A major start line collision knocked two America's Cup Class boats out of action at the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena today and led to a one-race disqualification for the French Aleph Sailing Team.
Aleph struck the stern of the Italian entry Azzurra as the boats sped down the start line with 35 seconds remaining to the start gun. No one was injured, but the bow of the French boat was knocked almost right off while the aft starboard quarter of the Italian boat was smashed in.
The Aleph team quickly published a statement apologising for the collision and subsequent damage.
The two boats involved are the BMW Oracle Racing boats USA98 and USA87 which have been chartered to the regatta organisers for the event. Oracle boatbuilders and technical experts were still assessing the damage tonight, but others were less hopeful of the prospects of the boats being back in action even in time for the final. This will certainly place further strain on the schedule.
“While unfortunate, this collision will not threaten the regatta,” said Bruno Troublé, spokesman for Louis Vuitton Trophy. “In Nice, one boat was damaged in a collision on the eve of the regatta, while in Auckland we had great racing with only one pair of boats. We will continue racing using the Mascalzone boats, while waiting for our very experienced team of 25 boatbuilders to complete repairs.”
To watch video of the crash, click on the LVT - Day 4 Highlights on Sail TV: http://www.thedailysail.com/multimedia/Sail-TV
Today’s conditions were perfect for racing with cloudless skies, bright sun, a westerly 12-14 knot breeze and flat seas, and Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio was able to complete five of six scheduled races.
Ben Ainslie and TeamOrigin have moved up into joint second place following their win today over the Franco-German ALL4ONE team.
The power of the right is forefront in everyone’s mind when they match race in any boat and with the fresher winds blowing in Sardinia today the ability to live on the wrong side of the prevailing shift and then use the starboard tack advantage proved TeamOrigin's strength today.
The British team entered the start box from the right and dominated the early part of the pre-start against their opponent. Ben Ainslie managed to hold the Jochen Schuemann steered ALL4ONE in a dial-up close to the pin end of the line for nearly two minutes before breaking off to manouevre out of danger for the remainder of the countdown.
The final approach to the start saw TeamOrigin to weather, on the right hand side with All4ONE a boatlength to leeward. The first few minutes of the beat saw the first shift go to the left inevitably giving the leeward boat the advantage forcing TeamOrigin away to the right. ALL4ONE tacked to cover and the pair sailed for quite a long time on port tack with the British boat slowly edging ahead. The course had become fairly one sided with a persistent left shift, but TeamOrigin had managed to stay sufficiently in touch to come back on starboard tack and force the opponent to tack to leeward. This was the turning point of the race although there was still plenty of action to come. It may be that ALL4ONE misjudged their leebow tack and couldn’t make the strong leeward position stick as the British boat, with a combination of excellent sailing and nerve, managed to hold their windward position for several minutes and pin their opponent out all the way and past the layline to the first mark.
When the pair eventually tacked back to port the Franco-German boat was again pinned on the outside and the British boat took them several hundred metres past the weather mark. Knowing that the wind had shifted far to the left Percy’s tactics worked beautifully as he positioned the pair to where TeamOrigin could turn a one boatlength advantage into a 150 metre advantage by gybing onto starboard as they set their spinnaker and laying straight down to the leeward gate. This was the masterstroke and allowed the advantage to stay with the British boat for the rest of the race. The puffy and shifty winds kept it close and the final margin at the finish a lap later was only five seconds.
Chris Brittle, Grinder, gave his thoughts on racing so far: “Everything feels really positive within the team right now, a very positive vibe exists on board. For sure we need to cut down on some small mistakes but it is all coming good and we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Bowman Matt Mitchell added: “A good day today and feels like we are getting better the more time we spend together on and off the boat. There is a great sense of humour among the team and I think that sets us apart from other teams. Onboard it feels settled and focused. All good.”
