Shosholoza and BMW Oracle have the closest match on the second race day of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Matthew Sheahan reports
There may be no second in match racing, but you can still lose a race and grab the headlines, just as Team Shosholoza may do after their impressive performance today.
Squaring up to one of the big boys doesn’t come much tougher than when your opponent is BMW Oracle, one of the superpowers in the Cup. After sneaking an early lead off the start line, the South Africans stretched a small lead out to a five boat length advantage at the weather mark. On the first downwind leg Shosholoza held onto their lead, gybing smartly and hitting the layline accurately. But, despite picking the favoured gate mark to round, their late spinnaker take down ended up being a chase boat drop.
“I think it was a communication breakdown,” said navigator Mark Largesse. “The plan was to gybe, drop the kite and then round the buoy. It turned out to be a gybe, then a drop, but a tender drop. We haven’t done one of those for a while, so that felt good!
“But that definitely didn’t cost us the race, it just caused a bit of stress. There were quite a few languages being spoken at the time!”
Whether the fluffed manoeuvre cost them the race or not, the incident must have unsettled the otherwise cool and collected crew. Bad waves, a poor tack and a spell on the wrong side of a shift allowed BMW Oracle to take advantage of the situation and play a set of perfectly executed manoeuvres. Regardless of who finally won, this was a match race to watch.
“Our game plan in these kinds of conditions is never to give anybody any leverage,” said BMW Oracle’s afterguard member Peter Isler. “There was a quiet confidence aboard that if we kept it close and didn’t try anything fancy something would come good, and it did.”
Cool, calm and collected, by the second windward mark Dickson’s team had hauled itself into the lead, but as Isler confirmed, it hadn’t been easy. Light winds made the call on tactics crucial and yet a big swell meant it wasn’t always possible to do what teams wanted to.
“We have a sensor in the boat that measures the waves and this was the roughest day we’ve had in the Louis Vuitton Cup. This was not a day where you wanted to gybe or tack.”
Taking a point off the big boys would have been a dream result for the South African’s and taken them one step further towards one of the coveted four places in the semi finals.
“Last season if we were in that position we would have been pretty stressed. Today the guys were so relaxed we could have been racing anyone,” said Largesse. “We’ve always said that in those conditions we could defend a one boat lead, so to lose a five boat lead was pretty frustrating.”
“The only boat that is considerably quicker than ours is Team New Zealand. Tomorrow we’ve got Prada and if we beat them I won’t be surprised and if we lose I’ll be disappointed.”
If the racing’s close, we’ll all be happy.
The other interesting result of the day was Areva’s win over the Spanish, who, even before breaking their spinnaker pole were trailing the French team. To lose a match to another mid ranking team must surely start to put more pressure on their campaign for the semi-final slot.
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