Wacky races on the Hauraki Gulf

Top day for Prada and GBR Challenge

Wednesday October 23rd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia

Having had the plug pulled on the matches in the morning the four teams on Juliet course had to wait out on the Gulf until 1600 before the wind reestablished and another attempt made to stage them. But it was well worth the wait.

Again the start between GBR Challenge and Stars & Stripes was relatively even, both boats attacking the line at speed, but this time it was Beadsworth who got the upper handed sending Wight Lightning forging out towards the left hand side of the course. But showing marginally better speed upwind the Americans got the better of the Brits and led them around the top mark by 1:06 minutes.

And so ensued one of the most nerve racking matches of the challenger series to date...

Once again Wight Lightning showed pace downwind, sailing deeper angles under their monster masthead spinnaker. In this configuration they caught up with Stars & Stripes and as they approached the leeward mark simply outpaced them to round 17 seconds ahead.

On the next beat Stars & Stripes again showed their speed and played catch up as the boats headed for the right hand side of the course. As they engaged, Stars & Stripes put in a dummy tack to which GBR70 responded and the two boats went through a severe tacking duel. Stars & Stripes, the America's Cup veterans, showed superior boat handling in this, but the GBR Challenge still broke away from this waterborne dogfight without having lost much ground and rounded the weather mark 34 seconds ahead.

Coming down the second run Stars & Stripes were again on the attack. Adrian Stead said afterwards that because of the closeness of the rounding at the top mark, they had had to respond more to Stars & Stripes advances. Because of this they had not been able to show the blistering downwind pace they had on the previous lap. Coming into the leeward mark it looked as though the Americans had caught them until Stars & Stripes lost a desperate port-starboard encounter that caused them to be red-flagging forcing them to carry out an immediate penalty turn.

Despite this advantage GBR Challenge appeared to lose the lead again up the third beat, yet managed to regain it to round the top mark for the third time ahead by a 37 second margin and were able to hold on to lead finishing first by 0:46 seconds.

This tremendous result at the end of a nailbiter of a race - if America's Cup racing could be described as such - bumps Peter Harrison's team up to third equal on five points alongside the 'big boys' Prada and Oracle.

Needless to say, at the end of a long day and with the sun setting over Auckland, there were no such surprises in the Alinghi versus Le Defi 'match'.

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