Alinghi saunters home
The 10 teams had been pushing for every last inch of advantage during the previous two days of racing, and today was no exception. Defending iShares Cup champions and 2008 Series leaders TeamOrigin went into the final day in third place, but got off to a flying start, leading the first race from start to finish. However the main drama took place at the first mark rounding, when one of the Umpire boats - who settle on the water disputes - found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were hit by Holmatro at the first bear away. No crew were hurt in the incident.
Then in Race 2 Holmatro were again involved in a collision. They, TeamOrigin and Alinghi were neck and neck around the first lap, but at the leeward mark on the ultra-tight racecourse Holmatro ran out of room, and collided with TeamOrigin resulting in an instant disqualification. TeamOrigin managed to get home in second - although the places were later reversed following a protest hearing - and climbed to second overall while Team Aqua, who had been runners-up for much of the event, slipped to third.
But it was all over for TeamOrigin for the day - their Extreme 40 actually started sinking due to the damage sustained to the aft section of its port hull during the collision, and had to be towed ashore. Rob Greenhalgh and crew had to sit out the next four races of the day, watching as Alinghi went on to score two second places and extend their lead.
"We were leading the race coming into the first leeward mark and we got hit from behind by another boat, which put a big hole in our Extreme 40," skipper Rob Greenhalgh explained after racing. "Obviously we nearly sunk so we couldn't finish the rest of the day's racing. We were going really well and were on the up, we were probably looking to win the event. They've given us average points for the rest of the day but that hasn't been enough to win the event, so we're lying second, two points behind Alinghi."
Holmatro put the two collisions behind them to win the third and fourth races of the day before a brief postponement to allow some shipping to clear the course. The skippers, always keen to show off their Extreme 40 skills, put on an impromptu hull-flying display for the crowds and treated some of the local volunteers from Kiel who had helped make the event such a success to a ride onboard the Extreme 40s before heading straight back to business with a short, sharp fifth race, which saw Oman Sail take the win.
By the sixth and final double-points race Alinghi were near unbeatable, with their nearest rivals off the race course. They sailed a comfortable race to finish fourth, while Shirley Robertson on JPMorgan Asset Management and Hugh Styles on iShares dueled for the lead - iShares getting ahead at the second windward mark rounding to show the way home and take their first iShares Cup winner's gun.
But Alinghi had done enough to win overall, taking their third iShares Cup event in a row - and were welcomed ashore to huge applause. "Thank you everyone for coming down to have fun with us today, you did a great job Kiel!" said skipper Ed Baird after racing. "I think we've probably sailed in front of this many people in a television situation, but not in person - this is fantastic! It really has been exciting. You can hear the crowd as we start, and at roundings of the gate marks, and it's really fun to have them involved."
Despite their dominant performance even the America's Cup defenders clocked up some results near the back of the fleet, and Ed Baird admitted that the Kiel regatta had been especially challenging: "It's not a simple situation to take these kind of boats, this many of them, and to try to get yourself around this short a course. So for sure you're going to make mistakes, you're going to come out in front sometimes and behind in others, but overall you just have to be consistent and hang in there."
Alinghi and TeamOrigin are now head to head in the overall leaderboard for the iShares Cup, tied on 36 points apiece. For TeamOrigin skipper Rob Greenhalgh the 2008 iShares Cup is unfinished business: "We're still joint leaders overall with Alinghi and it's all down to the last event. We're in it to win it so it's going to be all systems go in Amsterdam, we've got to beat Alinghi to win and bring the trophy home!"
Team Aqua skipper Alister Richardson was satisfied with his team's third overall, saying: "Today we've had a very difficult day. It was very short windward legs and it made it very difficult. Sometimes we were in third or second and the next lap you'd be in ninth or tenth so we've had a kind of consistent day hanging around in the 4s, 5s and 6s, but from our previous good results it paid off just enough to hold us a podium place.
"We thought we had a chance of winning, in these kind of conditions we had a chance of pulling it out the bag. Unfortunately some of the luck didn't go our way, but we're still happy with our third place."
The overall iShares Cup 2008 Championship title will be decided in Amsterdam, Holland from 19-21 September.
See the complete leaderboard here