LOUIS VUITTON - THE FINALS
WEDNESDAY 6 JUNE
The start of Race Five was postponed for 25 minutes while the wind settled to a light 7 to 8 knots from the southeast. The expected aggression during the pre-start duel from the nothing-to-lose Italian team did not appear. Emirates Team NZ seemed happy to let Luna Rossa take the right side of the course and the two yachts started evenly with good speed. Luna Rossa tacked off to the right, followed by Team NZ. The Italians found the lifted breeze they were seeking and tacked back, forcing the Kiwis to tack to leeward of them. Disturbed air from the Kiwi rig forced the Italian team to tack away and the New Zealanders followed, gaining slightly as the two yachts headed out to the starboard lay-line. Emirates Team NZ tacked first for the windward mark and rounded 20 seconds ahead of Luna Rossa. The Italians made valiant efforts to get back into the match, twice closing to within a boatlength but Emirates Team NZ appeared always to be in control and they crossed the finish line 22 seconds ahead of Luna Rossa.
In what could be the under statement of the series, Luna Rossa’s helmsman James Spithill later said: It’s a little surprising, I think both teams might have thought it would go the full nine races, but I think they had a week where everything went their way, they sailed extremely well and were very difficult to beat.” Dean Barker, skipper and helmsman of Emirates Team NZ: “We have managed to step up a level for the final. The challenge is now to stay focussed and take another step going into the America’s Cup.”
Curiously enough, I feel that Emirates Team NZ did not benefit from winning all 5 races. Luna Rossa should have presented them with stiffer competition than they actually delivered. Had the series gone to nine races as predicted by many, the winning team would have gone into the finals match-hardened and with an edge that Team Alinghi would have found more difficult to blunt. The Kiwis have proved that they can come back from adversity - and that may be enough to carry them through to their ultimate goal. The team here at www.thisisvalencia.com would like to congratulate Emirates Team New Zealand on a superb win and wish them every success in their challenge for the America’s Cup starting June 23rd.
TUESDAY 5 JUNE
When Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa met today for their fourth match the wind, which had promised between 12 -14 knots, did not deliver. With around 8 knots of breeze across the course, James Spithill of Luna Rossa achieved control of the start and headed off to the right. Dean Barker on Team NZ went left and, when the two yachts came together, the Italians were four boatlengths ahead. The Kiwis went back to the left side of the course and picked up a small lift and, when the two came together again the Italian team’s lead was halved. Instead of crossing the Kiwi yacht and forcing them to tack away, the tactician on board Luna Rossa called for a tack to leeward. Emirates Team NZ continued out to right and gradually lifted above Luna Rossa. When they tacked for the windward mark, the Italians were forced to tack behind them and rounded
19 seconds behind. Torben Grael, tactician for the Italians later said: “you have to decide right then on the information you have, and with what I had, I felt I was doing the right thing.” On the first downwind leg, Emirates Team NZ pulled out a further 35 seconds and, at this level of competition, it became clear that the match was over. Luna Rossa crossed the finish line 52 seconds behind the Kiwi yacht.
At this morning’s briefing, the Italian team had said it’s simply a matter of going back to basics and sailing well. It is so easy to be wise after the event but….one of the basic rules of sailboat racing is: if you can cross your opponent, cross him. Now Torben Grael is a world-class sailor with 5 Olympic medals, 2 of them gold so, when he says ‘tack’ I guess you tack. Trouble is, Emirates Team New Zealand with barely a medal between them, have clearly read the match racing rulebook and taken note of all the ‘basics’. I had great hopes of an exciting finish to this series but, whilst I would not rule out a win for Luna Rossa today, it is very likely that Emirates Team NZ will continue to dominate.
SUNDAY 3 JUNE
In what seemed a perfect reversal of fortunes, it was James Spithill steering Luna Rossa who hit the line at full speed heading left today. Dean Barker steering Emirates Team NZ and 2 – 0 up in the series, was late and slow at the start but had the right hand side. Luna Rossa, instead of tacking to consolidate their one boat length lead, carried on left hoping for a wind shift. It came from the right and Emirates Team NZ suddenly began to look good. So good in fact that by the time they reached the windward mark, the Kiwis had a 40 second lead. The two yachts have previously shown themselves to be very equal in speed so it is probably fair to say that the 15 seconds Luna Rossa lost on the downwind leg was in searching for that elusive breeze that might bring them back into the match. As it was, Emirates Team NZ held on to their 55 second advantage as they rounded the windward mark and continued to pull away from Luna Rossa, finishing 1m 38 ahead.
One thing worth mentioning – on the final downwind leg, the Kiwis averaged 9.9 knots and increased their lead by 43 seconds. Luna Rossa also averaged 9.9 knots, so the only conclusion (faulty telemetry apart) is that the Italians sailed a far greater distance.
Monday is a ‘lay day’ but there will be no rest for the Luna Rossa Team as they struggle to pinpoint just where things are going so wrong for them. They knew how evenly matched the two boats were, so the finger seems to point at the strategic decision-makers. Will this signal a change in the after guard for the next race? Watch this space….
SATURDAY 2 JUNE
Another day of almost perfect sailing conditions off Valencia for the second race between Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa. Sunshine and a 12 – 14 knot sea breeze greeted the two yachts as they met for the starting sequence at 14.55.
The Italian team clearly intended to level the score following the New Zealander’s 8 second win on Friday. Yesterday I wrote: who chooses the favoured side of the course at the start controls the race……’ what I failed to add was ‘…and hits the line at full speed’. The after guard (usually skipper, helmsman and tactician) on Luna Rossa clearly decided they had to gain the right hand side at all costs. The afterguard on Emirates Team NZ had decided ‘if they want the right that badly, let them have it’. The Kiwi yacht started to leeward of the Italians but was going fast enough to start squeezing up, forcing Luna Rossa to tack away before reaching full speed. By the end of the windward leg, Emirates Team New Zealand had a 25 second lead over Luna Rossa. The downwind leg gave no opportunity for the Italians to claw back some distance and the two extra gybes they put in had cost them another ten seconds by the time they reached the leeward mark. Emirates Team NZ continued to extend their lead up the second windward leg and they rounded 39 seconds ahead, a lead they would hold to the finish.
So, even though the Italian team had secured the favoured right, they had achieved it at the cost of good boatspeed at the start. Then they were forced to tack too soon and actually put in two more tacks than the New Zealanders on the first windward leg. This alone was enough to wipe out any advantage from the few windshifts that came their way, with Team NZ covering their every move.
Sunday’s forecast promises lighter (6 to 8 knot) conditions which have favoured Luna Rossa in the past. They certainly need a win to restore their confidence and to be in with a chance of taking this series to the close-fought conclusion we have been expecting.
FRIDAY 1 JUNE
Luna Rossa met Emirates Team New Zealand on the waters off Valencia at around 1430. Racing was due to start at 1500 but a major wind shift caused the race committee to postpone the start for 25 minutes.
A large spectator fleet of over 300 boats ranging from 5m RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) to 60m cruisers circled the race area, kept back by race marshall boats and several Guardia Civil craft. The pre-start duel was eagerly anticipated by all those who had come to watch these two world-class helmsmen, Dean Barker on Emirates Team NZ and James Spithill on Luna Rossa, fight it out. Spithill seemed to have the advantage until a dummy tack in the final minute failed to upset the Kiwis and the two yachts crossed the start line almost even. At times during the first upwind leg, no more than 2 metres separated the two yachts on the huge race simulator screens. As the wind gradually veered right, Team NZ tacked first for the mark and rounded 12 seconds ahead of Luna Rossa. Both teams executed perfect spinnaker sets and raced down towards the leeward mark where the New Zealanders led the Italians once more into faultlessly choreographed sail handling as they rounded. By now, the lead was down to just 9 seconds and Luna Rossa tacked off to the left, hoping to lure Emirates Team NZ into a tacking duel. The Kiwis waited until they had reached maximum speed before tacking to cover and this set in motion a further 23 tacks during the second upwind leg. It says a lot for both teams that they reached the windward mark with no more than 11 seconds between them. During the run to the finish, the Italians closed right up on the stern of the New Zealand yacht, then gybed away. Emirates Team NZ gybed to cover, then gybed back towards the finish, where they crossed 8 seconds before Luna Rossa.
So it all comes down to this: who chooses the favoured side of the course at the start controls the race, barring accidents or major wind changes. The strategists on Team NZ guessed the wind would continue to veer and that’s what happened.
Saturday’s spectator fleet is expected to be huge as scores of weekend sailors take to the water for two days of intense competition between these two excellent teams. The wind is forecast to increase, which is supposed to favour the Kiwis. But with these two teams, who knows? All we can be sure of is another day of truly excellent racing.
NOW WE ARE TWO……
This afternoon, two really outstanding teams will meet in the Bay of Valencia to begin a series of races which will decide who will become the official Challenger for the America’s Cup.
The Louis Vuitton Cup Final is to be resolved in favour of the first team to win five races. There are many at the America’s Cup Port who believe the teams are so evenly matched that it could all come down to Race 9 which, if things go to plan will take us to June 11.
In the racing which has so far taken place during the selection series, Team New Zealand helmed by Dean Barker (34) leads Luna Rossa helmed by James Spithill (27) by 3 points. But, during the semi-finals Luna Rossa found an extra gear, beating rivals BMW Oracle five times in six races.
Today’s result could well indicate just how this series will end. Once more conditions are ideal, with a 12 – 14 knot sea breeze forecast. Look out for some really exciting action from around 1450 this afternoon!
LOUIS VUITTON ROUND ROBINS
WEDNESDAY 23 MAY
In some of the toughest conditions these boats have met, Emirates Team NZ and Desafío Español came together on Wednesday afternoon to decide who would go forward to meet Luna Rossa in the Challenger Finals. Both teams have excelled in stronger winds and it seemed they would be evenly matched in the pre-start duel. Karol Jablonsky, helmsman of the Spanish boat, seemed to be in control of the situation until a rogue wave hit Desafío mid-turn and Dean Barker pounced, forcing Desafío out to the right of the start line. Emirates Team NZ tacked back, leaving the Spanish team no choice but to follow in their wake. The New Zealanders extended their lead on the beat, with Desafío having difficulty in achieving optimum speed in the big waves. Team NZ reached the windward mark 38 seconds ahead. A Kiwi foredeck crew fell and cut his hand during the rounding and was bandaged as they raced downwind, chased by a determined Desafío Español. The Spanish Team were ready to seize any chance to catch and pass Team NZ but it was not to be. The New Zealanders crossed the finish line 1 min 18 secs in the lead, to cheers from the spectator fleet. Even louder cheers greeted the Spanish team as the gallant losers finished, having achieved so much in the time they have been together. Terry Hutchinson, tactician on Team New Zealand later said: ‘There is a reason to feel good today, but we are all very aware of what still lies ahead’.
