First two eliminated
TeamOrigin won their must-win race today against the Franco-German team led by Sebastien Col and Jochen Schuemann on All4One in the first elimination round of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland. All4One is now out of the competition as is Synergy Russian Sailing Team. Conversely top seed from the round robins, Emirates Team New Zealand and second-ranked Mascalzone Latino Audi Team both won their races and now go directly through to Friday’s semi-finals.
After a dreadful Tuesday when they lost both their races, the British team had a more comfortable race against All4One.
The format was today's racing was confusing, the round robins being effectively a seeding for today's 'sudden death' competition. In this the two top seeded winners would go through while the top bottom seeded losers would be eliminated. So if top ranked Emirates Team NZ had lost to bottom ranked Synergy Russian Sailing Team (which they didn't) both teams would have gone through to tomorrow's second elimination round.
After a short postponement due to strong winds increasing to 25 knots, beyond the maximum limit allowed for the competition, the warning signal was fired at 1245 (local) by which time onditions had stabilised at 17-20 knots.
With TeamOrigin coming in from the left, All4One ducked around their transom as TeamOrigin went for the dial-up. After some circling deep within the box, the boats were relatively even and at full tilt off the line on starboard with the Brits perhaps an inch or so ahead and to weather. Both boats headed off to the port layline, the Brits controlling the situation, All4One unable to tack. TeamOrigin edged ahead up the beat until All4One were forced to tack off in order to avoid the exclusion zone around Bean Rock on the left hand side of the course. Ainslie and his team responded, covered the Franco-German team tack for tack for the remainder of the beat to round the top mark ahead by 17 seconds.
All4One gybed after the mark, but were slow on the hoist allowing TeamOrigin to extend further, although All4One pulled back to make the leeward gate 20 seconds behind.
British tactician Iain Percy calling the shots for Ben Ainslie, was on the look-out to stay in phase with the shifts and the moves of the French/German team and the crew were making it look comfortable, extending to almost five boat lengths by the second weather mark rounding. On the last downwind leg was the race's only heart in mouth moment when TeamOrigin suffered a small issue with a spinnaker sheet and tear in the kite. They lost some distance, but managed to control it by flying the spinnaker off the tack line while they sorted out the problem. They managed to hold the lead to win by 27 seconds.
Percy commented on the race win: “Ben gave us an excellent start, he really is the best in the business on that front, from there I was confident to head right, we had to keep it tight over such a short race course and from there on in it was a pretty classic match race. “
When asked about the difference to yesterday’s team performance he added, “That’s just match racing, a couple of things could have gone the other way yesterday and we might have had two wins. The most important thing is to ‘up’ our game after a bad day and move forward. We have to keep the playing field level – whether a good or bad day, the key is never to make the same mistake twice. We are still pretty new to this game so we need to keep moving forward. The racing is so close here with some real quality competition on the course, and for sure no team here is ever going to hand you a race win!”
Mike Sanderson, Team Director, summed up the day, “A really good day for us today, it’s nice to know that when the pressure is on we can sail a good race and get the results we need. We had to go out and win in order to keep control of our destiny into the next round.”
While the Origin match was the second of the day, the day’s opener was between Artemis and the Italians on Azzurra, which finished fifth and 4th respectively in the Round Robin phase with the Paul Cayard/Terry Hutchinson led Swedish team taking the win.
Aleph, the seventh seed, was eliminated in the third race of the day by Mascalzone Latino Audi Team.
Aleph's French skipper Bertrand Pacé was already planning for the next Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta in La Maddalena, Sardinia, but was quick to praise the boats and the organization in Auckland. “It was a fantastic regatta,” he said. “The wind was hard to sail, the boats were fantastic as well. We enjoy a lot sailing these boats. For us it was a great event. For sure I thank all the Kiwi organisers. I still love Auckland. Even though Grant Dalton doesn’t like losing to the French!”
Karol Jablonski, the veteran Polish match racer who skippers the Synergy Russian Sailing Team, which lost today to Emirates Team New Zealand, was philosophical: “We are out, but we sailed a good race,” he said. Noting the crew’s lack of opportunity to practice, he added, “the crew work was coming along, but obviously in these tough conditions 22-23 knots with current against you, you need more hours on the water together.
