Perfect record for Emirates Team NZ

As Round Robin concludes at America's Cup Act 12

Thursday June 29th 2006, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: none selected
Emirates Team New Zealand knocked off Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing to run a perfect record in the round robin portion of Louis Vuitton Act 12.

To complete its perfect run, Emirates Team New Zealand had to navigate its way through treacherous conditions on a difficult day of shifting winds and variable pressure on the waters off Valencia. The team made bold decisions in both races and were rewarded with handy leads.

The racing on Wednesday was important up and down the table. Their outright win earned the Kiwis the right to choose their opponent for the next stage of the competition. This was a similar story for Desafío Español won both its matches to claim fifth spot overall and top of the 'second division'. The Spanish will also choose their opponent. Shosholoza backed into the final second division placing, losing both its matches today, but advancing from a three-way tie break over Areva Challenge and +39 Challenge.

The French Areva top the third division and will pick its opponent for racing in the semi-finals which is scheduled to begin on Friday afternoon on the waters off Valencia.

Flight Ten

The symbol of New Zealand is a flightless bird called the Kiwi, but today Emirates Team New Zealand opened up its wings and soared above two of its biggest rivals, Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing.

The big showdown between Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand is always an exciting one. In the pre-start, Dean Barker had Peter Holmberg tied up in knots, Emirates holding up Alinghi above the line. In the end it wasn't a bad start from Alinghi next to the Race Committee boat, which left observers wondering whether the Kiwis could have pressed their advantage event stronger.

Early on it was even between the two teams but the Kiwis' position on the left was perfect for the next shift. They tacked and crossed SUI 75 comfortably, but rather than tacking to cover, the Kiwis continued out to the right. This brave strategy paid dividends as NZL 84 extended to a six-boatlength lead by the top of the leg. Alinghi never got a sniff of the lead and finished over a minute behind.

Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team briefly led BMW Oracle Racing after winning the pre-start, but Chris Dickson brought the speed of USA 87 to bear on the Italians and eventually sailed to an easy win. China Team got the better start against Desafio Espanol 2007, but again the faster boat soon moved ahead, Spain winning by 45 seconds.

+39 Challenge sailed off to a good lead over United Internet Team Germany, but the shifting fickle breeze brought the Germans back into the Italians down the final run. For a moment it looked as though the wind would carry Jesper Bank past Iain Percy, but the Italians got the favoured breeze again and won by 21 seconds. In a one-sided match, Shosholoza started 10 seconds late, never giving themselves a chance of taking on the mighty Luna Rossa, who sailed away unchallenged.

Flight eleven

It was a thrilling pre-start between Luna Rossa and Alinghi, with James Spithill putting a penalty on Peter Holmberg. ITA 86 rolled off the left-hand of the line and sailed into a useful little lead up the first beat. However the Swiss kept the race tight, helped by the fact that the light and shifting wind was discouraging Luna Rossa from being drawn into a close cover. The lead was down to one boatlength up the top of the final beat, but the Italians held their nerve all the way to the finish, while the disappointed Swiss unwound their penalty just before the finish.

In the pre-start between Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle Racing, Chris Dickson looked to have Dean Barker in all sorts of trouble. The Kiwis recovered admirably, however, as they launched across the line at full pace while the Americans appeared stalled and were 15 seconds late across the line. Barker immediately imposed himself on the flailing Americans. By the first run the New Zealand afterguard had played the shifts to perfection and now led by almost 400 metres. It was a disappointing showing for the Americans as the white boat finished 1 minute 14 seconds behind.

Victory Challenge very nearly squeezed out Desafio Espanol 2007 at the pin end of the start line. As the green boat struggled to scrape past the mark without hitting it, the black boat launched off the line and into attacking mode. Magnus Holmberg eked out a small but workable lead over Spain, but then, disaster. A problem with the gennaker left the sail trawled behind the boat. ESP 88 swept past and while the Swedes recovered, hoisting a new sail, the Spanish weren't going to yield their lead, and went on to win the race and the second division.

Team Shosholoza picked up a penalty in the pre-start against Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team but it was advantage to South Africa up the first windward leg. The South Africans stretched away from the Italians and with a 200-metre lead just before the finishing line, there was a good chance of being able to shake off that penalty in time for RSA 83 to cross first. It was a well executed manoeuvre but short of the line and as Tommaso Chieffi turned the wheel desperately for the finish, ITA 77 sneaked past. The delta was a frustrating 4 seconds for Shosholoza.

There was a similar scenario in the 'battle of the basement' between China Team and United Internet Team Germany, the two teams yet to score a point in the round-robin. China Team yielded a penalty during the pre-start versus Germany, but then Pierre Mas gave Jesper Bank all sorts of grief in the closing seconds, the Chinese leading off the line. There were luffing incidents between China and Germany as they sailed past the windward mark in a bid to lead around. China held a slim lead down the run, but as they dropped early for the leeward mark, Jesper Bank called for the German kite to stay up a few moments longer. GER 72 rolled over the Chinese and sailed all the way round the outside of the red and yellow boat after which Germany sailed to an unthreatened win.

Another potentially close match between Areva Challenge and +39 Challenge went to the French, with Thierry Peponnet finishing 1 minute 25 seconds ahead of Iain Percy.

Friday on

From this point of the competition forward, a team remains in its division until the end of Louis Vuitton Act 12. For example, no team in the top division can finish worse than fourth place, and no team in the second division could finish better than fifth place.

After the expiration of protest time, this evening the three division winning skippers chose their opponents for the semi-finals of Louis Vuitton Act 12, allowing a complete provisional pairing list to be drafted.

Round robin winning skipper Dean Barker, of Emirates Team New Zealand, announced his team would choose to race BMW ORACLE Racing in its semi-final. That leaves Alinghi and Luna Rossa to race in the other pair in the top division.

"Choosing your opponent is not easy," Barker admitted. "It's a bit like choosing your own poison. But we see this as an opportunity to race against a boat that has a lot of innovative features."

Desafío Español skipper Karol Jablonski elected to race against Shosholoza, leaving Victory Challenge to face Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team.

"We chose Shosholoza because in our opinion this boat is very fast and competitive," Jablonski said. "We would like to match it against our boat."

Finally, Areva Challenge skipper Thierry Peponnet selected China Team for its opponent, with United Internet Team Germany and +39 Challenge making up the final pair.

The results and pairings remain provisional on Wednesday evening. The +39 Challenge has lodged a Request for Redress with the Jury, claiming that the tie-breaking mechanism the Race Committee employed to break the three way tie between Shosholoza, Areva Challenge and +39 Challenge was incorrect. The Request for Redress will be heard by the Jury at 10:00 on Thursday morning.

Racing in the semi-finals is scheduled to begin on Friday afternoon. Each series will be won by the first team to earn two points.

In a 'best of three' contest, the first team to win two points will be the winner of each semi-final, and advance to the division final. The loser advances to the division petit final.

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