Emirates Team New Zealand will now take a couple of days rest and then it’s back to business. They will face Luna Rossa in the finals starting June 1. If we knew the Maori word for ‘good luck’ we would wish it for them!
TUESDAY 22 MAY
Racing postponed due to high winds... shame!
MONDAY 21 MAY
SUNDAY 20 MAY
Desafío Español could not have wished for better conditions than the 12 to 14 knot breeze that greeted them at the start of what might be their last race against Emirates Team NZ on Sunday. The Spanish team won the start, crossing the line at speed and heading fro the right hand side of the course. When the New Zealanders tacked back, they found Desafío in their way and the Spanish team went on to lead around the weather mark by 12 seconds. The margin was the same at the leeward mark but the Kiwis had managed to reduce this to just 8 seconds at the windward mark. The Spanish team remained calm and sailed a near-perfect downwind leg to cross the finish 15 seconds ahead of Emirates Team NZ.
If I had been asked to predict which ‘underdog’ team would have turned the tables today, I would have picked BMW Oracle, with their vast wealth of experience and technical expertise. That was before we learned that Larry Ellison, owner of Oracle had decided to pull Chris Dickson off the boat and replace him with Sten Mohr of Denmark. The Dane had not steered Oracle since the race against China and had no previous America’s Cup experience. Dickson, on the other hand, smarting from a 1 – 4 beating at the hands of young James Spithill, might have drawn something from his 25 years of world class match-racing and five America’s Cup challenges to put his team back into the competition. But it was not to be…. . The Luna Rossa team stamped their authority all over the race in the pre-start duel and hit the line at speed. BMW Oracle were trailing by 32 seconds at the windward mark and this margin remained throughout the race as the Italian team covered every move made by the Americans to the finish.
So, the BMW Oracle team will be packing their bags today and probably looking forward to getting back to their families. Meanwhile Luna Rossa’s team have the luxury of taking a well-earned break until they meet the winner of next week’s racing in the Finals, which start June 1.
Emirates Team NZ will be re-examining their strategy prior to Tuesday’s race whilst each member of Desafío Español, who still needs 3 wins to overcome the more experienced New Zealand team, will be quietly rehearsing their part in the battle to come. Whatever happens, the Spanish team have every right to hold their heads high; we wish them ‘buena fortuna’!
FRIDAY 18 MAY
Match day 4 dawned bright and sunny and by race time, the sea breeze had settled to a steady 10 to 12 knots which produced excellent sailing conditions. BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa had an even start with the Italian team having a slight edge and rounding the windward mark 12 seconds ahead of the Americans. BMW Oracle seemed to lack their former downwind speed and were unable to close the gap by the leeward mark. Luna Rossa stretched away to a 29 second lead as they rounded the windward mark again and allowed the American boat to go left on the run to the finish, where the Italian team lead by 23 seconds. These two boats are very even in speed now and the 3 – 1 lead indicates slightly better tactical decisions coming from the Italians.
Emirates Team NZ won their start against Desafío Español and rounded the windward mark 25 seconds in the lead. The kiwis were never seriously challenged after this and sailed a controlled race to finish 42 seconds in the lead.
Nobody should write off the trailing teams at this stage. The margins for error are so slight now that one wrong move can dramatically change the outcome. However, the pressure is definitely on the Spanish and American teams to produce winning performances on Saturday afternoon.
WEDNESDAY 16 MAY
Match day 3 got under way with Desafío Español engaging Emirates Team NZ in an aggressive pre-start duel which ended with the Kiwis collecting a penalty before they had even started. Desafío, with seven, yes seven nationalities on board, communicated well with each other today, rounding the windward mark 14 seconds ahead. Team NZ closed the gap on the run but the Spanish team pulled further ahead on the second windward leg and finished over 70 seconds in front of the New Zealanders. This is the first time Desafío Español has beaten Emirates Team NZ in ten races but they have altered their boat trim slightly and it will be interesting to see whether they can level the series 2 – 2 when they meet again on Friday.
Luna Rossa showed similar aggression in their match with BMW Oracle, winning the start and reaching the windward mark 29 seconds in the lead. The American team once more looked faster downwind but the Italians stayed in control and extended their lead on the second beat. BMW Oracle made a valiant attempt to catch Luna Rossa on the race to the finish but the Italian team crossed the line over 30 seconds ahead.
