+39: giant killers

Percy, Walker & co take out Emirates Team New Zealand on day 4 of the America's Cup Act 6

Sunday August 28th 2005, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: Scandinavia
After the first flight of races, it appeared the story of the day would be the comeback by the home heroes, Victory Challenge, who delighted their fans by sneaking past the Spanish team on the final run for a brilliant come from behind win. As 18th man on board, HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden (above) appeared to bring the Victory crew the luck they have been looking for these past few days.

While Victory followed up that win with a triumph in flight eight as well, the major surprise belonged to Italy's +39, who won for the third time in their last four matches, stunning Emirates Team New Zealand.


Flight Seven

One of the most hotly anticipated matches of the day, the battle between Desafío Español and Victory Challenge did not disappoint. Spain forced Sweden to tack away soon after the start, allowing the Spanish to capitalise on a left-hand shift and stretch to a seemingly unassailable lead up the first beat. At the bottom of the run, however, the Spanish crew made a mess of their spinnaker drop and allowed Magnus Holmberg to halve the gap. Around the final windward mark, the local team was just 36 seconds behind. Gybing on to starboard down the last run, Victory picked up more breeze and sneaked around the outside of the disappointed Spanish. The spectator fleet cheered as their local heroes won a match that appeared to be out of their reach.

Luna Rossa was running +39 Challenge ragged in the pre-start, but helmsman Iain Percy wrestled the blue and orange boat clear by start time to lead across the line. The smaller team held the advantage over the more experienced Luna Rossa for some time until James Spithill gained the right-hand side of the course and got on level terms with +39. Momentary indecision saw +39 mess up a port/starboard cross and they were given a penalty. Luna Rossa stretched away from their compatriots for the rest of the race, winning by a large margin.

Shosholoza's helmsman Chris Law has a reputation for aggressive starting but today he started too eagerly against Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia and the South Africans were forced to restart. From there the Italians controlled the race to win by over a minute.

Following a relatively even start between BMW ORACLE Racing and China Team, American skipper Chris Dickson put the hammer down to speed away from the fledgling Chinese team. Syndicate head Larry Ellison took over the wheel of USA-76 as the Americans cruised to victory.

In the match between Emirates Team New Zealand and K-Challenge, Dean Barker's crew ran rings around Thierry Peponnet in the pre-start, and the French did well to avoid a penalty decision against them as they floundered at a virtual standstill. At the start the Kiwis rolled immediately into a covering tack and dominated the race to win by a comfortable margin.

Alinghi led its race against United Internet Team Germany from the start, after Jesper Bank put the white boat into some vulnerable positions in the pre-start. Jochen Schuemann steered the Defenders to a straightforward victory of 1 minute 45 seconds over the Germans. Alinghi remains undefeated.

Results Flight 7:
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) beat China Team (CHN 69), delta 1:51
Alinghi (SUI 75) beat United Internet Team Germany (GER 72), delta 1:45
Victory Challenge (SWE 73) beat Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67), delta 1:21
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82) beat K-Challenge (FRA 60), delta 1:12
Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) beat +39 Challenge (ITA 59), delta 1:44
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA77) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA83), delta 0:47


Flight Eight

Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand made a rare unforced error by breaking the start line a second too early, in what should have been a straightforward match against +39 Challenge. Iain Percy capitalised on the Kiwis' mistake and sailed a very cool race in the light and shifting breezes. For a moment up the second beat, it looked as though +39's tactician Ian Walker might have let New Zealand off the hook by allowing them to get further right. But the Italian team kept their nerve to trounce the stunned Kiwis by over a minute - surely the biggest upset to date at the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts.

“The starts are so important," said Emirates Team NZ boss Grant Dalton later. "Win the start and in most cases you’ve won the race. It puts a lot of pressure on the bow and afterguard to cross the line at full speed when the gun goes. As we showed today a slight misjudgment has disastrous consequences. By the time we had re-crossed the line we were 30sec behind +39. I was impressed with the way the team fought back. Twice we got within striking distance but the breeze favoured the Italians. On the final run we started to reel them in after we split gybes. Then as we fell into a hole, they got a breeze and opened the gap from 80m to almost 250m.ITA 59 sailed a good race and they deserved the win. It was a race we should have won. We made a mistake and we were punished.”

At the start of its match against Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team, K-Challenge held the upper hand. But it wouldn't last, as the Italians hooked into better breeze from the right, and led by 47 seconds at the first mark. Skipper Vasco Vascotto never looked back after that, with the Italians storming to a 1 minute 6 second victory.

Mainsail problems meant that Shosholoza was very late entering the start box against Luna Rossa, and the Umpires put a penalty on the South Africans before they had even started. Despite starting late, the South Africans briefly led up the first beat, thanks to a right-hand shift. But any hope for Shosholoza would be short-lived as the Italians pegged back their rivals with superior shift work in the fickle breezes. Luna Rossa's winning delta was 1 minute 23 seconds.

China Team was not expected to pose much threat to Alinghi but no one could have predicted the level of Swiss dominance. By the first mark the Defenders were leading by 10 boatlengths. By the finish they had extended that lead to almost 700 metres, and they won by over three minutes.

During a frenetic pre-start, one of the runners on Desafío Español jammed, pinning its mainsail on the centreline and stalling the boat to a dead stop. The Spanish were sitting ducks as Chris Dickson manoeuvred BMW Oracle aggressively around the green boat like a marauding shark. However, Dickson decided to focus on a good start and left the Spanish trailing in his wake. Helmsman Karol Jablonski did a good job of keeping the deficit to just 12 seconds at the first mark. The green boat rolled into an immediate gybe-set in a bid to sneak past the Americans. However the Spanish found less breeze on the right-hand side and USA-76 stretched away to win with ease.

Victory Challenge narrowly won the start against United Internet Team Germany and these two boats engaged in a tacking duel up the first beat. The Swedes looked the slicker of the two crews and led at the first mark by 35 seconds. By the end they were 1 minute 20 seconds ahead, rounding off a perfect day for the home team.

Racing continues on Monday with two full flights scheduled.

Results: Flight 8

Alinghi (SUI 75) beat China Team (CHN 69), delta 3:11
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) beat Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67), delta 1:56
Victory Challenge (SWE 73) beat United Internet Team Germany (GER 72), delta 1:20
+39 Challenge (ITA 59) beat Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82), delta 1:06
Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA 77) beat K-Challenge (FRA 60), delta 1: 06
Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83), delta 1:12

Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 overall results:
Team Points
Alinghi 8
Emirates Team New Zealand 7
BMW ORACLE Racing 7
Luna Rossa 7
+39 Challenge 4
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 4
Victory Challenge 4
Desafío Español 2007 3
K-Challenge 2
Team Shosholoza 1
United Internet Team Germany 1
China Team 0

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