TeamOrigin off to a poor start
The savage gusts and roiling waves of last week's mistral were a distant memory today as just two races were sailed in light and benign conditions at the opening day of the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena.
Unforced errors bedevilled both races. Spinnaker problems aboard Great Britain’s TeamOrigin led to a victory for France’s Alpeh Sailing Team, while Italy’s Mascalzone Latino Audi won after Italy’s Azzurra never recovered from a penalty awarded for early entry into the starting box.
Conditions were promising as the boats docked out from the Porto Arsenale this morning under cloudless skies. The forecast called for the light northerly to build to seven to ten knots. There were plans for three flights with two races in each, and provision for a fourth flight if everything went to schedule. However the wind was slow to arrive and racing was delayed for 75 minutes.
Race One: Alpeh Sailing Team def TeamOrigin, 01:06 – Britain’s TeamOrigin exploited their right-hand entry in a light northerly and the French boat Aleph split off to the left at the gun. Bertrand Pacé at the wheel of Aleph had a meager lead the first two times they met but Ben Ainslie had the starboard advantage and forced the French away.TeamOrigin’s lead was 14 seconds at the top mark. Halfway down the run, a disastrous gybe in light airs wrapped the British kite in a baulky figure-eight that led to a very untidy firedrill. Ainslie revealed later that the spinnaker sheets had been rigged for an outside gybe instead of an inside that resulted in the twist.
Aleph enjoyed a five boat-length lead at the leeward mark. The race was theirs, although tempered by some anxious moments closing the finish as they sailed into light air and conceded some ground.
"It might not be a symbolic victory, but it is a valuable point! We are happy to take it,” said Pacé. “TeamOrigin made a better choice on the start. We wanted the left and we had it; they wanted the right and they also had it. Then at the first crossing we were lacking ten meters to cross in front of them. We were still behind at the upwind mark. Luckily for us, they made a big mistake when gybing and we took over the lead rather easily.”
Ainslie said: “It was pretty frustrating, we were in a nice little spot. But one of those classics: one little mistake which led to a couple more mistakes which led to a race-losing mistake. We had an issue with the spinnaker sheets being led outside when - with it being very light - they should have been led inside. It was a mistake of how it was set up.”
Iain Percy, Tactician, commented after the race, “We are naturally disappointed to lose the first race, especially given it was due to an unforced error. The format of racing here means its all about performance at the end of the regatta so we need to take some positives out of the fact that we did the hard stuff well, had a good start and led at the top mark – that said, we do need to convert some of these races into race wins sooner rather than later.”
Andrew Simpson, Strategist, added, “It was pretty light winds, we preferred the right and they took the left, it was not a hard fought start. Our side did seem to pay off and we lead around the first mark so all was going according to plan. We matched the first gybe but were set up for outside and not inside gybes and a lack of slack led to a twist that was the killer blow for the race. We pushed hard to get back into the race and made some inroads but the French had a healthy lead and took the win.”
In the other match of flight 1, Mascalzone Latino were up against Azzurra and Azzura managed to take an early penalty by entering the start box too soon so were disadvantaged from the start. Mascalzone Latino went on to take the race win by 2 minutes and 27 seconds – the first of many inter-Italian battles for sure!
Race Two: Mascalzone Latino Audi def Azzurra, 2:27 – It was billed as a top race of the day between rival Italian teams with strong ties to the region. Mascalzone Latino, the host team, in a duel with Azzurra, racing under the colors of Sardinia’s Yacht Club Costa Smerelda. Expectations of a battle royale dimmed at the five-minute gun when Azzurra was penalised for early entry to the start box. Azzurra’s Francesco Bruni kept the pressure on, gaining on some shifts and losing in others but then faced the ignominy of a slow finish. His boat remained stuck in a windless patch as Mascalzone Latino’s Gavin Brady sailed away to a 2:27 lead. Azzurra never completed her penalty turn.
Bruni said: “We were relying too much on the instruments as we approached the start box and so we paid the price for believing in electronics rather than ourselves. So we were given a penalty. After that my mind went blank for the next five minutes, and we should have got a much better start than we did. For that, I have to take all the blame. However at one point we believed we scored a penalty against Mascalzone Latino, but unfortunately the umpire did not agree. So no penalty!”
Brady said: “Azzurra is a very dangerous team to sail against in light air. They proved that in Nice last year. They are very good in those conditions. What I liked about today was that our team kept their composure when things were really tricky and we had to make some big decisions.”
The two flights not raced today will be pushed back to allow tomorrow’s matches to remain on the original schedule. They are:
All4One v Azzurra
Aleph v BMW Oracle Racing
Luna Rossa v Mascalzone Latino Audi Team
Team Origin v Artemis
Emirates Team New Zealand v Aleph
Azzurra v Synergy