Thursday is a rest day for the four semi-finalists. There will be some serious thinking going on in the BMW Oracle camp as they try to decide how to improve their up-wind performance without losing their downwind edge. Emirates Team New Zealand will be working to ensure that they build on their 2-1 lead over Desafío Español. Meanwhile, Wednesday’s winners will be quietly re-examining the moves that brought them success. So, a ‘rest’ day it may be but not one of these teams will be resting!
TUESDAY 15 MAY
In Race 2 of this series, Emirates Team New Zealand showed superior upwind speed against Desafío Español, rounding the windward mark 75 seconds ahead. The Spanish team once again were faster downwind but still over one minute behind at the leeward mark. From then on, the New Zealand boat, steered by Kiwi Dean Barker, sailed a conservative race to finish 40 seconds ahead of the Spanish team.
In what seemed to be a repeat of yesterday’s results, Luna Rossa, steered by James Spithill of Australia again led BMW Oracle at the windward mark by 58 seconds, a huge lead in this class of competition. But downwind, the American boat, steered by Chris Dickson of New Zealand clawed back most of this to round the leeward mark 20 seconds behind. By the second rounding of the windward mark, the Italian boat, with Patrizio Bertelli of Prada as 18th man, was still 14 seconds ahead. On the final run to the finish, BMW Oracle found a bit more speed to sail past Luna Rossa and cross the line 13 seconds ahead.
Emirates Team NZ, with a 2 – 0 advantage over Desafío Español, need 3 more wins against the Spanish Team to guarantee their place in the finals, whereas BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa, tied with a win each, start even on Wednesday in what could be a light airs race.
MONDAY 13 MAY
Racing begins again today between the remaining four challengers for the right to race against Alinghi for the America’s Cup trophy.
Team Emirates NZ, as winners of the Louis Vuitton Round Robin series, get to choose who they want to race first and they have chosen Desafío Español, reasoning that the Spanish team are the least experienced of their three opponents. This leaves BMW Oracle facing up to Luna Rossa. This is a nine-race series to be held over the next twelve days; the first to five wins from each heat will go forward to the Finals.
The weather today is absolutely perfect, with a cool breeze and bright sky, we expect to see some excellent racing this afternoon from around 1500.
In Match 1, the race between Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle seemed to be over at the first windward mark when Luna Rossa was leading by 52 seconds. By the end of the run, Chris Dickson on BMW Oracle had narrowed the gap to just 7 seconds. Once again, the Italians chose the left hand side of the beat and emerged even further ahead at the top mark. Luna Rossa covered every move made by the American team on the run to finish over 2 minutes ahead, an extraordinary margin between two such closely-matched boats.
Match 2, between Emirates Team NZ and Desafío Español was closer but the New Zealand team, having won the start, controlled much of the race and the Spanish team finished 43 seconds behind. Conditions were good but a major wind shift during the final run meant that both races ended with a beat to the finish.
The pairs race again tomorrow and once again, the conditions are forecast to be excellent.
LOUIS VUITTON ROUND ROBINS 2
WEDNESDAY 09 MAY
The last day of Round Robin 2 produced surprises and upsets in the perfect sailing conditions off the coast of Valencia. Victory Challenge, having just lost a place in the semi-finals were eager to prove their worth in the match with Mascalzone Latino. After an even start, the Italian boat seemed to have the edge and rounded the windward mark 17 seconds ahead of the Swedish team. The race remained close and, in the final stages, Mascalzone hoisted a new spinnaker with the words: “Thank you Italy, thank you Naples”, a fitting gesture from a truly valiant team. Desafío, with Dane Jesper Radich at the helm, were unable to end on a high note, losing the start to Luna Rossa and taking a penalty at the windward mark. The Italian team finished nearly 2 minutes ahead. UI Team Germany lost their race against +39 and a jubilant Team Shosholoza beat Areva in a tense duel by just 14 seconds.
The big match of the day came next, with BMW Oracle pitted against joint favorites Emirates Team NZ. The two teams started evenly, with BMW heading for the left and Team NZ going right. Oracle seemed to have the lead in the early stages but a windshift turned the tables in favour of the New Zealand team, who rounded the windward mark 54 seconds ahead and went on to win by over 90 seconds. Chris Dickson, skipper and helmsman of BMW Oracle said after the series ended: “We’re all stronger today than we were three weeks ago at the beginning of Round Robin One. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we’re all stronger today.” This has to be the major element in the challenger trials that Cup defenders Alinghi fear most. The four teams going through to the semi-finals have been race-hardened by the events of the last month in an atmosphere that must be almost impossible to create in the boat-for-boat racing within the Defender’s team. The semi-finals start on Monday 14 May. Meanwhile, we say farewell and ‘buenasuerte’ to the seven teams who have helped forge the top four into worthy challengers.
Final Overall Positions after Louis Vuitton Round Robin 2
1 Emirates Team NZ 38
TUESDAY 08 MAY
Desafío loses….. and wins!
