Catching up

Sam Davies reports from a breezier afternoon's racing at the Louis Vuitton Cup

Friday November 1st 2002, Author: Sam Davies, Location: Australasia
The second set of matches today were the postponed matches from flight four. The breeze was building steadily all afternoon, and although the matches started in about 16 knots, the wind was frequently over 20 knots, with gusts up to 26. The match on Juliet course between Alinghi and Prada was abandoned on the second beat as the wind exceeded the 23 knot average (over five minutes.)

This was not before some fantastic action had been seen! Luna Rossa and Alinghi had had an even start and Alinghi had gained the lead by the top mark, but on the run they had ripped a spinnaker and that had slowed them down as they had to send the bowman up the rig to cut the torn spinnaker free. But then they re-gained the lead, and at the bottom mark sailed Luna Rossa out beyond the port layline, but as they were luffing the Italians (on starboard) their pole snapped around the forestay!

Then they had to gybe, with the (broken) pole in the water on one side, the (hastily dropped) spinnaker in the water on the other and the jib wrapped around the forestay! Prada, although released from the trap by Alinghi’s bad luck, had no option other than to tack around and run back to the mark with two sails up! All credit to Alinghi’s crew – they managed to sort out their problems in time to get a neat rounding ahead of Prada and were able to cover them up the second beat. They would certainly be glad the race was abandoned though, as they were already short of a spinnaker and without a pole! This match will have to be re-scheduled for another day.

The other two matches were sailed on Romeo and they both were closely fought to the end in testing conditions at the very top end of the set wind range.

GBR Challenge were racing Le Defi. The French were late to enter and this allowed GBR to cross ahead on port after entering the box. The two teams sailed away and elected to sail a timed run to the start. The French got their time on distance absolutely perfect to hit the start line at cracking pace to windward and just ahead of the Brits, who were a few seconds late.

Both boats continued on starboard on a drag race out towards the port layline with very little difference in boat speed. GBR remained just behind and at the first mark were 8s behind. The French had the best hoist and managed to retain their lead all the way down the first run, with GBR just as close at the second mark. Wight lightning then attacked from behind on the second beat, and Le Defi did not cover them closely enough and let the Brits get to the right. With the starboard advantage Ian Walker and team managed to position themselves in front of the French on the port layline for the second top mark, where they had the best hoist. The French failed to get their spinnaker all the way up and sailed a lot of the run with it a few metres short of hoist, and their boat handling was noticeably rougher than that of the British crew. This made it very difficult for the French to attack GBR Challenge from behind and the Brits sailed smoothly to a 14 second win and their seventh point of the two round robins.

The second match on Romeo course was an all-American affair, and again proved to be very close. Dennis must have been out on the Etchell this afternoon, as Ken Read was back on the helm of Stars & Stripes! They were racing Oracle BMW, who seem to have found their feet in the last few races. After a few green flags and a split start (Oracle at the pin, Stars & Stripes at the boat) both boats sailed off on a long port tack and Oracle got the edge at the top mark. Stars & Stripes pushed from behind and were very close at the leeward mark, but Oracle remained in control and sailed them outside the port layline to keep the lead. Several protests (for proper course / overlap) were green flagged. From this point on, Oracle remained clear ahead and covered well to win the race by 18s.

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