Big conditions take their toll
The heavier loads appeared to take their toll nearly immediately with both Emirates Team New Zealand and Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team returning to port soon after leaving in the morning. Both teams made adjustments however and were back out in time for the start of their matches. Racing on the north, 'Romeo' course was postponed for nearly two hours as Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio elected to move towards the south race course area where some shelter was provided by the Egadi Islands.
Racing on the 'Juliet' course, on the southern race area, started on schedule with some of the teams clearly struggling in the rough conditions. China Team eventually retired from its match against Desafío Español, while +39 struggled down the final run against Alinghi. The teams on 'Romeo' also had some tough times, with K-Challenge breaking its headstay and retiring from its match against Shosholoza.
The resulting racing proved to be highly entertaining and people in the city of Trapani, along with thousands of visitors from around the world, are clearly enjoying the show. Over 22,000 poured into the America's Cup Park on Thursday on the first day of racing. The giant screen, featuring live video and audio commentary from the race course allows those ashore to keep up with the action on the water and on Friday, there was plenty happening to keep abreast of.
+39 Challenge sailed a confident and aggressive pre-start against Alinghi, and at one point, Iain Percy looked though he might drive Ed Baird over the starting line early. But as the gun fired, both boats rolled off the line at full speed. Alinghi soon brought its superior pace to bear over +39, who are racing Alinghi's old training boat from the 2003 campaign. Alinghi rounded the first mark comfortably ahead and extended when the Italian boat had spinnaker problems during both downwind legs. On the final run +39 narrowly avoided disaster when it nearly broached in the big swells. The team had to send a man aloft to unravel the spinnaker now tangled around the forestay, as Alinghi finished well ahead.
In the duel between Victory Challenge and Luna Rossa, both boats were late for the start, but this was of no concern to the Italians because they were several boatlengths ahead of the Swedish. Magnus Holmberg appeared to have a speed edge as he traded tacks with Francesco de Angelis' team, and he made further ground on the first downwind to reduce the deficit to 29 seconds at the leeward gate. But Luna Rossa never allowed the Swedes to get closer than that and pulled away to their third victory of the series.
Problems with a slack forestay in the pre-start put China Team at an immediate disadvantage against Desafío Español. The Spanish leapt to an early three boat-length lead over the Chinese. Major spinnaker problems and a near-broach down the first run put China Team further behind, and it was all but over when they rounded the leeward mark with the jib unhoisted. Although they eventually got going again, China Team retired on the second upwind leg, handing a straightforward victory to the Spaniards.
United Internet Team Germany and Emirates Team New Zealand engaged in an aggressive pre-start, but as the gun fired both boats launched out of the blocks absolutely neck and neck. With a drag race out to the left-hand side, the Kiwis imposed their superior boatspeed to take control of the Germans. However Jesper Bank's crew sailed a tidy race in tough conditions.
BMW Oracle launched an aggressive attack on Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team, but the Italians survived the onslaught to start dead level with the Americans. As with the previous match, the two boats drag raced out to the left-hand side but not surprisingly Chris Dickson extracted better pace out of the black and white boat to eke out a comfortable lead by the windward mark. BMW ORACLE extended on Mascalzone throughout the race, finishing nearly two minutes to the good.
In the pre-start Shosholoza sailed aggressively at K-Challenge and won a penalty off the French when Thierry Peponnet gybed too close to the South Africans. Both boats started well on diverging tacks out of the line. When they came back together for the first cross, it was the South Africans ahead. Just seconds later, K-Challenge's headfoil snapped, ripping the genoa in half. The French immediately bore away to minimise the damage and retired from the race. Shosholoza continued alone around the course, not backing off but flying its spinnaker down the runs and putting on a majestic display to earn its first win in Trapani.
Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio postponed racing for the day after Flight Three, saying, "We've had between 18 and 21 knots at the top of the rigs this afternoon and it's been a pretty long day for everyone. The guys on my course were sailing around for nearly two hours in some pretty heavy conditions before we even started racing. I think its best not to push it this early in the regatta. We'll race Flights Four and Five on Saturday."
The postponement helps +39 Challenge which broke its boom after the first race. Its second match was scheduled against China Team who had already retired for the day. The Italians would likely have started the race with just a headsail thus earning the point, but the postponement for the day negated the need to do that. China Team and +39 Challenge are now scheduled to race on Saturday. +39's shore team has a bit of work to do overnight, as a small section of the bow chafed away on the tow in to port.
More photos on the following pages...