The Spanish Team have never looked so jubilant in defeat before today. They knew they had a tough match against BMW Oracle (although they did beat Oracle in Round 1) and so it proved. Oracle BMW won the start and headed right up the first beat, rounding the windward mark 46 seconds ahead of Desafío. The Spanish gained some ground on both downwind legs but finished 55 seconds behind the American team. By contrast Victory Challenge won their start by 18 seconds and looked ready to upset the Kiwis. Dean Barker on Team NZ went for the righthand side of the course and picked up a favourable lift which brought them in to the windward mark 10 seconds behind. Superior downwind tactics pulled the Kiwis through to lead at the leeward mark and they went on to win by 34 seconds. Earlier in Flight 10, China Team had been beaten by +39 and UI Team Germany won the start but lost their match against Areva. Mascalzone Latino also won their start against Luna Rossa, only to see their lead turn into a 17 second deficit at the windward mark. Luna Rossa built their lead to nearly 30 seconds by the end of the second windward leg. Mascalzone pulled back a great deal on the race to the finish, crossing just 7 seconds behind.
Top 6 overall after 10 Races:
1 BMW Oracle 37
On Wednesday, the final day of Louis Vuitton Round Robin 2, the two top teams meet for what looks like being a titanic battle. Emirates Team New Zealand, unbeaten in this round, meet BMW Oracle, overall leader of the series. Kiwi Dean Barker (34) on Team NZ meets fellow Kiwi Chris Dickson (46) on Oracle. Both teams are already through to the semi-final but both of them dearly want to win this match. Apart from anything else, the winner gets to choose who they will sail against first in the semi-final. Now, if you were one of them and had to decide between racing Luna Rossa or Desafío Español (who are racing one another tomorrow), which would you choose? At the end of the day though, we have a Spanish team in the semi-finals….. qué bien, Desafío!
MONDAY 07 MAY
Another perfect sailing day in Valencia – we have waited so long, it seems! Flight 9 got under way promptly with +39 taking on Shosholoza and beating the South Africans; the first race they have won in this Round Robin. Areva scored a convincing 3 minute win over China Team and BMW Oracle won their match against Mascalzone Latino after the Italian boat started early and was forced to go back. The match between Desafío Español and Victory Challenge was always going to be interesting, with both boats fighting for the last place in the semi-finals. After an even start, the Swedish yacht took an early lead and rounded the windward mark over 20 seconds ahead. The Spaniards have shown good downwind speed throughout the series and, following a poor spinnaker drop by the Swedes at the leeward mark, the gap was reduced to 15 seconds. In the run to the finish, Desafío caught up with Victory by the Swedish team held them off to finish just 7 seconds ahead.
The last race of the day between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand saw the Kiwi boat, after an even start, rounding the windward mark with a 17 second lead. The Italians tried hard to find a way past but were over 30 seconds behind at the finish. Ray Davies, strategist aboard Team NZ later said: “ After today, everyone is feeling a few inches taller, which is pretty good for us short guys!” The win puts Team NZ 3 points clear of Luna Rossa with two races to go.
Top 6 overall after 9 Races:
1 BMW Oracle 35
Desafío meets BMW Oracle on Tuesday whilst, in what almost seems a perfect scenario, Victory Challenge meets Emirates Team NZ. The Swedish team cannot afford to lose a single race if they hope to displace the Spanish from that cherished fourth place in the semi-finals.
SUNDAY 06 MAY
Desafío Español stamped their authority on their Flight 8 match with UI Team Germany today, winning by just over one minute. Mascalzone Latino incurred a penalty in their pre-start duel with Team Shosholoza. The Italians led at the windward mark but were never able to get far enough ahead of the South African boat to make their penalty turn safely. Shosholoza won by just 6 seconds. Emirates Team NZ won their race against China Team and BMW Oracle won decisively against + 39. Victory Challenge had a close race with Areva up the first beat but then the Swedish team covered the French very carefully to win at the finish by just 35 seconds.
Top 6 overall after 6 Races:
Tomorrow, Desafío Español face Victory Challenge, the only boat capable of dislodging them from the semi-finals. If Desafío can win this race, their place in the semi-finals is certain. If they lose, they have to win against BMW Oracle in Flight 10 or Luna Rossa in Flight 11.
SATURDAY 05 MAY
Flight 7 got away on time with Emirates Team NZ against United Internet Team Germany. Jesper Bank (50) got the better of James Spithill (27) at the start but the German Team’s lack of boatspeed allowed the New Zealand boat to round the windward mark over 30 seconds ahead; a lead they built on to finish over 2 minutes in the lead. Mascalzone had a similar lead at the end of their race against Team China. Desafío Español had a tougher match against Team Shosholoza, who lead around the windward mark, only to have the Spanish Team sail over them towards the leeward mark. Once ahead, Desafío controlled the race and finished 47 seconds in front of the South African team. BMW Oracle led from the start in their match against Areva and sailed conservatively, finishing nearly 90 seconds in front of the French team. Luna Rossa won their start against +39 quite decisively and were over 1 minute ahead by the end of the race.
The re-sailed match between Desafío Español and Mascalzone Latino started with the Italian team claiming the right hand side for the beat, rounding the windward mark 12 seconds ahead. Desafío caught the Italian boat on the downwind leg, rounding 22 seconds in the lead. The Spanish boat covered the Italians carefully to the finish, winning by 35 seconds.
