Wacky races on the Hauraki Gulf

Top day for Prada and GBR Challenge

Wednesday October 23rd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
But this is the Hauraki Gulf and as observers of this event have learned nothing is cast in stone. And so it was that on the second beat both boats headed for the left side of the course and through a massive windshift Prada closed in. In formation they overshot the port layline - considerably - and eventually tacked back onto port with Oracle still marginally ahead but to leeward of the Italians.

Unfortunately for Oracle the pressure was on the left, benefitting Prada, and as the two boats sailed almost 400m upwind of the weather mark Prada simply rolled over them.

Under zee rules downwind sails cannot be used until the weather mark has been rounded and both boats had to claw their way back to the mark under their upwind headsails.

The huge shift over the course now saw them sailing back down the course on a reach, both boats setting large asymmetric, Code Zero-type sails. With the bit firmly back between their teeth Prada clung on to their lead and extended. They made their final leeward mark rounding 1:50 minutes ahead of Oracle and went on to finish 1:55 minutes ahead.

After the dismal performance in the first round robins, the Prada team are now showing some of the form that got them through to the Louis Vuitton Challenger series and into the America's Cup in 2000. Scoring two valuable points today they shoot up the scoreboard and are now equal with Oracle in third place.

Back on land Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis, described how it had gone: "We knew it was going to be a long and difficult day. The wind was very light and shfty amd at times we sailed into patches of almost no wind. We have been, however, lucky to race on the course close to shore where the conditions were certainly better than those on course Juliet.

"It wasn't the perfect day for assessing the speed and performance of Luna Rossa after the modifications that we carried out last week, as the conditions were far too unstable. We did anyhow get a good feeling of ITA 74 and we ended the day with positive indications. We won both races today by playing well the frequent wind shifts rather than by having a faster boat. We now need more time to expose the boat to different weather patterns and other opponents".

Torben Grael, tactician on board Luna Rossa, added: "We have certainly started well this second Round Robin with an important day that brought us two precious points. These points will be very important for our placement in the general standings towards the quarter finals and the selection of the challengers in double chance and single chance groups.

"The boat feels faster and has responded well in today's conditions. These have been difficult races with many wind shifts and we are happy with the results even though the starts were not all that good. Considering that Mascalzone Latino was able today to put up an impressive first part of the race against OneWorld, I think that our result with them takes on a particular significance. Also in the race against Oracle our boat responded very well."

But the real surprise of today's lengthy proceedings was going on ahead of the Oracle v Prada match.

Fresh from their morning whipping by Prada and very much against all expectations it was the Italian underdogs Mascalzone Latino who showed the invincible OneWorld the way up the race track in their second match today. Vincenzo Oronato's team with Paolo Cian at the helm won the start and showed pace and a confidence up the beat that no one would have predicted. In America's Cup competition one lives for this kind of upset.

Mascalzone rounded the top mark 24 seconds ahead of Peter Gilmour's team and were still clinging onto their lead at the bottom mark. But by this stage the Italians were beginning to show their nerves. They overshot the layline into the leeward mark costing valuable seconds and despite making big gains from the same shift that had caused the second beat debacle between Prada and Oracle they were roundly trounced by the Americans, trailing the mighty OneWorld by 1:37 at the top mark rounding.

Once into the lead and despite the desperately large shifts of around 40degrees on this Romeo race course, OneWorld held on to their lead to win by 4:01 minutes.

Continued on page 4...

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