Level pegging

Despite K-Challenge win today, the big two teams are slogging it out for first place at Act 7 in Malmo

Saturday September 3rd 2005, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: Scandinavia
Light but steady 8 knot breezes and clear blue skies greeted the large spectator fleet that came out to watch Saturday's thrilling first race on the Øresund. It was fairy-tale stuff for the French team of K-Challenge, who took the lead by the first mark and held off the attentions of BMW Oracle Racing for an inspiring victory. Alinghi made a good charge up the fleet, finishing fourth after being forced to go back and restart.

The wind was still blowing 7 to 8 knots for the beginning of the second race, but it soon built to 14 knots and shifted slightly to the left. Luna Rossa charged across the top of the fleet from the left-hand side and the Italians were leading from Alinghi for the next lap. Then the Italian genoa broke and the Swiss pounced as the Italians fought to replace the shredded sail. Luna Rossa recovered quickly, but Alinghi won the race comfortably.

The results leave Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing with identical scorelines at the top of the table. Luna Rossa, Emirates Team New Zealand and Desafío Español are in touch, but will struggle to overhaul both leaders.

Fleet Race Two

With the breeze holding very steady in velocity and direction, it was a boatspeed race out of the start line, which made the victory by the six-year-old K-Challenge boat, FRA-60, all the more impressive. Skipper Thierry Peponnet sailed up the right-hand side of the course and found good direction and pressure to lead narrowly from the Americans at the first mark.

Meanwhile, Alinghi and Shosholoza had put themselves at a disadvantage by starting too early and having to return to start properly. Alinghi restarted in the bad air of the fleet, but soon found a good lane up the right-hand side. Using their impressive pace, the Swiss defenders were already mid-fleet by the first mark.

A right-hand track up the second beat played into the hands of the leaders, with K-Challenge and BMW Oracle extending their lead over the chasing pack.

By the finish, Luna Rossa, Alinghi and Spain were all locked together, and crossed the line overlapped, finishing 3rd, 4th and 5th in that order. Emirates Team New Zealand was in the hunt up the first leg of the course, but poor tactics put them back in the pack and they could never find their groove, finishing sixth just ahead of +39.

Down the final run, Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team tore a kite to shreds during a gybe, but the Italians held on to finish fractions ahead of United Internet Team Germany. Victory Challenge had a lacklustre race, finishing 10th while Shosholoza never managed to get back into the hunt after its premature start, although the South Africans managed to overhaul China Team up the final beat.

Fleet Race Three

The fleet got away cleanly in the second race with the wind still blowing a steady 7 knots. After the right had paid so handsomely in the earlier race, the majority of the fleet tacked over early on to port. However, Luna Rossa and United Internet Team Germany held on out to the left side of the course. Clearly they had seen something the rest had missed, as these two took up the early lead. Indeed, the breeze shifted left and at the same time built rapidly to 14 knots.

The Italians' pace was sufficient for them to cross the entire fleet three-quarters up the first leg and helmsman James Spithill was in the controlling position. Jesper Bank didn't have quite so much speed at his disposal, but the German team was still in the hunt.

Alinghi hadn't had the best of starts, but the Swiss turned on some of that legendary boatspeed to round the first mark in second place behind Luna Rossa. The fleet was very tightly compressed on the starboard layline, with little room for port-tacked Germany and Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team to squeeze into. Germany just got away with it, but Mascalzone fouled a starboard-tack boat and the Italians stalled badly in their attempt to avoid a serious collision. By the time they took their penalty turn they were well back.

At the front Luna Rossa was maintaining its advantage over Alinghi, rounding the leeward mark cleanly and holding a slim lead up the final beat. But then disaster, as the genoa fell to the deck on the Italian boat. Alinghi immediately tacked to pounce on the stricken Italians, and the Swiss took up a lead that they would never relinquish. Luna Rossa responded quickly with a new genoa hoisted in double-quick time, and they limited the damage to just one place lost.

At the finish Alinghi were easy winners ahead of Luna Rossa, while a tight battle ensued for third, Emirates Team New Zealand clinching it from BMW Oracle Racing, who had their hands full holding off the Spanish close behind. The whole fleet had come together like a concertina down the final run, making for a spectacular finish.

The final day's racing is scheduled to resume on Sunday beginning at 12:10. One race is scheduled with light winds in the forecast.

Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 7 results:

Pos Team Shosholoza R1 R2 R3 Tot
1 Alinghi 11 9 12 32
1 BMW Oracle Racing 12 11 9 32
3 Luna Rossa Challenge 7 10 11 28
4 Emirates Team New Zealand 9 7 10 26
4 Desafio Espanol 2007 10 8 8 26
6 K-Challenge 3 12 4 19
7 39 Challenge 4 6 7 17
7 United Internet Team Germany 8 3 6 17
9 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 5 5 2 12
10 Team Shosholoza 6 2 3 11
11 Victory Challenge 1 4 5 10
12 China Team 2 1 1 4

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