Emirates Team New Zealand unbeaten

A report from day three of the Act 12 of the America's Cup

Sunday June 25th 2006, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: none selected
A couple of fierce battles ensured there was plenty of action on the first weekend of Louis Vuitton Act 12 on the waters off Valencia. Two close matches between unbeaten teams trimmed the top of the leaderboard and provided spectacular racing for the large spectator fleet. Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand remain unbeaten while BMW Oracle Racing and Luna Rossa were losers for the first time today.

It was a great day on the waters off Valencia with fresh 10 to 14 knot sea breezes powering the boats around the race courses. Plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures provided the ingredients for a fantastic afternoon on the water.

Flight five

The fireworks really went off in Flight Five, with four extremely close matches. In the big showdown between the Defender and the Challenger of Record, Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing engaged in an aggressive pre-start duel. However, Peter Holmberg judged the final approach to the line more successfully, with SUI 75 accelerating well off the pin end while Chris Dickson had to tack at the Race Committee boat just as the gun fired. This gave an early lead to Alinghi until the breeze shifted left in BMW Oracle's favour. Around the first mark, advantage went back to the Swiss who rounded just 10 seconds in front. The Americans, with World Cup ski champion Bode Miller spurring them on from the 18th man position, showed good pace down the run to round neck and neck with Alinghi as they peeled out on opposite sides of the gate. By the top mark, The Swiss had reasserted an 8-second advantage which they extended to 20 seconds at the finish.

It was an equally tense affair between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa. James Spithill left Dean Barker floundering off the start, the Kiwis crossing two boat lengths after the Italians. Luna Rossa appeared to be controlling the match until the top of the beat where Barker sneaked up to windward of ITA 86 and managed to hold his rivals past the windward mark. There was little to choose between the two boats all the way round the track, but once the Kiwis seized the upper hand they never relinquished it, taking the match by just 11 seconds.

The match between Shosholoza and Areva Challenge was tight from start to finish. At the first mark the gap was just 9 seconds in the South Africans' favour, but by the second windward leg the French had capitalised on the shifting 12-knot breeze to get back on level terms. However Thierry Peponnet tacked too close to Tomasso Chieffi during one of their many crosses, and picked up a penalty. At the top mark, the two yachts were neck and neck so Peponnet resorted to taking the South Africans way past the mark, perhaps 300 metres further upwind as he sought an opportunity to offload the penalty. Eventually both boats turned downwind and Shosholoza were never caught in the traps that Areva attempted to spring on their rivals. The South Africans crossed first while Areva unwound its penalty at the finish.

+39 Challenge ran Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team close in their match, never allowing the red boat room to breathe. But Mascalzone hung on to the lead and crossed 16 seconds ahead. The other two matches were formalities for Victory Challenge and Desafio Espanol, who respectively beat China Team and United Internet Team Germany by large margins.

Flight six

Desafío Español gave Luna Rossa a fright in an intriguing match. Although James Spithill gained the better start after pulling off a masterful hook on Karol Jablonski, and controlled the early stages of the first leg, the Italians were no quicker upwind than the Spanish sailing their new boat, ESP 88. At the top mark the gap was just 10 seconds. Down the run, when the Italians seemed to be stretching away from the Spanish in the early minutes, Luna Rossa allowed Desafío to break to the right of the run, and when they came back together at the leeward gate the Spanish had closed to just 8 seconds. However the second beat went all the Italians' way and from there they sailed off to a more comfortable finishing margin of 42 seconds.

Shosholoza looked to have gained the better approach to the start in the match against +39 Challenge, but the South Africans burst across the line just a fraction too early. It was an unforced error that cost the team dear as Iain Percy never put a foot wrong. A troublesome spinnaker pole at the top of the final leg put paid to any South African hopes of a turnaround, and +39 Challenge notched up a morale-boosting win.

United Internet Team Germany held Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team to a tight match although the Italians were always in control. The same was true of Emirates Team New Zealand against Areva Challenge, although the French can be pleased with only conceding 37 seconds to the Kiwis at the finish. BMW ORACLE Racing was untroubled by Victory Challenge in a straightforward win for Chris Dickson, while Alinghi beat China Team by a large margin.

Results:

Pos Team Matches sailed Won Points
1 Alinghi (SUI 75) 6 6 6
1 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 84) 6 6 6
3 BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 87) 6 5 5
3 Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 86) 6 5 5
5 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) 6 4 4
6 Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 88) 6 3 3
7 Victory Challenge (SWE 63) 6 2 2
8 +39 Challenge (ITA 59) 6 2 2
9 Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) 6 2 2
10 Areva Challenge (FRA 60) 6 1 1
11 United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) 6 0 0
11 China Team (CHN 79) 6 0 0

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