“We were just missing a little bit in every department, not only crew work, my timing, our trimming, our boat speed, our tactician, our calls where we go - it was everything. You know you’ve got to have a chain that doesn’t have a weak, weak, weak link. And we had some weak pieces. During the event, we got stronger, and I think today we showed quite good performance.”
Paul Cayard, skipper of Artemis and chairman of the World Sailing Teams Association that is a co-organizer of the event with Louis Vuitton, summed up the day. “It’s a big breeze today and exciting for our fans and exciting for us,” he said. “It’s fantastic racing. We’re flirting with that threshold of tolerable winds and so far, so good, we’re dancing on the right side of it. We’re providing spectacular racing.”
Tomorrow the remaining four teams go through to the second elimination round which is a best of three series. The two winners of this will go through to the semi-finals. Standing besides a glistening, flood-lit America's Cup in a formal ceremony at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, third-seeded All4One skipper Jochen Schuemann chose to race Italy's Azzurra. This will leave Artemis to race TeamOrigin.
Order of racing tomorrow:
Race 1/Match A : TeamOrigin vs Artemis
Race1/Match B : ALL4ONE vs Azzurra
Race 2/Match A : TeamOrigin vs Artemis
Race2/Match B : ALL4ONE vs Azzurra
Possible Race 3/Match A : TeamOrigin vs Artemis
Possible Race 3/Match A : TeamOrigin vs Artemis
Race One: Artemis def. Azzurra, 00:32 – After a brisk circling duel the boats hardened up for the line on starboard with Artemis to weather. “We wanted the right. We’d have preferred more distance between the boats but we had enough gauge to live through the first shift,” Artemis skipper Paul Cayard said later. The right paid and Artemis forced the port tack Azzurra steered by Francesco Bruni away at the first cross. The boats were evenly matched in a series of quick tacks up the 1.3-mile weather leg but Artemis controlled, to lead by two lengths at the top mark. They forged down the run with big bow waves, touching 15 knots at times. Artemis extended at the leeward mark as Azzurra struggled to get the chute down.
Race Two: TeamOrigin def. All4One, 00:27 – Faced with the possibility of elimination today, this was a must-win for sixth-seeded TeamOrigin, and Ben Ainslie and his crew rose to the occasion. They circled warily with the German/French boat steered by Sébastien Col. Both boats wanted the right but the British prevailed and hit the line at speed on starboard and to weather of All4One. They were bow to bow off the line but TeamOrigin held strong in the weather berth and edged ahead. After five minutes, as the trailing All4One came over on port, Ainslie had sufficient clearance to tack clear ahead directly in their path. “It was an early gain, and then they controlled the race,” said All4One skipper Jochen Schumann. “We will see if it gets a little lighter now - some of these teams are really strong in the heavy breeze, with good crew work and a lot of power.”
Race Three: Mascalzone Latino Audi def. ALEPH, 00:59 – Faced with the threat of elimination, seventh seed French boat ALEPH entered the start box from the unfavored end. Mascalzone Latino Audi skipper Gavin Brady controlled his opponent Bertrand Pacé all through the pre-start, pushing him outside the starboard layline, then leading back to win the start. Pacé trailed by three boat lengths at the top mark and then gybe-set on a big left shift. Fate struck and his spinnaker exploded during the hoist. The race was Brady’s and the French were going home. “They chose a risky manoeuvre at the weather mark,” said ML Audi tactician Morgan Larson. “Had they not torn their spinnaker they probably would have been bow-even with us on the run.
Race Four: Emirates Team New Zealand def. Synergy Russian Sailing Team, 00:15 – With no wins in the regatta, Karol Jablonski’s Russian team had to win to survive for the next stage. They almost pulled it off but fell victim to uneven crew work. Emirate’s Dean Barker started at the committee end on starboard but he left just enough room to weather for Jablonski who squeezed through the gap before tacking off to port. The right paid and the Russians led at the top mark. The Kiwi spinnaker set was flawless but Jablonski’s crew, two boat lengths ahead, crumbled under the pressure as Barker sailed through their lee. The Russians made more unforced errors but they continued to play the right and were only 15 seconds astern at the finish. “Every race against ETNZ, is going to be a tough one for us, you’re racing against one of the best teams in the world,” Jablonski said. “That team has sailed together for a long, long time. In one match with them you learn a lot. You do a small mistake, and you lose.”