The crew of K-Challenge spent this morning looking over their shoulders and so did a few photographers
Sitting at the top of the course with 300 tonnes of hardware aiming their twelve knife like bows at you is an impressive sight according to those who were stationed in the inflatable photographer’s play pen that is the weather mark.
After a quiet start to Act 7 yesterday, the second day of match racing in Malmo provided plenty more action for the crews and the spectators, but particularly the five people who were stationed inside Bruno’s Buoy today.
“Unlike being in a RIB where you can move around the course, you get two bursts of action in the whole race that last a couple of minutes at most, but boy is it worth it!” said Peter Rusch, one of the first to enjoy the spectacle.
“Knowing where to look is also tricky when the action’s all around you. At one stage, photographer Carlo Borlenghi was shooting the line of boats streaming out from the weather mark when I tapped him on the shoulder to see Victory Challenge coming in behind and heading straight towards us. They were shooting the mark, desperate to luff up and get around without tacking, but it was close. Carlo’s a deeply tanned Italian, but he looked quite pale for a second or two!”
For K-Challenge, the race of the day was certainly the first one, a race in which they stormed off the line, picked the right side of the course and held off BMW Oracle all the way around the course to take their first win in fleet racing – ever.
“It was very important for us and for the morale of the team,” said skipper Thierry Peponnet. “It has proved to everyone how hard we’ve been working these past months. It confirms that this is a fast boat between 8 to 11 knots, we have the same speed as the top boats. It’s good to see that in an older boat we can keep going and win a race.”
But for the hundreds of spectator boats that surrounded the entire course, it was the second race of the day that was the one with all the action at the corners.
With the breeze up to 15 knots for the first weather mark rounding, the entire fleet arrived at the mark at the same time but on opposite tacks. Sliding each of the port tack boats into the gaps between the starboard tackers provided some heart stopping moments, especially when Mascalzone Latino barreled in on port, tacked and stalled in the face of the second half of the fleet. Like someone tripping up at the top of a crowded escalator, for a few seconds there was chaos as the others tried to avoid turning themselves and the red Italian boat into splinters of carbon.
To everyone’s surprise there was no damage, other than that of dented pride for the Italians who were forced to do a penalty turn that saw them dispatched to the back to the fleet.
BMW Oracle were more fortunate in a close call with the boat that beat them in the morning, K-Challenge.
“We had a little situation with the French but it turned out OK,” said Eric Doyle the team’s strategist. “We crossed them and tacked and were right on their line. We were sailing along and they went down to leeward and put the bow up and tapped us from behind. The umpires green flagged it.”
The next two mark roundings were equally hectic for the bulk of the fleet and made some of the best viewing so far. But it was the photo finish, for the second time, that kept the action running right until the end. Alinghi slipped across the line to take the win with a clear margin of 27 seconds over Luna Rossa, the boat they had jumped past when their jib fell down on the second beat. But it was the fight for third, fourth and fifth that had the crowd drawing it’s breath as the fleet were twisting and turning more like 470s at the Olympics than 24 tonne low loaders.
In the end the Kiwis took third place, out manoeuvring BMW Oracle and the Spanish in the last few metres to the line.
Yet as the sun sets on the penultimate day of Act 7, BMW Oracle shares the overall lead with Alinghi. Tomorrow’s weather forecast suggests that it will be light and tricky for the one race that’s left in Malmo.
“The forecast looks pretty light, and it’s pretty dodgy sailing here when it’s light,” said Doyle. “We’re just going to sail our own race, we’re not going to try chase Alinghi unless a really good opportunity opens up. Our plan is to sail our best race, and let the cards fall where they may.”
So, while the American team appeared to be playing down the head to head, I’d suggest that they want to beat the Swiss far more than they’re letting on.
As the saying goes, ‘winning’s a good habit to get into.’
Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 7 Results and Points Leaderboard
Team Race # 1/pts 2 3 4 5 Points
BMW ORACLE Racing 1/12 2/11 4/9 32
Alinghi 2/11 4/9 1/12 32
Luna Rossa 6/7 3/10 2/11 28
Emirates Team New Zealand 4/9 6/7 3/10 26
Desafío Español 2007 3/10 5/8 5/8 26
K-Challenge 10/3 1/12 9/4 19
United Internet Team Germany 5/8 10/3 7/6 17
39 Challenge 9/4 7/6 6/7 17
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 8/5 8/5 11/2 12
Team Shosholoza 7/6 11/2 10/3 11
Victory Challenge 12/1 9/4 8/5 10
China Team 11/2 12/1 12/1 4
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