Act 12 Day Five: Luna Rossa's Downwind Heroics Stymie BMW

On-site reporting from Valencia, Spain.

Act 12 Day Five: Luna Rossa/ BMW
Gilles Martin-raget

VALENCIA, Spain-Merriam-Webster defines leverage as the mechanical action gained by use of a lever. Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge defines leverage as the route needed to defeat BMW Oracle Racing. After trailing for more than three-quarters of its match versus BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa scored a stunning 8-second, come-from-behind victory when it separated to the left side of the racecourse (looking upwind) on the run to the finish. The leverage allowed Luna Rossa to turn what was a 27-second deficit at the windward mark into a win. "We're not making too big a deal out of it," said Luna Rossa mainsail trimmer Jonathan McKee. "Maybe we got a little lucky. We didn't see the shift but we thought there might be more pressure on that side." After nine flights of the round robin at Louis Vuitton Act 12 Emirates Team New Zealand continues to lead with 9 points on a perfect 9-0 record. Alinghi and Luna Rossa are tied for second, 1 point behind. BMW Oracle slipped to fourth with 7 points on a 7-2 record. The weather conditions turned decidedly tricky today. Racing was delayed for two hours while the wind filled. When it commenced the racecourses were set on an easterly axis and the strength was between 8 and 10 knots. BMW Oracle had a great race going versus Luna Rossa. The U.S.-flagged team won the start to the right of their competition and found a nice right shift to open an early advantage. BMW Oracle covered Luna Rossa up the beat for a 10-second lead at the windward mark. They extended that lead to 16 seconds at the leeward gate and 27 seconds at the second windward mark. "Today was a tacticians' day," said BMW Oracle navigator Peter Isler. "I thought Bertrand (Pace, BMW Oracle tactician) did a great job. We were happy how we built the lead at second windward mark. It was all feeling good until it collapsed." It collapsed on the run to the finish. Luna Rossa jibed to starboard first, and BMW Oracle followed suit. But they were in Luna Rossa's wind shadow and had to jibe back to port. When BMW Oracle went to the right side of the course Luna Rossa continued to the left. The separation topped 1,000 meters when the 15-degree shift came through. "There was a pretty good shift," said McKee. "When there's that much separation, that adds up. It was a pretty big split. Lucky for us, I guess." "Today was a very unstable day," Isler said. "It was a classic battle. The seabreeze wasn't strong enough to do its thing so there was a bit of an unstable battle between seabreeze and gradient all day." In its match versus Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia, Alinghi did not fail to consider the instability of the breeze. In its 59-second victory over the Italian-flagged team, the Swiss-flagged team never allowed its rival to achieve much separation. "We weren't too adventurous with our tactics," said Alinghi's Murray Jones, the wind spotter. "We didn't take any risks and didn't go too far away from them. We wanted to win the race; we didn't care how much by." Team New Zealand kept its perfect record intact with a 30-second win over South Africa's Team Shosholoza. Team New Zealand led by 35 seconds at the windward mark, but the South Africans took big chunks out on the next two legs to trail by just 10 seconds beginning the run to the finish. On the final leg Team New Zealand showed good pace to extend its lead. With the late start only one flight was completed today, leaving two on tap for tomorrow to wrap up the round robin. And there are critical matches on the slate, particularly at the top of the table. Alinghi faces Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa; Team New Zealand faces BMW Oracle. Forecasts predict more of the same conditions for tomorrow-light winds with the seabreeze and gradient fighting for domination. But, as has been proven many times in Valencia, things can change in the blink of an eye. Just ask BMW Oracle Racing. Results from Day 5 (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 9 Match 1 +39 Challenge lost to Desafio Español by 0:36 Match 2 Areva Challenge def. China Team by 2:58 Match 3 United Internet Team Germany lost to Victory Challenge by 0:35 Match 4 Emirates Team New Zealand def. Team Shosholoza by 0:30 Match 5 Luna Rossa def. BMW ORACLE Racing by 0:08 Match 6 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia lost to Alinghi by 0:52 Act 12 Standings Through Nine of 11 Flights Plc. Team Points 1. Emirates Team New Zealand 9 2. Alinghi 8 2. Luna Rossa 8 4. BMW ORACLE Racing 7 5. Victory Challenge 5 5. Desafio Español 5 5. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 5 8. Team Shosholoza 3 9. Areva Challenge 2 9. +39 Challenge 2 11. United Internet Team Germany 0 11. China Team 0