Emirates Team NZ undefeated
Whitewater on the deck, whitecaps on Waitemata Harbour and warning whistles on the onboard overload alarms characterised the high tempo sailing action today at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland regatta.
Hotly tipped to be the race to watch of this Round Robin phase was Ainslie v Barker; TeamOrigin v Emirates Team New Zealand. With streaming sunshine, visibility clear as a bell, wind direction 235, wind speed 15/16 knots, the talk was of a building breeze so the aim was to get all four flights completed by 15:00.
The warning signal went at 10:20 for the TeamOrigin vs ETNZ start. Both teams started circling in the start box almost immediately, both afterguards gunning for the pin end. ETNZ crossed the line slightly ahead, but with TeamOrigin able to tack off and claim the right hand favoured side of the beat.
TeamOrigin quickly went bow forward in good pressure on the right of the pair and at the first cross had gained the advantage. Both teams tacked off to their respective sides again with the Brits maintaining control of the right. The second time the pair converged TeamOrigin’s advantage had grown allowing Ainslie and his team to extend, consolidate and keep control.
Approaching the windward mark TeamOrigin was forced to tack twice to get around wheras the New Zealanders had found a better layline and managed to gain back quite a bit of distance to round just 14 seconds behind. The pressure was back on on the downwind, where a substantial wind shift saw both boats able to lay stay on the same gybe until the bottom third of the run, ETNZ hustling to cast a wind shadow on the Brits but not quite managing to get close enough. As the pair approached the bottom gate, the pressure mounted on board TeamOrigin with ETNZ breathing right down their necks. Another sudden but significant wind shift caused the afterguard on TeamOrigin to change the call on the spinnaker drop manoeuvre leaving not enough time for the foredeck crew to respond.
In a few moments of drama, the change of gybe call caused the spinnaker pole on TeamOrigin to drop into the water and break – impeding the headsail from being hoisted and the spinnaker from being dropped - a huge calamity for the British team forcing them to retire from the race altogether leaving the Kiwis to sail away and gain a ‘come from behind’ victory and their third win of this series.
“It was a bit of mess,” Ainslie said of the incident, adding: “A good start and a bad ending. Everything happened very quickly at the end of the bottom run, we made a mistake of trying to do something we could not pull off – a lesson learnt for sure.”
Mike Sanderson, Team Director gave his views on the day’s action: "Obviously a frustrating result, we did lots of the hard stuff well. We had a great start, a strong first beat on the side we wanted to be on and we led at the top mark. We then chose the aggressive option at the bottom mark and did not manage to pull it off. The more training we do, the more options we open up to chose from to react to situations and sadly we crossed that line today and could not pull off that manoeuvre. The positives of leading at the first top mark in all the races we have done so far is important and may make or break some of the races later on in this event.”
Barker gave the Kiwi perspective: “It was all go coming into the bottom mark,” he said. “We have confidence in our crew work. If we get behind we’re able to keep the pressure on and keep fighting hard. Today it worked well. They made a mistake. Ignoring what happened, if they had been able to get around the mark it would have been an interesting race. We had made a big gain and it would have been some tough racing. They are sailing well.”
Following their third victory, Emirates Team New is now the only team undefeated at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland, while three teams each have a 2-1 record: the German/French team All4One, the Swedish team Artemis and Azzurra from Italy.
Racing moved closer to the city front today as the southwester funneled down the harbour, with puffs into the low 20-knot range as the day wore on. The weather mark was between the container wharves and the Devonport Dockyard.
Race One: Emirates Team New Zealand def. TeamOrigin, Ret. – Ben Ainslie steering Britain’s TeamOrigin, fought for the right while ETNZ skipper Dean Barker went for the left. As they hit the start line, the Kiwi boat with a safe leeward forced their opponent away. However, the first beat belonged to Ainslie. Nine fast tacks later at the port layline,TeamOrigin enjoyed a three boat-length lead. The top mark margin was 14 seconds before Barker slowly soaked down on his opponent and picked up more ground with smoother sail handling. With ETNZ close astern and the pressure piling on, it all turned to custard on the British boat as they prepared to drop the spinnaker at the leeward gate.
Race Two: All4One def. Azzurra, 00:46 – Race umpires had their work cut out with multiple incidents and protests in series of heavy-air skirmishes between Francesco Bruni steering Azzurra and Sébastien Col on the wheel of the German/French All4One. The Italian boat locked out her opponent above the line before the start but Col escaped at the last minute to get back and lead at the gun. Azzurra controlled from the right side but after All4One gained ground in a series of tacks, her tactician John Cutler forced the Italians beyond the starboard layline and above the mark. Col was able to lead back and rounded first in a flurry of protests, all green-flagged. With the wind over 20 knots and the boats pushing white water, they went down the run side by side. Cutler made the call to again take their opponents past the mark. The Italian sail handling suffered under the pressure and Azzurra trailed badly on the last two legs.
John Cutler, Tactician for All4One commented: "I think the key in this match was good crew work, good boat control, even when things were not going our way, everyone kept it together. We turned a difficult situation into the start to being close enough to put pressure on Azzurra up on the first leg. Good tacking, really good grinding, good driving by Sebastien Col: we just kept coming back at them, and at the end we managed to squeeze them out at the top mark, which was really good for us. We then kept control of the race, even if they were putting pressure on us. The team is very motivated, as it is tough: we've been practicing in light conditions, waiting for the breeze. Then today we had to go straight into 15 to 23 knots of wind. It's a struggle to react, and we know it is going to be windy the next few days. So I think everybody is like "yep, we know how to sail when it's windy. We look forward to racing tomorrow and hopefully get another point." One day at a time!"
Race Three: Mascalzone Latino Audi def. ALEPH Sailing Team, 00:55 – Bertrand Pacé’s French ALEPH team used their starboard tack entry to advantage in a pre-start circling duel that took both boats deep into the starting box. The start, with both boats on starboard, was close but Gavin Brady steering ML Audi Team, enjoyed an advantage for a few seconds before ALEPH edged in front. The two boats swapped the lead several times up the first half of the beat until Brady, to weather of his opponent, pushed the French boat out beyond the starboard layline. The Italian boat led into the top mark and consolidated its gains on the next three legs.
Race Four: Artemis def. Synergy Russian Sailing Team 00:41 – Skipper Karol Jablonski, steering the Russian boat, engaged Terry Hutchinson at the wheel of Paul Cayard’s Artemis in a lively pre-start duel only to be penalized for gybing too close. The boats hit the line together at speed with Artemis to weather. Seconds later Hutchinson tacked and split away and initiated a tacking duel that took the Swedish boat into the lead. The Russians pushed hard and kept it close around all four legs but finished 41 seconds astern after completing their penalty turn.
Provisional leaderboard after Flight Three:
1. Emirates Team New Zealand, 3-0
=2. All4One, 2-1
=2. Artemis, 2-1
=2. Azzurra, 2-1
=5. ALEPH Sailing Team, 1-2
=5. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, 1-2
=5. TEAMORIGIN, 1-2
8. Synergy Russian Sailing Team, 0-3