FRIDAY 04 MAY
An excellent days racing greeted the teams yesterday on both courses. Desafío Español, Emirates Team New Zealand, Shosholoza and China Team raced on the South course while the remainder raced to the North, off Alboraya. A solid 8 to 12 knot sea breeze had developed by the start. First away on the North course were United Internet Team Germany against Victory Challenge. Victory, with Magnus Holmberg (45) and Germany with Dane Jesper Bank (50), two world-class match racing helmsmen gave an excellent display of their skills in the pre-start duel. After a fairly even start, Team Germany went right on the first windward leg but it soon became clear they lacked the boatspeed of the Swedes, who led at the windward mark and went on to finish nearly 80 seconds in front.
The big match of the day, between BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa was worth waiting for. The Italian yacht, steered by James Spithill (27) won the right hand side at the start and rounded the weather mark 11 seconds ahead of Oracle, steered by Kiwi Chris Dickson (46). The Italian boat inexplicably gybed away from BMW Oracle on the downwind leg, allowing the American boat to sail out to the layline. When the two boats came in to the leeward mark, they were neck and neck. This time, Dickson had the favoured right hand side of the course and rounded the windward mark 13 seconds ahead, a lead which had increased by the finish to 19 seconds.
A penalty for +39 at the start of their race against Mascalzone created a time gap too great to allow Iain Percy and his team to compete effectively. Mascalzone sailed away to finish over 2 minutes ahead. Shosholoza beat Team China by a similar margin in their match. Desafío Español were close to Emirates Team New Zealand for most of their first beat. Team NZ rounded the windward mark 20 seconds ahead and went on to win by over 40 seconds.
Flight 6 got under way with Areva Challenge against Luna Rossa. The start was fairly even but the Italian boat took the right hand side of the course and reached the windward mark 30 seconds ahead of the French; a lead which they had extended to over 70 seconds by the finish. Next away were Mascalzone Latino steered for the pre-start by Jes Gram-Hansen of Denmark against United Internet Team Germany, steered by Jesper Bank, another Dane. The start was very even but Mascalzone reached the windward mark over 30 seconds ahead, a lead they were unable to increase as the German team squeezed every ounce of speed out of their boat to stay close all the way to the finish. +39 gave Victory Challenge a run for their money with a excellent start that forced the Swedish boat to tack away. Victory’s superior speed gave them the lead at the windward mark, a lead which they built to over a minute by the finish. Desafío Español had an easy win over Team China but Emirates Team NZ were in a taking duel with Shosholoza up the first beat of their match. The Kiwi boat rounded the windward mark ahead but Shosholoza continued to attack throughout the race to finish just 29 seconds behind.
Top 6 overall after 6 Races:
1 BMW Oracle 29 pts (1 race to do)
Difficult to show actual points at this stage as several teams have 1 or more races to go. Desafío’s protest against Mascalzone Latino means their match (won by the Italians) will be re-sailed. Since Desafío’s other matches on Saturday (against UI Team Germany and Shosholoza) should go in their favour, these results should confirm the Spanish team’s right to claim the 4th slot for the semi-finals. However, there’s many a slip, as they say…..! It could come down to the wire in their Flight 9 race against the other major contender, Victory Challenge.
WEDNESDAY 02 MAY
Following yesterday’s strong winds, racing today took place in a fair breeze. First away in Flight 3 were Desafío Español against Areva. The Spanish team took an early lead and held off the French challenge to win by 30 seconds. +39 were outgunned by Emirates Team New Zealand who were no doubt aided by having Michael Schumacher aboard as 18th man. Luna Rossa had a duel on their hands before their start against UI team Germany. Luna Rossa, steered by James Spithill won the start and went on to win the race. Victory Challenge won their race against Team China, who were unable to fully hoist their mainsail until midway up the first windward leg. Once again Team Shosholoza showed their spirit by leading BMW Oracle around the course. Oracle came back during the second beat and rounded ahead, holding off the South Africans on the run to finish over 40 seconds ahead.
Flight 4 started soon after, with Emirates Team NZ beating Areva by 60 seconds. Mascalzone Latino, with new helmsman Cameron Dunn, showed Desafío Español a clean pair of heels, finishing over 30 seconds ahead of the Spanish Team. UI Team Germany won their match over Team China; Luna Rossa had a close race with Team Shosholoza, finishing just 25 seconds clear at the finish. Victory Challenge led BMW Oracle around most of the course, only to lose it on the second downwind leg, where the American Team found some extra power and closed right up with the Swedes and following an aggressive luff, gained the advantage and held on to a 14 second lead to the finish.
Top 6 overall after 4 Races:
1 BMW Oracle 27 pts
These are the results that really count – Teams in the top 6 at this stage are in with a real chance of making the final 4. The top 3 are unchanged. Desafío Español have proved they have what it takes, but what about the others? Victory Challenge show occasional brilliance and seem to be improving. Mascalzone, after an initial burst of exciting sailing, seemed to hit a flat spot. The decision to replace upwind helmsman Flavio Favini with New Zealander Cameron Dunn appears to have paid off and they have two fairly easy matches on Thursday (weather permitting) against +39 and UI Team Germany, whereas Desafío faceTeam NZ in Flight 5. There is not much time left, guys!
