Peyron and Energy Team lead the field
Following yesterday’s gale in Venice, where we came down in the morning expecting to see the organisers pulling AC45s off rooftops, so the fickle Mediterranean was well behaved today with sunshine and an 8 knot breeze that built to double figures, providing a perfect opening day of racing for the nine AC45s contesting the America’s Cup World Series, on the waters just outside the Lido.
No doubt buoyed by his very recent fourth 49er World Championship victory, Nathan Outteridge and his largely British Team Korea crew of Mark Bulkeley, reigning (just) Finn World Champion Giles Scott, Matt Cornwell and Troy Tindell pulled off their first ACWS win in the first race – a first after their new Australian helmsman took over at the beginning of the year.
Team Korea's win came about partly thanks to the majority of the fleet being called OCS. Under the latest iteration of the rules instead of going back to restart, OCS boats now have to fall in behind the last boat to start properly. And so it was that Oracle Team USA–Bundock led around the all-important first mark with Korea just astern and Luna Rossa Swordfish on the outside. Of the remaining six that had started early Artemis made it out of the blocks fastest reaching the mark in fourth.
Bundock led around the leeward gate, but on the next beat Team Korea benefitted from the right to pull into the lead.
Oracle Team USA-Bundock held second until they suffered a problem with their genniker furler. The Olympic Tornado ace said later it was a problem with the furling drum or the swivel at the top - he wasn’t certain which. He added that generally today they were making too many mistakes partly due to two of their crew being new with Dirk de Ridder moving from Spithill’s boat to trim the main and team boss Russell Coutts coming on board.
“Russell is absolutely exhausted!” quipped Bundock after racing. “The first thing he did when he got to the shore is went for a massage. I think he is loving it. It is a new challenge for him. He is doing the tactics and the runners upwind and the main thing is gybing downwind. He is tailing the sheets and pumping the new sheet in. The boys aren’t being easy on him. I guess it could be the first time he’s had to tail...”
Terry Hutchinson and his crew on Artemis Racing did a fine come-back job, overhauling first Luna Rossa Swordfish and then Bundock on the third run, after which they continued to close in on the Koreans, ultimately finishing just 10 seconds behind having recovered from at one point being 52 seconds off the leader’s pace.
Outteridge and his crew were pleased with winning the Venice opener. “We had our expectations after Naples and to win our first race here was an awesome feeling. It was a little disappointing not to back it up, but to win one race we have the confidence to know we can do it again.”
In contrast, in race two there was a clean start with the Paul Campbell-James steered Luna Rossa–Swordfish once again starting at the committee boat end of the line, she just managed to sneak in front on Emirates Team New Zealand at the first turning mark. The French Energy Team with Loick Peyron back on the helm, replacing Yann Guichard (who is off campaigning his Spindrift Racing MOD70 in the ArMen Race), had pulled into second at the leeward gate. They then hung on to the Italian team around the course until coming into the leeward gate for the third time Luna Rossa-Swordfish got the layline call wrong allowing Energy Team to cruise past.
“We just underlay on the right hand mark, so it was either a double gybe to the right hand one or a single gybe to the left one and he [Loick] timed it pretty perfectly,” admitted Paul C-J.
Luna Rossa-Piranha ended up holding second, coming home 26 seconds behind the French.
In his normal ebbulient form, Loick Peyron announced to camera upon winning: “Look at that! Beautiful weather in Venice, snow on the mountains, and Energy Team at the top of the mountain today. The team did a tremendous job as usual. We still made mistakes, but a few less mistakes than the others, which is how you win.”
The racing was not ideal for overall 2011-12 AC World Series leader Oracle Team USA-Spithill posting a 8-4 to lie in an unfamiliar seventh place overall. “The morning started well with the Red Bull launch!” Spithill told us. “We just made too many mistakes. We had a bad start in the first race, but so did a few other teams. We just did a bad job of catch up. The second race was better: once again not a good start, but the guys did a real good job of fighting back. We’ll be pretty candid tonight – we’ll go through all of the footage and all the microphone stuff and we’ll make sure we learn everything we can from today.”
