Another victorious day for Luna Rossa
The full spectacle of America’s Cup World Series racing in Venice was on display today as the nine AC45s went into battle on a crowd and spectator boat-lined Canal Grande, with a turning mark off the top landmark of St Marks’ Square.
Two races were held (plus an unofficial third race that will only score if racing on Sunday is canned) and both were won by Luna Rossa – the Paul Campbell-James steered Swordfish claiming race one (and race three) and Piranha, helmed by Chris Draper, taking the second, much to the woops of delight from the massive home crowd.
While the spectacle scored highly, the narrow race course represented a massive challenge for the crews or as Paul C-J accurately described it - a ‘boathandling-off’. The AC45s are all fitted with a light display that warn the crew if a course boundary line is approaching, but on this ‘inside’ course a crew would gybe and within a blink of an eye the proximity warning would be flashing again. And this was in light conditions with around 7-8 knots of wind. It is hard to imagine how the crews would have coped if it had been blowing 20 knots.
In race one while Oracle Team USA-Bundock was fastest out of the blocks, it was Emirates Team New Zealand, hoping to reverse the average (by their standards) performance yesterday, who nosed ahead on the blast to the first mark with Luna Rossa-Swordfish and Energy Team following close behind.
Emirates Team New Zealand did a fine job of fending off Swordfish’s advances heading down the Canal Grande towards St Marks Square, until the final gybe into the leeward gate when the Italian team chose a better layline into the mark allowing them to sneak ahead of the Kiwis.
Upwind and into clean air Paul Campbell-James and his team appeared to be much more powered up as behind several boats incurred penalities for course boundary infringements. By the weather mark Luna Rossa-Swordfish had extended to 33 seconds over the Kiwis with Energy Team closing in third. Even Swordfish managed to incur a penalty for crossing a course boundary on her first gybe out of the windward gate. C-J later attributed this to a momentary lapse of concentration after the mark rounding. Fortunately her lead was large enough for this to matter not one jot.
The wind was typically getting lighter towards the leeward mark and Luna Rossa-Swordfish continued to extend down the run, ahead by 1.13 at the second leeward mark rounding. There was some drama on the second beat on Emirates Team New Zealand when their passenger fell over the back of the netting during a tack (we’ve been waiting for this to happen). Fortunately he managed to hang on and haul himself back on board.
From here Luna Rossa-Swordfish continued to extend and after the next run and short dash towards the finish they picked up the bullet, much to the thrill of the home fans. This represented Paul C-J’s first race win during in his short tenure in the America’s Cup World Series, Swordfish finishing 1:34 ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand in second with third-placed Energy Team 2:03 behind the leader.
For the second race the pin was more favoured at the start with the two Luna Rossa boats nearest the committee boat, but still halfway down the line. In this Oracle Team USA-Bundock got the best start to lead around the reaching mark with the two Luna Rossa in hot pursuit and Oracle Team USA-Spithill in fourth.
Even with Russell Coutts in Bundock’s crew there seemed to be confusion over where the next mark was and there were audible sighs of relief when the race committee came on the radio that they had all successfully passed it.
Down towards the end of the run, as conditions got light and the channel got narrow, there was a significant compression between the leaders. As Oracle Racing-Bundock and Luna Rossa-Swordfish got tied up on the city side of the race course, so Chris Draper and Luna Rossa-Piranha managed to keep out of harm’s way, sneaking past both boats on the opposite side of the course. At the leeward gate Piranha lead around 18 seconds ahead of second placed Energy Team. Unfortunately the mark rounding was more dramatic for the later boats with Emirates Team New Zealand running into the starboard transom of Oracle Team USA-Bundock, for which Bundock was penalised, moving the Kiwis up to third.
“They had buoy room, but I thought we were going to have speed to get through and get out of the way before they got there,” explained Bundock. “We came into the mark really slow and low and they came in with more pace and there was current there and we couldn’t get away. It was little bit of a glance on the scoop – it is not structural.”
As in the first race, the rich got considerably richer with Chris Draper’s team eventually taking the win by a substantial 1:28 ahead of Energy Team with Oracle Team USA-Spithill finally getting the America’s Cup defenders on to the podium at this regatta, finishing 2:02 after the leaders.
Chris Draper said that their general principle of the day was to stay out of trouble: “There were a lot of rule scenarios which were very different to what we have all grown up with, mark rounding and coming into the boundaries and whether you were in the zone and it was so easy to get pickled. We generally tried to stay away from boats and that did us proud and I think we’ll try and do the same for the next few days.”