TUESDAY 01 MAY
Racing cancelled due to extreme conditions – with winds gusting up to 30 knots and steep waves developing, the race committee decided to postpone today’s races rather than risk injury and gear failure at this nearly stage in the series. The committee are fully aware that this leaves them with little room for manoeuvre if the remaining 45 races are to be completed
MONDAY 30 APRIL
In a day of mixed fortunes, the fortune cookie went to Team China in the match against top team BMW Oracle. In a repeat of the problem first seen during LV Act 13, Oracle’s headsail pulled out of the foil during the first beat, allowing Team China to sail past and claim a good lead at the windward mark; a lead they held to the finish. Pierre Mas (49), skipper and helmsman of Team China said: "It has made our team effort worthwhile, and in particular the shore team who have worked so hard to repair all the boat’s problems.” Team Shosholoza won their race with UI Team Germany and Luna Rossa beat Victory Challenge. A close match between Areva Challenge and Mascalzone Latino ended with the French team ahead. Closest match of the entire series came during +39’s race with Desafío Español. The Italian boat, steered by UK’s Ian Percy (31) led throughout first round but a broken headsail rope during the second beat allowed Desafío to claw back onto their stern by the windward mark. The Spanish boat then showed their mettle by powering down the run to take the gun by just one second!
Tuesday promises northwesterly winds of 15 knots or more which will give the teams a foretaste of ‘normal’ Valencia conditions!
SUNDAY 29 APRIL
Three races were sailed today; the promising breeze started to fade on the South course, causing the race committee to postpone the start until tomorrow. BMW Oracle had a comfortable win over United Internet Team Germany who, despite a world-class helmsman (Jesper Bank), have so far failed to show the pace necessary to compete on level terms with most of the other teams. Team Shosholoza showed excellent pace in their match against Victory Challenge and were leading towards the end of the first run when their spinnaker pole broke. They managed to hold their lead up the second beat to the windward mark but were unable to hold off the Swedish Team on the run to the finish. Luna Rossa started their race against Team China 30 seconds late. By the windward mark, they were nearly 20 seconds ahead, giving some idea of the speed differential between these two teams. With 52 races to sail over the next 10 days, the race committee will be praying for a return to the predictable weather that Valencia is famous for.
LOUIS VUITTON ROUND ROBINS 1
Friday 27 April - Fickle winds
Fickle winds returned to haunt the race organizers. Only three of the scheduled ten races took place.
With racing postponed on the South course,Areva Challenge lead off against United Internet Team Germany on the North course where the breeze appeared to have stabilized. The Germans lead round the windward mark and held off the French on the run. UI Team Germany were slower up the second beat and Areva gained enough to round the windward mark ahead, a lead they held to the finish.
China Team remained in their dock checking out suspected problems with their keel, giving +39 two points. +39 went on to score a close-fought victory over United Internet Team Germany. After a poor start against Areva Challenge, Team Shoshololza came back strongly to round the windward mark in the lead, with Areva having picked up a penalty which had to be cleared before the finish. The French showed superior down-wind speed and completed their penalty turn as they crossed the line just ahead of Shosholoza, only to be disqualified by the race committee.
It is hoped that the remaining six races can be sailed on Saturday, allowing Round Robin 2 to start on Sunday, still five days behind schedule.
Thursday 26 April - Penalties
It should have been business as usual for the ‘big three’ teams today, except that two of them were racing one another….more on that later. Flight 8 started with a series of penalties. If one boat fouls the other, the umpires immediately notify them and that boat has to clear itself by executing a penalty 360º turn during the race. Since this takes on average 30 to 40 seconds and many races are won by less, it is clearly an effective penalty. United Internet Team Germany picked up the first of these in their match against Desafío España during the pre-start duel. In spite of this, it was a close race until the second round, when the German boat’s lack of pace allowed the Spaniards to pull out a 50 second lead by the finish.
Victory Challenge took on the French aboard Areva. This was the closest match of the day because the Swedes also managed to pick up a penalty. They made their turn towards the end of the race, crossing just 5 seconds ahead. The match between Mascalzone Latino and Shosholoza should have been closer but two torn spinnakers on the South African boat allowed Mascalzone to sail away. Could it be that Shosholoza are saving their best sails for Round Robin 2?
Flight 9 saw the long-awaited match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, respectively 2nd and 3rd in the series and two of the ‘big three’ teams. Luna Rossa, helmed by Australian James Spithill (27) gave the Kiwi boat, helmed by Dean Barker (34 this month, happy birthday, Dean!) a tough time before the start, resulting in a penalty. Although the Kiwis managed to pull ahead during the second run, it wasn’t enough to clear their penalty and they finished nearly fifty seconds behind Luna Rossa. BMW Oracle was paired with Mascalzone Latino, who gave the American boat a very close race until the Italians received a penalty, finishing over 90 seconds adrift. Team Shosholoza faced +39 and gave a good account of themselves to finish 26 seconds in the lead.
After nine ‘Flights’ (that is, 45 races!), the leader board looks like this:
1 BMW Oracle 19pts
Desafío Español have improved greatly, moving up to joint third in the series. They have two very tough races today, against BMW Oracle and then Luna Rossa. Mascalzone Latino are poised to reclaim their fourth position, provided they can upset Luna Rossa and Victory Challenge. Team Shosholoza are still just two points behind the Swedes. The South Africans have a bye in Flight 10 and then face Areva Challenge. So Friday’s the day when Round Robin 1 should be decided.
