Wacky races on the Hauraki Gulf
On Juliet course GBR Challenge were lining up against Stars & Stripes, both teams level pegging in fourth place after the first round robins. In their first showdown the American team had won by a mere 20 seconds, but that was in the pre-Beadsworth first half of the round robin as Peter Harrison's team were finding their form.
Setting sail on the same course 10 minutes later was the match between the French tailend Charlies Le Defi Areva and Russell Coutts and Ernesto Bertarelli's series favourites, Alinghi.
In the first match Stars & Stripes and GBR Challenge both got off to good starts, both up to speed with Ken Read hitting the line narrowly ahead at the committee boat end. The American boat gained an advantage sailing up the right side of the beat and at the weather mark led by 20 seconds. The Brits remained in contention narrowing the margin on the run seemingly able to sail deeper.
Behind them Alinghi, predictably had got off to the better start overseen by the armada of Alinghi spectator boats. Coutts and his mob shot off up the beat like a scalded cat sailing both higher and with more pace than the French.
However neither competitions came to anything as - fortunately for the Brits - on the second run all four boats on this course were left wallowing as the wind died and they were unable to complete the leg within the maximum time limit of 45 minutes.
On Romeo course a far superior brand of entertainment was taking place. Still warm from their victory against their fellow countrymen on Mascalzone Latino, Prada was in fighting form to line up against fellow Louis Vuitton Cup heavyweights, Oracle. Of the four top rated team in this series both Prada and Oracle had showed a speed deficiency on the first round robin and have undergone extensive modifications in last week's respite .
With Peter Holmberg steering, alongside owner Larry Ellison (also in the afterguard) and the return of Australian AC veteran Ian Burns back at the blunt end following his mountain biking accident before to the first round robins, it was Oracle that ran rings around the Italians at the start.
In 9 knot winds Oracle hit the pin end at speed heading for the favoured left hand side of the course, leaving the Italians heading towards the committee boat semi-stalled.
Up the first beat Oracle held their advantage rounding 45 seconds ahead of Prada. On the subsequent downwind leg they proceeded to prove that the inter-round robin mods they have made have been beneficial, showing better pace downwind in the light than they had before. At the end of the first lap Holmberg and his posse were looking strong holding a lead of 1:14 minutes.
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