Alinghi evens the score

Down to the wire in the Moet Cup

Saturday September 20th 2003, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: United States
There was plenty of drama at the Moet Cup on Friday, as Alinghi and Oracle BMW Racing split races in the Pro-Driver series. That means the seventh and final race, scheduled for Saturday, will determine the winner of the Moet Cup.

Unfortunately, racing had to be abandoned in the Owner-Driver series on Friday, when a container ship steamed past on the downwind leg of the race course, dramatically interfering with the race boats. Larry Ellison’s Oracle BMW Racing team saw its lead evaporate when it was forced to luff behind the ship to lay the leeward mark. The Race Committee took action immediately, abandoning the race.

"We were trying to get everything up early and get ready for whatever was going to happen, but I believe the spinnaker was very close to getting caught on the back of the ship…it was quite funny because we were all trying to wave the ship past us. It was strange to turn around and see ten people trying to wave the ship, ‘cmon, cmon’!!" commented Oracle BMW Racing's David Brooke.

The city of San Francisco is embracing the Moet Cup, as evidenced by the steadily increasing spectator fleet, and the growing crowds in the hospitality village and along the sea wall. The weather continued to provide perfect racing conditions, with bright, sunny skies, and strong 15-20 knot winds.

The Moet Cup concludes on Saturday, with match-point to be sailed in both the Pro-Driver and the Owner-Driver divisions.

Moet Cup – Pro-Driver Series – Race Four of Seven (re-sail)

The Swiss Alinghi team took full advantage of the re-sail for race four of the Pro-Driver series, and put the pressure firmly on the Oracle BMW Racing team.

Oracle BMW skipper Chris Dickson and helmsman Gavin Brady appeared to have Alinghi skipper Jochen Schuemann on the ropes in the pre-start, when Alinghi stalled after the dial-up. With the Swiss boat stuck head to wind, and with little steerage, Brady circled around and took aim with starboard tack rights, not once, but twice. But in both instances, the Umpires judged that Alinghi was just able to stay clear, and no penalty was assessed.

Schuemann finally was able to regain control of SUI-64, and as the boats powered up for the start line, his timing was near perfect, and he crossed the line at the gun, a few yards ahead and to leeward of USA-76.

Schuemann and the Alinghi trimmers then worked their magic, slowly squeezing up to the American boat, and after a few minutes Oracle BMW was forced to tack away. When the boats converged again, Alinghi held a slim lead that it was able to protect around the top mark.

Although Oracle BMW was in a good position to attack the Swiss boat on the run, it was never able to find a passing lane. Sailing a shorter, three-leg course, Alinghi was able to protect the rest of the way home, to win by 25 seconds.

The Oracle BMW Racing team was now charged with winning the remaining two races of the Pro series, if it was to secure a series win and the Moet Cup, on home waters.

Alinghi (SUI-64) beats Oracle BMW Racing (USA-76) – Delta 0:25

Moet Cup – Owner-Driver Series – Race Four of Five

Racing abandoned (to be re-sailed) due to commercial traffic

Moet Cup – Pro-Driver Series – Race Six of Seven

This was a match the Oracle BMW Racing team had to win, and Larry Ellison’s men responded, sailing a strong race, and evening the Pro-Driver series for the Moet Cup.

Both boats crossed the starting line on starboard tack, with speed, with Alinghi to windward, and Oracle BMW Racing close up to leeward. The Swiss boat couldn’t stay in that position and tacked away, with USA-76 quickly following suit. The boats drag-raced out towards Alcatraz Island, on a long port tack, and when they crossed again, Oracle BMW skipper Chris Dickson held a slim lead. The Americans tacked to cover Alinghi, and Swiss skipper Jochen Schuemann tacked away to break cover. But USA-76 tacked as well, and over the next 10-minutes, the boats engaged in slow, downspeed tacks, as Schuemann tried to break away.

Oracle BMW eventually relented, allowing Alinghi to split to the middle of the course and this was where the race was won. The boats separated by over 1000 yards, and when they converged again at the top mark, the Oracle BMW Racing team led by 39-seconds.

Alinghi could do nothing to close this deficit, and the two teams will sail one more race in the Pro-Driver series to determine the winner of the Moet Cup. "It was a big day for us today," commented Oracle's Gavin Brady. "it feels good to be able to go out tomorrow and put it all on the line. I think that couldn’t be a better final."

Oracle BMW Racing (USA-76) beats Alinghi (SUI-64) – Delta 0:30

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