High drama

As BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa collide in Act 12 semi-final

Saturday July 1st 2006, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: none selected
It was one of the best days of action ever seen in the 32nd America's Cup, with incredibly close racing - sometimes too close. The fight to advance to the final was a battle wire to wire between Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle Racing. The Kiwis won what turned out to be a classic match, and followed that up with a close win over Alinghi to take a 1-0 lead in the final.

BMW Oracle Racing and Luna Rossa are going to the Jury room tonight after their fight for third got a little too intense. A collision on the first upwind leg saw the American bowsprit torn from the boat, while Luna Rossa showed significant damage on the port side of its boat. The Italians were penalised by the Umpires, but both teams flew red flags, indicating an intention to take the incident to the Jury.

Conditions inspired some great action on the race course with strong 15 knot winds whipping up the Mediterranean Sea and challenging the crews and equipment. An enormous weekend spectator fleet was treated to amazing racing, with many matches concluding with the boats all but overlapped.

Above: Olivier de Kersauson on board Areva with Thierry Peponnet

Race One

It was one of the best match races in memory, with the boats never separated by more than two boat lengths, and every match racing tactic in the book was employed to try to gain the smallest advantage. At the end, Emirates Team New Zealand prevailed in a race over BMW Oracle Racing that those who saw it will remember for a very long time.

The key moment was on the second downwind run to the finish when Emirates Team New Zealand was desperately trying to protect a one-second lead around the top mark. The Kiwis sailed BMW Oracle Racing skipper Chris Dickson off the right-hand side of the race course, luffing the American boat in an effort to hold their lead.

But Dickson was too fast and eventually rolled past NZL 84. However he could never get far enough ahead to gybe across the bow of black New Zealand boat. As the boats sailed further and further to the right, Dickson and his men kept appealing to the Umpires that the Kiwis were sailing above their proper course. But the Umpires judged Emirates Team New Zealand clean.

Eventually, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker rolled into a gybe and BMW Oracle Racing was a fraction slow in following. The Kiwis were now the upwind boat and rolled over the Americans, quickly establishing a one boat length lead. Dickson fought valiantly to snatch the advantage back, but ran out of room as NZL 84 slipped across the line 11-seconds ahead.

The win puts Emirates Team New Zealand into the final where they'll meet Alinghi, while BMW Oracle Racing drops to the petit final against Luna Rossa with third place at stake.

In the other matches, +39 Challenge had to retire with a trim tab problem against Areva Challenge, handing the first race in their third division final to the French. United Internet Team Germany beat China team to grab a 1-0 lead in the petit final - third division.

Desafío Español earned a good win over Shosoholoza to advance to the second division final against Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia. The South Africans will face Victory Challenge in a battle for seventh place.

Race Two

The action from Race One continued into the afternoon when Emirates Team New Zealand beat Alinghi for the third consecutive time this year. The Swiss have never beaten NZL 84. The Kiwis won the start and earned a small nine-second lead up the first beat, but Alinghi kept this race very close, rounding the next two marks just eight seconds behind, setting up a dramatic run to the finish. Although the Swiss boat threatened, Emirates stayed cool and even extended on the last run to take a 1-0 lead in the Final. One more race will secure the Kiwis the Act 12 title.

The hot action was in the battle for third place where Luna Rossa's James Spithill put a penalty on Chris Dickson in the prestart. The Italians then started better, but BMW Oracle Racing closed the game up with a series of tacks in from the left hand side. But more than halfway up the beat, the action really became close. Coming in on port tack Dickson saw the Italians roll into a tack right in front of him. As the ITA 86 stern swung out, it made contact with the bow of the American boat, tearing the bowsprit off. Both boats were damaged and Luna Rossa retired from the race. The Umpires penalised Luna Rossa for tacking too close, but both teams finished the race with red protest flags flying. A protest is expected, and if lodged, the Jury hearing will take place on Saturday night.

In the other matches, Areva Challenge took an early lead over +39 Challenge when the Italians had jib problems in the prestart. But +39 fought back and nearly passed the French on the final dash for the finish. But Areva held on to win ninth place overall, with +39 Challenge securing 10th.

United Internet Team Germany beat China Team for its second consecutive win, gaining 11th place overall. The Chinese take 12th.

Shosholoza sailed a brilliant race against Sweden's Victory Challenge, earning a hard fought win after a great battle early in the match. The South Africans lead the series 1-0, and can secure seventh place with a win on Sunday.

Desafío Español overcame equipment problems that saw Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia make a pass on the second upwind leg. But the Spanish were too fast for the Italians and regained control to lead 1-0 in the battle for fifth place.

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