GBR Challenge take first match

Nigel Cherrie reports on a day of light breeze matches from the Hauraki Gulf

Thursday February 14th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: Australasia

The winning margin was only five seconds but the smiles displayed by helmsman Andy Beadsworth, skipper Ian Walker and owner Peter Harrison could lead you to believe they had just won the America's Cup.

They haven't re-written the history books just yet but GBR Challenge did end a 15-year drought today when they became the first British America's Cup team since the 1987 White Crusader campaign (in Perth) to win an official America's Cup class race.

The chances of them winning the America’s Cup, which starts in exactly a year on Saturday, are remote but you have to start somewhere and today was sweet beginnings.

Racing on the third day of the International America’s Cup Regatta in Auckland got off to a slow start. The yachts circled the 20+ spectator fleet for over three hours as they waited for the breeze to arrive but by mid-afternoon, a gentle but adequate 6-8 knots blew across the Hauraki Gulf. Each team sent a man 80 feet up the rig to spot for pressure across the course.

First off were Victory Challenge sailing SWE-63 and One World, with four-time Cup veteran Peter Gilmour taking back the reigns on USA-55 from young James Spithill who helmed on Tuesday (yesterday, Wednesday, was a lay day).

The pre-start was amusing to watch. The start gun went and the Jesper Bank was over and had to sail around the pin end of the line. The American boat didn't lay the pin and had to bear away and gybe to cross the line on port. On the way they closed the door on Orn but Bank forced his way in, collided, and was penalised. The two penalties cancelled each other and worse still the Swedish boat was now stopped on the water whilst Gilmour sailed away

The speed of the Swedish yacht gave USA-55 a real push up the windward leg and Bank led by 20 seconds at the windward mark. The American yacht, with Charlie Mckee calling the shots, split on the run and found more pressure to take a healthy one-minute lead at the end of the two-mile downwind leg. The Swedish yacht used her better upwind speed to close the gap on the remaining two legs but OneWorld were still 32 seconds up at the finish.

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