Spithill also had a poor first day in Naples... “We are on the up, no question about it, but we have just got to be better than this on the first day. There has to be consistency. We started off on the wrong foot. We battled back at the end which was good and you’d expect that.”
For Emirates Team New Zealand, second overall in the 2011-12 series just behind Spithill, it was only a little better posting a 5-4, although satisifyingly better in both races than Spithill, who they are obviously keen to topple and regain their overall lead in the ACWS.
After his momentus day on Saturday, Chris Draper, helm on Luna Rossa-Piranha said he was disappointed with their starting today: “Really frustrating after starting so well a few days ago, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. We have to have a think about that. We ticked a most of the boxes, but there were a few in our pre-start routine - we were busy thinking about jibs a bit too much and what sail to use and didn’t quite do everything we needed to. Still, the family is coming tonight – I always sail well when they are here.”
Conversely fellow Luna Rossa helm Paul Campbell-James said: “We got pretty good starts in Naples and we continued that today. Where in Naples we were losing a lot of boats, today we lost just one which happened to be Loick on the last run both times. So we are pretty happy: a 2nd and a 4th is a good first day race.”
C-J was less than happy about the outcome of today's match racing, losing to Spithill. “It was pretty interesting: In the second race we basically started in front of him, led him up to the first reach mark, he went in there, luffed us, got one penalty, blew it off on us straight away – so we got really hard done by at the first windward mark. Then we outsailed him, overtook him and then his team mate took us out at the last reach mark.” At the time Oracle Team USA-Bundock was starting their race as Luna Rossa Swordfish and Oracle Team USA-Spithill were finishing theirs... “They were coming along the reach and, put it this way, he didn’t do anything to get out of the way... So we were pretty disappointed by that.”
As a result of their matches today Energy Team, Artemis Racing, Oracle Team USA Spithill, and Luna Rossa Piranha are all advancing to the Semi Finals. You will note Emirates Team New Zealand is not among them, after they were knocked out 2-0 by Artemis Racing.
“We led both races at the mid-course mark and sailed away from them,” said skipper Terry Hutchinson of their matches against the Kiwis. “I can’t say enough of the work that Rodney [Ardern], Curtis [Blewitt] and Truby [Morgan Trubovich] and Andy [Feathers] do. Andy in particular he is a bowman/tactics/floater is the jack of all trades. He nailed a couple of laylines today just at the right time. Then the support that he gets from Curtis, the bowman. He carries a certain level of passion for racing the boat which is just really infectious. It is great. He is really good on the boat.”
While the boats were racing out in clear waters today, with an impressive turn-out of spectator craft lining the course boundaries to witness the action, tomorrow the racing returns to the narrow channels around Venice.
Darren Bundock is hoping his furling gear will be working. “It is going to be a whole different game - a lot more gybing, tacking and furling. It is going to be really interesting. I was here in 2009 for the Extreme Sailing Series and it is going to be really tight and we have also got extra boundaries in there as well, so hopefully they are going to be nice to us and keep the boundaries pushed out as far as possible. We’ll be seeing a lot of reaching and it will put more and more emphasis on the start and getting around that first mark in good shape, because it could turn into a bit of a follow the leader.”
Chris Draper was looking forward to it. He too sailed here in the Extreme Sailing Series. “We know it will be tight and there will be a lot of handling, so we’ve been focussing on that and a little bit of boat speed are going to be really useful. We have got some good height mode relative to the rest of the fleet. We have got some lovely sails – Mike Schreiber [ex-Alinghi] is the don and we have been working really hard on wing set up and we have learned a lot about that, so those are the things that are working on that front and fingers crossed as can improve on that and get it rolling a bit better tomorrow.”
Fleet Racing Championship – (after two races)
1. Energy Team…18 points
2. Luna Rossa Swordfish…16 points
3. Team Korea…15 points
4. Emirates Team New Zealand…13 points
5. Artemis Racing…13 points
6. Luna Rossa Piranha…12 points
7. Oracle Team USA-Spithill…10 points
8. Oracle Team USA-Bundock…7 points
9. China Team…4 points