Bruni and Luna Rossa win the day
The America's Cup World Series in Naples came to the ideal conclusion today with a win not only by the lone Italian team but by the team's lone Italian helmsman, much to the ecstasy of the giant spectator gathering on the Neapolitan shore.
Luna Rossa Swordfish, helmed by Italian Olympic and America's Cup hero Francesco Bruni, won the fleet racing at the America’s Cup World Series Naples overall, when in dramatic style they won today's high scoring grand finale during which the lead changed hands three times, to claim the Naples prize on countback.
The win was cathartic for Bruni. Earlier in the day his Luna Rossa Swordfish had narrowly lost the match racing championship to Oracle Team USA Slingsby.
Bruni, who serves as tactician aboard Luna Rossa Challenge’s AC72, was critical of his performance in the loss after leading the match early on: “This win was the only way to forget our mistake in the match racing. The fleet race win really means a lot to me. We had an opportunity for the double win, but just missed out. I can’t thank my crew enough, Paul Campbell-James, Max Sirena, Xabi Fernandez and Manuel Modena. They did a great job today.”
London 2012 Laser gold medallist Tom Slingsby at the helm of the US AC45 delivered on his stated goal: to secure the overall 2012-2013 America’s Cup World Series season championship for Oracle Team USA. To be fair Slingsby had quite a head start standing in for Jimmy Spithill, 44 points ahead of second placed Luna Rossa Piranha, helmed by Chris Draper at the start of proceedings on Thursday. However Slingsby in his first regatta as AC45 helm performed well, in particular on Friday when Oracle Team USA posted a 1-2 and by the close of play yesterday they had the championship sewn up. Ultimately coming home second today was enough for the US team to continue extend away from the opposite winning the season champion 54 points ahead of the Italian team that remained in second place.
“I’m really proud to be getting the America’s Cup World Series trophy for Oracle Team USA,” said Slingsby. Oracle Team USA also won last year’s championship. “Jimmy Spithill and his team set it up for us. We just had to come here, do our best and luckily he gave us enough of a lead to take home the trophy.”
Added cream on the cake, but increasingly important going into this summer's events in San Francisco was the match racing, where Oracle Team USA also managed to sew this up (Oracle Team USA scoring three out of three in the match racing over this championship), despite the Australian skipper being new to the AC45 and also having little by way of match racing previous.
While Luna Rossa Swordfish decisively won the start, locking the US team to weather by the committee boat. Slingsby only managed to overtake Bruni on the second upwind leg. After trailing by 22 seconds at the leeward gate, Slingsby showed the moves that have earned him the nickname “the wind whisperer” due to his ability to sniff out wind shifts and puffs. “It was so shifty that I honestly thought we had a good chance,” he recalled. “I knew if we could get them out of phase on the shifts and we were in phase, huge gains could be made. We said we could catch them and I’m so glad that we did.”
Close going up the second beat, the two boats separated with Slingsby picking up a favourable shift on the left that enabled Oracle Team USA to pass Bruni.
“We did everything perfectly until that moment,” admitted Bruni. “We made a couple of big mistakes on the last upwind leg. The wind was shifting a lot and we had a couple of bad tacks where boat completely stopped.”
“A great win for the team,” Slingsby said. “Luckily it was a long race, and half way through we were quite a bit behind. But, I said to the boys, we’re still in this. Slowly, but surely, we caught up and made the passing maneuver on the last beat, and went on to hold it from there.”
Second place in the ACWS season championship went to Chris Draper and Luna Rossa Piranha. The defending champions at America’s Cup World Series Naples placed fourth overall this year.
“I think we were going so well just before event, we probably got a little bit expectant and ahead of ourselves,” said helmsman Chris Draper. “But we’re pleased to place second overall in the series. There are a lot of good teams out here.”
The second America’s Cup World Series Naples surpassed last year’s event in terms of spectators. Local event officials estimate that more than 1 million people have turned out along the Naples waterfront and in the Race Village to enjoy the week-long event.
The crowds began coming out in force last Sunday with some 100,000 people estimated to have lined the shores of the Bay of Naples for the informal coastal race. The fans kept returning, lured by close racing yards from the shoreline and nightly entertainment at the Race Village.
Today's final Super Sunday fleet race was an impressive affair. After a slingshot start, Oracle Team USA took the early lead. Energy Team moved ahead at the first upwind gate, as Oracle Team USA got into contention with Luna Rossa Swordfish again.
On the second upwind, in a similar occurance to their match race earlier, Oracle Team USA moved ahead, taking advantage of a big lift. But following the sixth gate, Slingsby was forced to bear away from China Team and lost ground. Luna Rossa Swordfish regained the lead and carried it across the finish line, leaving the US team second in the race and second overall in Naples.
“The racing was so shifty, the positions were changing all the time, going up the last beat I felt we had it in the bag,” Slingsby said. “But, unfortunately we fell into a bit of a hole up the last beat, we took the wrong mark at the top, didn’t lay the mark we wanted, and we paid the price. Swordfish passed us and they took the overall honours.”
Luna Rossa Swordfish eventually won on tie break.
Sadly hopes of a British turnaround didn't manage to materialise today. Another hard fought day on the water saw J.P.Morgan BAR finish fifth in today's bumper points fleet race, not enough to podium at the event, but enough to leave them third overall in the 2012-13 three event series.
Skipper Ben Ainslie reflected on the final race today: “To win the event we really needed to win the race today, unfortunately it didn’t happen for us. We struggled in the middle of the fleet. The conditions were difficult today but it was the same for everyone and we just weren’t able to quite get it right which is a shame and it’s frustrating for the team. But that’s sports, that’s life and you have to learn what you can from it and move forwards. I think we had more potential than where we finished, so we know we have to work harder next time round to get ourselves to the top of the fleet at the next event.”
With so much riding on today's grand finale the stat was vital and for the British team again proved to be a deal breaker, as Matt Mitchell described it: “We thought we had the right end of the start line, but it wasn’t to be. It’s been the story of the last few days, the starts have not been clicking for us, you try to pick your way through the fleet, but again you get dictated into your lanes and it limits how far you can get back up through the fleet."
After rounding the first gate, J.P.Morgan BAR found themselves buried in the middle of the pack, but the crew didn’t give up constantly searching for opportunities to pull back places. Mitchell continued: “Having found ourselves once again with a deficit on the leaders you just have to keep blazing away and working hard until the end, We kept working away all the way to the end. We missed out on a few things and we know that small mistakes are pretty costly in this event and that was the difference today.”
Four time America’s Cup winner J.P.Morgan BAR headsail trimmer Simon Daubney has enjoyed the experience with the team. “Sailing at these events with Ben has been great. We have a great bunch of guys and we’ve fought hard at every regatta. It’s good sailing with him, it was hard at the first event, he came straight from the Games so it was a big learning curve for all of us, but we sailed really well in the second event and we were really pleased with the result last October. Conditions were very different here and it didn’t go as we hoped that it would, but we’re still friends and we will live to fight another day.”
“We would have love to have done a lot better in this event, but it shows a lot of promise and lot to build on for the future,” concluded Ainslie.
That's it for the America's Cup World Series for the time being as the Cup teams turn their focus to thei AC72s and the Louis Vuitton Cup/America's Cup running over July until September. Only once that is decided will there be any news about the future for the AC45s and the America's Cup World Series.
America’s Cup World Series Naples standings
Team (Country): R1, R2, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7 – Total
1. Luna Rossa Swordfish (ITA): 5(7), 5(7), 3(9), DNF(0), 5(7), 2(10), 1(40) - 80
2. Oracle Team USA Slingsby (USA): 2(10), 6(6), 1(12), 2(10), 2(10), 5(7), 2(25) - 80
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL): 1(12), 4(8), 5(7), 3(9), 1(12), 1(12), 6(11) - 71
4. Luna Rossa Piranha (ITA): 4(8), 2(10), 4(8), 5(7), 3(9), 4(8), 3(20) - 70
5. J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR): 3(9), 1(12), 6(6), 4(8), 4(8), 3(9), 5(13) - 65
6. Energy Team (FRA): 7(5), 3(9), 2(10), 1(12), DNS(0), 6(6) , 4(16) - 58
7. Artemis Racing White (SWE): 6(6), 7(5), 7(5), 7(5), 6(6), 8(4), 8(9) - 40
8. HS Racing (USA): 8(4), 9(3), 8(4), 6(6), 8(4), 7(5), 7(10) - 36
9. China Team (CHN): 9(3), 8(4), 9(3), 8(4), 7(5), 9(3), 9(8) - 30
America’s Cup World Series Naples Match Racing
1. ORACLE TEAM USA SLINGSBY, 2. Luna Rossa Swordfish, 3. J.P. Morgan BAR, 4. Luna Rossa Piranha, 5. Emirates Team New Zealand, 6. Artemis Racing White, 7. Energy Team, 8. HS Racing, 9. China Team
2012-2013 America's Cup World Series Season
1. Oracle Team USA Spithill/Slingsby – 245 points
2. Luna Rossa Piranha – 191
3. J.P. Morgan BAR – 181
4. Emirates Team New Zealand – 171
5. Energy Team – 160
6. Artemis Racing White – 160
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish – 151
8. Team Korea – 105
9. Oracle Team USA Coutts – 98
10. Artemis Racing Red – 90
11. China Team – 73
12. HS Racing – 36
2012-2013 America’s Cup World Series Match Racing Championship
1. Oracle Team USA Spithill/Slingsby 29 points, 2. Emirates Team New Zealand – 22, 3. Artemis Racing White – 21, 4. Oracle Team USA Coutts – 16, 5. J.P. Morgan BAR – 15, 6. Energy Team – 15, 7. Luna Rossa Swordfish – 14, 8. Luna Rossa Piranha – 13, 9. Artemis Racing Red – 8, 10. China Team – 5, 11. Team Korea – 5, 12. HS Racing – 3
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