Alinghi hang on

During another perfect day's on the water off Malmo in Act 6 of the America's Cup

Monday August 29th 2005, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: Scandinavia
The top team was nearly knocked down a peg but recovered in dramatic style to win the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 with a day to spare. It was a day when one of the star sailors at the Cup resigned from his team before sailing started and heavy conditions and good match-ups inspired some excellent racing. The spectator fleet on the water witnessed exhausting tacking duels, gear-breaking luffing matches, numerous penalties, along with an impressive slam dunk for good measure.

It was a beautiful day for sailing on the Øresund, as strong 20-knot winds blew white froth across the water under sunny skies. Some of the top teams were paired up on Monday afternoon, with the results of the day going a long way to determining the final standings.

The big news before racing was that Gavin Brady, a helmsman and tactician for BMW Oracle Racing had resigned from the team. A statement from the team said that Brady couldn't agree upon his future role with the squad. The changes didn't appear to affect the team on the water - Dickson earned two points on the day with Bertrand Pacé in the tactician role.

But the action on the water was more compelling than the story in the base compound. The top teams faced each other again today, and close matches up and down the table brought some important results.

Flight Nine

Following an aggressive pre-start between Alinghi and Luna Rossa, the two boats split tacks off the start line. On the first cross, with the Italians on starboard and the Swiss looking to duck their transom, James Spithill pulled off a perfect slam dunk on Jochen Schuemann. Not only did Luna Rossa make a gain, but Spithill managed to stick a penalty on Alinghi in the process. But the Swiss held close and on the run, managed to catch all the way up. A poor spinnaker drop into the water by Luna Rossa meant Alinghi had made the pass. The Swiss extended the rest of the way, and were able to complete their penalty turn with ease before the finish line, to maintain a perfect record on the season.

Thierry Peponnet of K-Challenge was immediately put on the back foot when he incurred a pre-start penalty, however the French must have hoped that they could stretch away from China Team, who were yet to score a point at the regatta. But helmsman Pierre Mas got back on level terms with K-Challenge up the second beat, through a relentless tacking duel. China Team came out on top, and extended down the final run to win by over a minute after K-Challenge had unwound its penalty.

In the battle for fifth place, +39 Challenge started evenly against Desafio Espanol. However, two-thirds of the way up the first windy beat, the genoa on the Italian boat ripped to shreds. Iain Percy continued to sail ITA-59 under mainsail, but Karol Jablonski steered ESP-67 to a lead of over one thousand metres, crossing the finish more than 3 minutes ahead.

BMW Oracle's afterguard changes did little to upset Chris Dickson's rhythm, who tied up Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team on the start line. USA-76 led comfortably off the line and was never challenged again by the Italians.

Emirates Team New Zealand played an aggressive pre-start game, preventing the late-arriving Victory Challenge from entering the start box before the two-minute time limit. Already a penalty down, the Swedes could never get on even terms with the Kiwis, who extended their lead around the course to win by over two minutes. Victory never took its penalty turn however, so it was scored as a Did Not Finish.

Mainsail problems dogged Shosholoza before the start, and the South Africans never entered the start box for the race, handing an easy victory to United Internet Team Germany.

Results - flight 9

Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67) beat +39 Challenge (ITA 59), delta 3:22
China Team (CHN 69) beat K-Challenge (FRA 60), delta 1:09
United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) won, Team Shosholoza (RSA83) did not start
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA76) beat Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA77), delta 1:39
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82) won, Victory Challenge (SWE 73) did not finish
Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74), delta 0:25

Flight Ten

Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand faced the new-look BMW Oracle Racing team, with skipper Chris Dickson supported by Bertrand Pacé as his tactician, after Gavin Brady left the team. Both boats sailed a long starboard tack off the start line with the Kiwis blinking first, tacking away with the boats bow to bow. Emirates Team New Zealand held the power of the right, and the two teams tacked over 20 times on the leg with the Emirates squad slowly gaining. Barker eventually pushed Dickson over the port tack layline, leading the American boat around the top mark by 16 seconds.

The run was an opportunity for Dickson to close up a little and he did so, but the second beat was a repeat of the first, with the Kiwis using the right to push the Americans to the layline. But nearing the top mark, the jib flew loose on the New Zealand boat, and with the Kiwis unable to tack for a few moments, Dickson pounced, sliding through on the layline, and streaking ahead to round first. BMW Oracle Racing went on to win.

The Kiwi loss combined with Alinghi's victory over Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia handed the Act 6 title to the Swiss. The Alinghi powerhouse is undefeated in match races this year, now sitting on a 21-0 record, split between two helmsmen - a very impressive feat.

China Team helmsman Pierre Mas made an unforced error on the start line, crossing the line early and handing a big lead to +39 Challenge. The Italians were too strong to catch, and went on to earn their impressive fifth victory.

Team Shosholoza helmsman Chris Law picked up a penalty in the pre-start again and his team could never recover against a strong Spanish effort.

The match between Victory Challenge and Luna Rossa was a great one, with the home side surprising the Italians by matching them tack for tack up the first beat. Swedish skipper Magnus Holmberg was impressive on the start, forcing ITA skipper James Spithill to tack right before the gun, slowing the Italian boat. The teams engaged in a brutal tacking duel upwind, completing over 30 tacks before the top mark, where Luna Rossa held a slim lead. With Victory gaining on the run, Spithill had no option but to luff aggressively to protect his position. As the boats eased upwind in the strong breeze, the spinnaker pole on Victory Challenge broke, and the spinnaker burst. By the time the Swedes had cleaned up, Luna Rossa was ahead for good.

K-Challenge skipper Thierry Peponnet was impressive on this pre-start against Germany's Jesper Bank, pushing nearly him into the Committee Boat. Starting and covering well, Peponnet sailed a strong race. There was bad news for the French though as a crew member was taken from the boat after injuring his hand in a winch.

The match racing of the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts is scheduled to conclude with the final flight of racing on Tuesday. The match between Luna Rossa and BMW ORACLE Racing will determine second place.

Results - Flight 10

+39 Challenge (ITA 59) beat China Team (CHN 69), delta 2:05
Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 67) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83), delta 1:43
K-Challenge (FRA 60) beat United Internet Team Germany (GER 72), delta 0:47
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) beat Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82), delta 0:24
Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA 77), delta 1:07
Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) beat Victory Challenge (SWE 73), delta 0:39

Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 Points Leaderboard
Team Points
Alinghi 10
Emirates Team New Zealand 8
Luna Rossa 8
Desafío Español 2007 5
+39 Challenge 5
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 4
Victory Challenge 4
K-Challenge 3
United Internet Team Germany 2
Team Shosholoza 1
China Team 1

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