Of how they got ahead he said: “The guys did some beautiful gybes on the first downwind, especially when we came right into the really tight zone and poor Bundy got a bit out of sequence with everyone and kept on coming back against the boats on starboard when he was on port and because of that a few boats managed to sneak through and the guys did a great job of pulling the manoeuvres off just when we needed them and that gave us that race basically.”
However Draper was not overly impressed with the reaching mark today: “Going into the reaching mark was a bit nervy whether or not you were going to get given room or not by someone. It is the way it has to be really with the course format but it wasn’t a great thing to have – it split the fleet very suddenly. I wonder if they will do something about that tonight for the races tomorrow.”
With her third and second placed finishes today Loick Peyron’s Energy Team has been by far the most consistent in this regatta to lead by 35 points ahead of the two Luna Rossa boats.
So how is life at the top of the mountain? “It is still a nice view. The two sides are pretty sharp, so be careful. It is pretty easy to fall down...” said Peyron.
Running out of steam with that metaphor, he continued: “It was quite good apart from two really bad starts. It is good to show what we can do, but again it was a bit of lucky and also sometimes here and there on a downwind course like that, the clean air we had coming from behind was helpful to slalom between the other boats.”
|1||Energy Team||Loick Peyron||3||1||3||2||35|
|2||Luna Rossa - Swordfish||Paul Campbell-James||4||2||1||6||31|
|3||Luna Rossa - Piranha||Chris Draper||5||5||4||1||29|
|4||Emirates Team New Zealand||Dean Barker||6||3||2||4||29|
|5||Team Korea||Nathan Outteridge||1||6||6||5||26|
|6||ORACLE TEAM USA - Spithill||Jimmy Spithill||8||4||8||3||21|
|7||Artemis Racing||Terry Hutchinson||2||7||7||7||21|
|8||ORACLE TEAM USA - Bundock||Darren Bundock||7||8||5||8||16|
|9||China Team||Phil Robertson||9||9||9||9||8|
The surprise of the last two days have been the poor performances of the ‘big’ teams with Artemis in lowly seventh place overall sandwiched by Oracle Racing-Spithill and –Bundock respectively. Bundock is still providing the explanation that their downturn in performance at this regatta is due to them swapping half of their crews.
On Artemis Racing (for whom there was some salvation coming home second in the unofficial race three – the ‘fluffer race’ as he calls it), a frustrated Terry Hutchinson was again blaming his poor starting: “I just started poorly - nothing more or less complicated than that. I’d like to say it was something we were doing right or wrong. We weren’t putting our boat up into the front row – we were lurking back a little bit and it was not a good strategy. But there are opportunites and I’m sure we’ll debrief, in particular the second race where Energy was around the mid-course mark in last and they sailed their way up to second. It will be interesting to see how they did that.”
Even many of the skippers - who have a relatively easy time of it compared to the rest of the crew on the AC45 - looked exhausted as they came off the water today. “It is very very hard physically,” admitted Chris Draper. “I was trying to limit the number of gybes the lads had to do,” he said of why he had managed to pick up a couple of course boundary infringements on the final run. “It was good fun, but it is certainly tricky.
“I am pretty sure Freddie [Carr] was sick over the front beam at the bottom of the run in the second race - they were working so hard. There wasn’t a moment someone wasn’t grinding - sadly I think it is a bit of an eye-opener for the 72s.
“With the Extreme 40s when we were racing here you could sail much deeper angles and we could sail to the walls as the boundary, but today the boundaries were quite a long way off the walls so it was really narrow particularly in one spot.”
A weary-looking Francesco Bruni, who calls tactics for Draper (as well many other jobs on board) summed it up: “Out of 100 – 105%. I am destroyed. Even when I sailed the Laser, this is almost too much. I think it is good for young people. I am getting a little too old for this! Today we reacted better than the other teams. We are gaining in every gybe and every tack and we are in great shape. Obviously I am super tired, but it is all relative to the other guys, and tomorrow we are going to be strong again.”
Darren Bundock said: “Getting bounced around by all those boundaries - it wasn’t as hard for me as the guys at the front who are doing all the work, tacking and gybing... It was an exhausting day for them. We saw a physical side of the sport today.”
Racing also takes place on the Grand Canale tomorrow and Sunday.