days. But others already have an eye on the future.
The Challenger of Record will be a new Spanish club, the Club Nautico Espanol and while few firm details have been released, the speculation that the event could well stay in Valencia is gathering pace.
Asked several times what the future for the Cup now holds, Ernesto Bertarelli stood his ground.
“We have few things to do over the next few days, one of them is to announce the Protocol. We are probably going to do that the day after tomorrow because we will probably have a headache tomorrow morning. Then during the next few days we might be thinking also about the venue. But Valencia has been a perfect venue for this first America’s Cup in Europe, surely Team New Zealand helped but I don’t think anyone can remember a more exciting match. Every since race was unbelievable.”
There are plenty here in Valencia who are still taking it all in.
Alinghi – 5
Emirates Team New Zealand – 2
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