Wednesday 25 April - Brilliant Conditions
Flight six got under way in brilliant conditions, sunshine and a good sea breeze making for some very fair racing. There were no surprises today but a very exciting first beat between Team Shosholoza and Emirates Team NZ gave the Kiwis a few anxious moments. Areva had a close match with Luna Rossa, finishing just over 30 seconds behind. United Internet Team Germany, helmed by Dane Jesper Bank (50 this month; happy birthday Jesper!), gave Mascalzone Latino a lesson in match racing up the first beat before their slower boat gradually fell behind.
Flight seven led off with BMW Oracle racing Areva; they led the French boat home by nearly 3 minutes. Luna Rossa had a good tussle with +39, who have not had a good time after breaking their mast before the series started. They are one of only two teams without a win but they gave a good account of themselves, eventually losing by 80 seconds. Desafío Español had their hands full in their match against Team Shosholoza, who led around the first weather mark only to lose control due to problems with their spinnaker.
Hard to believe the series is into its second week and yet there have only been four days of racing! Round Robin 2 was originally planned to start today and yet there are still four Flights of RR1 to complete.
After seven ‘Flights’, the leader board looks like this:
1 BMW Oracle 15pts
Is it safe to say that the four teams to go forward into the semi-finals will be chosen from these six? Well, yes it probably would under normal circumstances. But how could anyone write off Team Shosholoza at this stage? They, along with Mascalzone Latino, have proved to be the most exciting additions to this series and have both managed to upset the plans of ‘top three’ teams. Shosholoza is just two points behind Victory Challenge, having lost to the Swedes in the first Flight by 46 seconds. Whether the South African boat still has more speed to find remains to be seen. Their crew work is improving; they have a brilliant helmsman and their tactician is excellent. Whatever happens, they have made an excellent contribution to this series. Desafío and Victory are still working their boats up and it could be one of these two that unseats Mascalzone from that fourth spot. With fifteen races to go before that result is known, there are nail-biting times ahead for all!
Tuesday 24 April - Major Surprises
A brisk sea breeze allowed the fourth ‘Flight’ of the Louis Vuitton Round Robin series to get under way on time. The major surprise of the day was when the South African Team Shosholoza lead off the start line to beat Luna Rossa, one of the top three teams. Helmsman Paulo Cian said, “……………we put a lot of pressure on [Luna Rossa] and we were calm and cool…”. Desafío Español, with Karol Jablonski (45) of Poland steering, won their match against Mazcalzone Latino on pure tactics. They carried the Italian yacht, steered by Flavio Favini out to the right of the course, leaving them no choice but to follow meekly to the windward mark. After that, the Spanish covered every move to finish comfortably ahead.
The fifth flight got under way promptly, with China Team falling quickly to Team Shosholoza. Emirates Team NZ won their match against Desafío Español and the Swedes aboard Victory Challenge decisively beat United Internet Team Germany. The big match of the afternoon was between Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle. Oracle, helmed by Chris Dickson (46) won the start and covered the Italians all the way around the course, winning by a mere 6 seconds to retain their record as the only unbeaten team in this series; a powerful performance.
After 5 ‘Flights’, the leader board looks like this:
1 BMW Oracle
So, with three teams tied on 4th place, the next few matches should give one of them the chance to lay claim to that position which will carry them through to Round Robin 2. Mascalzone have only lost one race so far; not bad for an un-ranked team! They had a ‘bye’ in Flight 3 and their next match is against U I Team Germany who have won once (against China). Shosholoza will be facing Emirates Team NZ whilst Victory Challenge will pit themselves against +39 Challenge.
Monday 23 April - No Wind Again!
Sunday 22 April - A light breeze
A light breeze greeted the teams as they paired off for the third ‘Flight’ of this 11 flight series. First off were Luna Rossa against United Internet Team Germany. The Italians, helmed by Australian James Spithill (27) won this race by 50 seconds despite losing the start and not gaining control until the windward mark.
Next off were Victory Challenge racing the China Team. Pierre Maas and his crew held off the Swedes for most of the first beat but Magnus Holmberg kept his nerve and the faster boat just sailed away to win by more than 3 minutes.
Shosholoza, helmed by Italian Paolo Cian (40), continued to surprise by leading BMW Oracle around the first beat and run. Chris Dickson and his highly-experienced crew finally managed to reel in the South Africans and held on for a close finish.
Saturday 21 April - No Wind Again!
Friday 20 April - Finally, there is Racing
After 4 frustrating days, the 11 teams fighting for the right to challenge Alinghi finally had a chance to show their paces.
Having lost so many days due to lack of wind, the teams agreed to additional races in order to get the series back on track. In all, 10 races were sailed, allowing all but Emirates Team New Zealand and Desafio to race twice.
Three of the top teams won both their races against lower-ranked teams. The surprise upset was Emirates Team NZ, steered by Kiwi Dean Barker, who lost to Mascalzone Capitalia.
It is hoped that the light 7 knot breeze will allow a full days racing on Saturday.
32nd America's Cup