Home win for Luna Rossa
In a perfect conclusion to the America’s Cup World Series in Naples, so British skipper Chris Draper steered Luna Rossa Piranha to victory in the final fleet race. Thanks to this being a heavily weighted single ‘winner takes all’ fleet race, Piranha did indeed take all, to claim overall victory in Naples, much to the delight of the thousands of assembled spectators lining the Naples shoreline.
“We’re very pleased with the event, with the team effort,” said Draper. “We didn't have huge expectations, but to come away with a first [in the fleet racing] and a second [in the match racing] is awesome."
Racing close in to the Naples shoreline, the wind was again light today with more rain, continuing the tradition of this regatta of having greatly varying conditions from day to day (this followed racing being blown off on Saturday). In the early stages of the race the wind was no more than 5 knots, marginal even for the powerful AC45s, with no hull flying and crews having to sit to leeward or hug the bowsprit to get going.
A significant feature of the start was Emirates Team New Zealand, leader in the fleet racing series going into the final day, being locked out behind Luna Rossa Swordfish at the committee boat. Dean Barker and the Kiwi crew never recovered from this. Luna Rossa Piranha, starting from the pin end, led around the all-important first corner followed by Oracle Racing Bundock, China Team (getting in another good start) and Oracle Racing Spithill.
The Chinese looked threatening, gybing early on the first run, but Draper held on to round the leeward gate with a 21 second lead, followed by China Team, their teammates on the Paul Campbell-James steered Swordfish, Energy Team, Artemis, Oracle Racing Spithill, with Emirates Team New Zealand second last to Team Korea.
With the wind going very soft on the first beat, Swordfish edged into second, but a fine call by John Kostecki to get Spithill to dig out to the left, caused them to pick up a giant left hand shift allowing them to lay the top mark when they tacked. From being 2.25 off the lead at the leeward gate, after a lengthy journey back up the course, Spithill closed to round the top mark 22 seconds behind Luna Rossa Piranha.
Swordfish approached the weather mark in third, but were low on the layline and in attempting to shoot the mark came to halt and were penalised as Artemis came in on port. They never recovered from this penalty.
On the run as Luna Rossa Piranha came to a near standstill, Spithill was able to reduce her lead rounding the leeward gate just 14 seconds behind as Artemis moved up to third, rounding the gate more than a minute later. Fortunately the breeze filled in again up to around 8 knots, enough to transform the racing with the boats hull flying once again on the beat, crews hiking. Draper made the best of this to extend Luna Rossa Piranha’s lead reaching the weather mark 39 seconds ahead of Spithill, the course now heavily skewed and reducing passing opportunities.
From here Draper hung on to win in front of the home crowd, finishing 1.15 ahead of Oracle Racing Spithill, Artemis Racing and Energy Team, with a big gap back to Team Korea, Oracle Racing Bundock, with Emirates Team New Zealand coming home seventh ahead of China Team and last placed Luna Rossa Swordfish.
“It was really hard. It was so light, and there was so much chop left over,” said Draper upon finishing. “The second run was horrible. We knew they were going to struggle, but the boys did a god job.”
Spithill praised his long term tactician John Kostecki for picking the shift on the first beat that had brought them back into contention. “We got a little stuck off the start line, were ordinary for a while,” Spithill said. “The key thing was hanging in there and looking for the opportunities, and there were plenty out there. JK (tactician John Kostecki) and the guys did a very nice job… In those sorts of conditions you can go from hero to zero in a matter of seconds. We knew we just had to hang tough and wait for the opportunities. The guys found some good ways back and got us up there.”
Spithill added that there was still room for improvement, particularly after their lacklustre second day racing in Naples. But their second place today moved Oracle Racing Spithill to the top of the 2011-12 AC World Series Championship leaderboard, now leading Emirates Team New Zealand to by just one point after four events.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Match Racing Championship was decided when Terry Hutchinson and his Artemis Racing team took advantage of a pre-start mistake by Chris Draper’s team to lead Luna Rossa all the way around the course. This victory was a vindication of sorts for Artemis, who had capsized in the first race of the regatta, damaging their wing and being shut out of the points on Wednesday.
“I can't say enough about the effort from the guys on the boat and on the shore,” Hutchinson said. “After Wednesday, we’d have taken today's result, that's for sure. Our team trainer says it's not how you fall down, but how you get up. Now we have to come back in a few weeks in Venice and work on our consistency.”
No records were set in today’s AC500 Speed Trials, as the light winds meant the fastest runs came at the end, during a brief period of stronger conditions. Oracle Racing Bundock was able to fend off Artemis Racing by just 0.02 seconds to post the fastest time.
A particular feature of the America’s Cup World Series in Naples has been the enthusiastic turnout by the spectators, even in torrential rain, many there to support the local teams, Luna Rossa.
“We sailed along the shore after the finish and it's insane to see how many people are here,” said Luna Rossa’s Draper. “As a sailor you'd never imagine having so many people watching. It's great for the sport, and great to be part of an Italian team in front of all these people. We're very proud.”
The America’s Cup World Series now packs up and moves north to Venice, for the fifth stop on the circuit in May.
Fleet Racing Championship - standings (after seven races):
1. Luna Rossa - Piranha (Helmsman: Chris Draper); 92 points
2. ORACLE Racing - Spithill (Skipper: James Spithill); 77 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (Skipper: Dean Barker); 60 points
4. Energy Team (Skipper: Yann Guichard); 54 points
5. Team Korea (Skipper: Nathan Outteridge); 49 points
6. Luna Rossa - Swordfish (Helmsman: Paul Campbell-James); 41 points
7. Artemis Racing (Skipper: Terry Hutchinson); 40 points
8. ORACLE Racing - Bundock (Skipper: Darren Bundock); 37 points
9. China Team (Skipper: Fred Le Peutrec); 15 points
Match Racing Championship – Sunday’s races
Final – Artemis Racing beat Luna Rossa Piranha
SF1 – Artemis Racing beat Luna Rossa Swordfish
SF2 – Luna Rossa Piranha beat ORACLE Racing Bundock
From Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand:
From Guilain Grenier/Oracle Racing:
From Sander van der Borch/Artemis Racing:
From Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa: