Act 12 Begins With Wins For Big Teams

On-site reporting from Valencia, Spain.

Act12Day1
Ivo Rovira/alinghi, Chris Cameron/etnz, Francesco Ferri/acm

VALENCIA, Spain-The four super syndicates - Alinghi, BMW Oracle Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge - won their two opening matches of Louis Vuitton Act 12. Joining them at the top of the leaderboard is Spain's Desafio Español, which also scored two victories, including a slam bang, come-from-behind win against France's Areva Challenge. Spain's tactician John Cutler yesterday said the team thought long and hard about racing the new boat because it hadn't been shaken down. But the boat showed good reliability today in the east/southeasterlies around 10 knots, surviving relentless tacking duels in both matches. If the team was truly nervous about ESP-88's preparedness, helmsman Karol Jablonski didn't show it. In the past year the Polish helmsman has proven to be a bit of a cowboy at the helm of the fragile Cup class yachts, showing a willingness to stick his bow where it doesn't always belong. He was at it again today. In the first race he started close aboard the committee boat, shutting out South Africa's Team Shosholoza, which was on the transom of ESP-88 until tacking away to port for clear air. Jablonski covered and a downspeed tacking duel ensued. The crews threw in about six tacks before taking off on starboard tack for a few minutes with ESP-88 holding a lead of 75 to 80 meters, or about three boatlengths. The duel resumed at the top of the leg, with RSA-83 making slight gains. ESP-88 led by 22 seconds at the first windward mark, but Shosholoza took 6 seconds out on the first run. On the second beat South Africa's year-old RSA-83 was every bit the measure of ESP-88, hanging with the newer design and making Jablonski and crew sweat. ESP-88 led by just 20 seconds at the second windward mark. South Africa's helmsman Tommaso Chieffi made slight gains downwind, but not enough to overcome the leader. Jablonski and ESP-88 won by 19 seconds. An argument could be made that Shosholoza put in the best performance of the day, despite being 0-2 tonight. After the close race with Spain they took on mighty BMW Oracle Racing. Last year BMW Oracle would've won this match hands down. This year, however, Shosholoza is greatly improved and hung with the mega-million-dollar challenge throughout the match and lost by just 53 seconds. "We had a pretty solid day," said Shosholoza skipper Marc Sadler. "It's just getting everything together such as sails and rig and getting the boat to perform better and learning how to trim it and what makes it go fast. The whole crew has upped their level in ability and its paying off now." Spain and Jablonski had the rounding of the day. Trailing France's Areva Challenge into the leeward mark, Spain got a late overlap that they turned into a huge advantage. Areva skipper Thierry Peponnet tried closing Spain out at the leeward mark and forced Jablonski to the windward side of the left-hand mark. Jablonski was forced to windward because he couldn't bear away due to the overlap. Had he continued on he would've hit the mark. Both crews had bad takedowns, with the spinnakers hitting the water, and the on-water umpires made Areva's life even worse. They handed the French team three penalties for the incident because they had gained such an advantage. "In French we call it 'Throwing Parmalat to the pigs'," said the affable Peponnet, skipper of the one boat team. "We have to be honest. We don't have so many opportunities to work and to improve our skill when we are in close contact with opponents. It's something very difficult to work in training. So we use these races to improve the skill and communication of our afterguard. "I think the call from the tactician today was he is not overlapped, he has no right for room to round the mark, we can refuse him room. So we did not give him room and pushed him to the other side of the mark and it was the wrong call," Peponnet continued. "The umpires decided we were wrong. We got a first penalty but we were so far ahead that they gave us a second penalty. We did it right away, but they gave us a third because we were still leading the match. They were ready to give us a penalty until we crossed behind the opponent. This was the call, and unfortunately we were wrong at this bottom mark." The new boats for Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand looked much more settled today than last month. Each showed bursts of speed at Act 10 but seemed to lack consistency. Today that consistency surfaced. Team New Zealand beat China Team and +39 Challenge by an average of two and a half minutes. Tactician Terry Hutchinson credited the performance to settling the crew down. "There were a couple of things in the last acts, inconsistency with crew rotation and unsettling of move from New Zealand up here," said the Annapolis, Md., sailor. "Over past few weeks we settled on the crew for this regatta and trained since the last act all the way through to here. On days like today you don't necessarily see it, but things are a little more crisp. It just gives you a little more confidence to know things will go smoothly for you." Luna Rossa's ITA-86 won its matches against Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia and China Team by an average of 2 minutes, 46 seconds. Granted, +39 Challenge and China Team are second stringers sailing older, unproven designs. But Luna Rossa's 1 minute, 55-second win over Mascalzone Latino was impressive because the Latin rascals have also made great strides over last year. Whereas Mascalzone didn't even finish three races at the Malmo act last August, this year they've shown solid crew work and their boat, ITA-77, has become reliable. Results from Day 1 (Matches 1 through 3 sailed on the North Course, 4 through 6 on the South Course. The left-hand boat entered the starting box from the pin end, the right-hand boat from the boat end.) Flight 1 Match 1 Emirates Team New Zealand def. China Team by 2:53 Match 2 +39 Challenge lost to Victory Challenge by 2:39 Match 3 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia lost to Luna Rossa by 1:55 Match 4 Alinghi beat Areva Challenge by 2:01 Match 5 United Internet Team Germany lost to BMW ORACLE Racing by 1:58 Match 6 Team Shosholoza lost to Desafio Español 2007 by 0:19 Flight 2 Match 1 +39 Challenge lost to Emirates Team New Zealand by 2:08 Match 2 Luna Rossa def. China Team by 3.38 Match 3 Victory Challenge lost to Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team by 0:50 Match 4 Alinghi beat United Internet Team Germany by 2:01 Match 5 BMW ORACLE Racing beat Team Shosholoza by 0:53 Match 6 Areva Challenge lost to Desafio Español 2007 by 1:30 Act 12 Standings Through Two of 11 Flights Plc. Team Points 1. Luna Rossa 6 1. Alinghi 6 1. Emirates Team New Zealand 6 1. BMW ORACLE Racing 6 1. Desafio Español 6 6. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 4 7. Victory Challenge 4 8. Team Shosholoza 2 8. Areva Challenge 2 8. United Internet Team Germany 2 8. +39 Challenge 2 8. China Team 2