Ellison comes out on top

At conclusion of Act 1 of the 32nd America's Cup in Marseilles

Saturday September 11th 2004, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: France
For the second consecutive weekend hundreds of boats gathered on the Rade Sud off Marseille to celebrate the America’s Cup at the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act. One final flight of races was scheduled on Saturday, to complete the opening Act of the 32nd America’s Cup.

The American BMW Oracle Racing team had wrapped up a series win on Friday afternoon after an impressive week of results, but every other place on the points table was up for grabs on Saturday. The big winner of the day was the French Le Defi team, which defeated Team Shosholoza to vault into a tie for fourth place with K-Challenge. Le Defi had previously beaten its French rival when they lined up earlier in the week, and thus becomes the fourth place finisher, ahead of K-Challenge and South Africa’s Shosholoza.

At the top of the leaderboard, BMW Oracle with first place assured could afford to lose its match to Alinghi on Saturday, and that’s exactly what happened. Team Alinghi finishes in second place overall, while Emirates Team New Zealand finished the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act in third position.

None of the top three teams earned the full amount of points on offer in the match racing segment of the event, with each losing one match to one of the others. BMW Oracle won this event by dominating three of the four fleet races, leaving Alinghi with just one fleet race victory, and Emirates Team New Zealand with none.

“I think all three top boats are plenty quick enough to win,” said syndicate head Larry Ellison. “There's not much in it, a gybe here, a mark rounding there, a little bit of a shift. That's the difference between these boats. Our crew work is good, our boat's fast, but we're racing against the best teams in the world. We're racing against Alinghi who are the best team, the America's Cup defenders, and I'm very happy to have beaten them here in Act 1…We'll go back and do some two-boat sailing in Valencia, and give our best shot at winning Acts 2 and 3. But it's going to be tough.”

The conditions were good for racing on Saturday after a short postponement to allow the wind to build and stabilise. Racing took place in an 8-10 knots southeasterly, with patches of better pressure, and small shifts on the course keeping the tacticians busy. The Race Committee kept the action tight for the hundreds of spectator craft with a short, eight-mile race course providing plenty of opportunities for the boats to interact.


The pre-start in this match was quite tame, with both teams apparently wanting different ends of the start line, and thus having nothing to fight for. After a long dial-up both boats circled downwind to pick up speed, and hit the line at the gun with full power.

Helmsman Gavin Brady on BMW Oracle accomplished this two seconds faster than Peter Holmberg on Alinghi, and BMW Oracle crossed the line first, on the right hand side of its opponent. The boats sailed up the left hand side of the course, and nearing the top mark, Alinghi found the shift it wanted; a little left-hander allowing the Swiss boat to take the lead, and round the top mark 20 seconds in front. By the first leeward mark, Alinghi had extended further ahead and although BMW Oracle was able to claw some of that time back before the finish line, Alinghi was able to hold on and secure second position on the points table.

In the two other matches, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to handle K-Challenge, the Kiwis sailing against FRA-57, the Team New Zealand trial horse for their successful 2000 America’s Cup defence.

Le Defi converted an impressive pre-start win into an early lead and was never threatened by Team Shosholoza. The South Africans in their 2000-generation boat couldn’t match Le Defi on speed, and after losing the start, were never able to get back into this match. This was nevertheless an impressing coming out party for Team Shosholoza, as the first team from Africa to challenge for the America’s Cup.

The BMW Oracle Racing team was presented with a trophy for winning the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act at a public ceremony in the AC Park, on the J-4 pier in Marseille on Saturday afternoon.

With the conclusion of Act 1, attention now shifts to Valencia, Spain, the Host City of the 32nd America’s Cup. The Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 2 begins on the 5th of October, while the 2004 racing calendar ends with Act 3 in Valencia from the 14th to 17th of October.


Flight Five
FRA-69 beat RSA-48, delta 3:17
NZL-82 beat FRA-57, delta 0:37
SUI-64 beat USA-76 , delta 0:15


Team (Fleet Race Points) (Match Race Points) Total points
1. BMW OracleRacing Team (22) (24) 46 points
2. Team Alinghi (20) (24) 44 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (18) (24) 42 points
4. LE DEFI (5) (12) 17 points
5. K-Challenge (11) (6) 17 points
6. Team Shosholoza (8) (0) 8 points

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