In a day filled with surprises, the Synergy Russian Sailing Team beat the new Luna Rossa crew, while the undefeated Swedish boat Artemis continued her winning ways with a victory over winless BMW Oracle Racing Team. Emirates Team New Zealand went down to Luna Rossa as American Ed Baird, skipper of the Italian boat and former coach for the Kiwis, dished out another lesson to his old pupil Dean Barker.
Blow by blow:
Flight Ten, Race One: Synergy Russian Sailing Team def Luna Rossa, 00:15 – Nice start by both boats. Karol Jablonski claimed the right as both boats came off the line together on starboard. At the weather mark, Jablonski came in on starboard and dialed down to force Baird away and lead by 16 seconds. The Russians controlled for the next three legs.
Flight Ten, Race Two: Artemis def BMW Oracle Racing, 00:16 – The start was owned by Terry Hutchinson driving the Swedish boat Artemis. After chasing James Spithill round the start box, Hutchinson led back for a perfect start, at the committee, with Spithill trailing astern by a boat length. Oracle short-tacked relentlessly through two upwind legs and clung to Artemis on two runs but the Swedish boat prevailed.
Flight Eleven, Race One: TEAMORIGIN def All4One, 00:05 – All4One led to the line with a clean start, followed by TEAMORIGIN on his hip. Ben Ainslie steering the British boat quickly tacked away and Sébastien Col soon followed. At the top mark Ainslie on starboard shut Col out and carry him far above the buoy. Ainslie converted that move to a 150 metre lead which All4One chiselled down to 37 metres on the final run as the breeze freshened.
Flight Eleven, Race Two: Azzurra def ALEPH Sailing Team, 00:00 – The Italian boat won after ALEPH was disqualified following the collision. Aleph was also assessed a penalty point and may face further sanctions.
The two boats were reaching down the start line with Azzurra leading when Bertrand Pacé, ALEPH’s veteran skipper, attempted to duck under his opponent’s stern in an attempt to control the start of the Italian boat. Azzurra, steered by Francesco Bruni was the right-of-way boat. There was hard contact about four metres from Azzurra’s transom.
On-the-water umpires immediately flew a black flag, disqualifying ALEPH from the race. They also docked her one penalty point. Tonight the jury will meet to consider whether further action is warranted. Azzurra was forced to abandon racing but was credited with a win.
“On our boat we had one guy calling the overlap, Tom Burnham, our non-Italian on board,” said Francesco Bruni, skipper of Azzurra. “He was calling that the boat was ‘blocked’ and yet two seconds later I see his bow coming down. Tom had his head smashed on the navigation roll bar on the back of the boat and he got some blood on his head - but just scratches, I think. We are partially happy about getting a point from today but we can’t enjoy the moment fully.”
Flight Twelve, Race One: Luna Rossa def Emirates Team New Zealand, 00:13 – Ed Baird on Luna Rossa claimed the right at the start but it was Dean Barker who started at speed on the left. In shifty conditions Luna Rossa took an early lead in the middle of the course while the Kiwis gained on the left. Baird carried them out beyond the port tack layline to round the top mark a boatlength in front. On the second beat the Kiwis again clawed back ground but Baird came across on starboard before the top mark to lock in the lead for the rest of the race.
Provisional win-loss leaderboard after Flight 12
=1. Artemis, 3-0, 3 points
=2. All4One, 2-1, 2 points
=2. Azzurra, 2-2, 2 points
=2. Synergy Russian Sailing Team, 2-0, 2 points
=2. TEAMORIGIN, 2-3, 2 points
=6. ALEPH Sailing Team, 2-2, 1 point *
=6. Emirates Team New Zealand, 1-1, 1 point
=6. Luna Rossa, 1-3, 1 point
=6. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, 2-1, 1 point *
=10. BMW Oracle Racing Team, 0-3, 0 points
From Stefano Gattini/Azzurra www.borlenghi.com
From Chris Cameron/Emirates Team NZ www.chriscameron.co.nz