Act 12 Wrap-Up: Emirates Wins Final, BMW Smashes Luna Rossa

On-site reporting from Valencia, Spain.

Act 12 Wrap Up

Gilles Martin-raget

VALENCIA, Spain-By winning Louis Vuiton Act 12 with a 2-1 defeat of Alninghi in the final, Emirates Team New Zealand served notice that it's a force to be reckoned with in the battle for the 32nd America's Cup. The win gave helmsman Dean Barker and his Kiwi crew the 2006 America's Cup Class season championship and put them at the top of the challenger ranking. Now just Act 13, a fleet race regatta next April, remains before the Louis Vuitton Cup begins. "We're very happy with the result," said Team New Zealand tactician Terry Hutchinson. "Dalts (syndicate head Grant Dalton) said prior to the regatta that this is a measure of where the team's come in three years from the last Cup to this point. For us, we obviously feel very good about that, but we're also extremely mindful that Alinghi's sailing a 3-year-old boat. It would be a huge mistake to look much beyond the fact that we beat a guy in a 3-year-old boat." With the score tied 1-1, Barker once again outfoxed Alinghi's Peter Holmberg in the pre-start of the third and deciding race, and then beat the Cup champions to the first wind shift. That gave Team New Zealand an early advantage of 50 meters and the Kiwis continued to extend throughout the race, which they won by 1 minute, 24 seconds. Despite the final race blowout, the series was actually very close. The first two races were marked by lead changes, tacking duels, and bow-on-stern mark roundings. Team New Zealand won the first race by 17 seconds, Alinghi the second by 24 seconds. The Kiwis, however, appeared the calmer team, especially in the pre-start. Alinghi's Holmberg holds a deserved reputation as wily and aggressive in the 5-minute sequence, but Barker was every bit his equal over the weekend and won the desired side in all three instances. It is a dramatic step forward for the Kiwis, who looked a bit ragged last month. Throughout Act 12 Hutchinson credited the team's success to a change in interim strategy. "We learned that when you go through a 6- or 7-week cycle you start to implode at end of the 7th week," Hutchinson said. "People had been working hard. We were maximizing days on the water because we needed to catch up. In the lead-up to this regatta we took every weekend off. The weekend before it we took three days off. In the end, who knows? But it feels better. The tools we use to measure everyone's alertness and conditioning are all positive." On the other hand, Alinghi crewmembers have stated throughout this event that they've been focusing on testing rather than crew training in the time between regattas. They say that's partly to blame for their sluggishness, and they're not overwhelmed by the loss. "We're disappointed not to win, but overall I'm proud of our team," said Alinghi tactician, skipper and vice president Brad Butterworth. "I think we sailed well. Through the regatta we had good races and bad races, but overall I think we sailed well and got better as the regatta went on. We didn't quite have the firepower to win versus Team New Zealand, but it came down to the last race and all I can say is I'm pretty proud of our guys. They sailed well." Crash Trims Petite Final In BMW's Favor BMW Oracle Racing won the Petite Final with a 1-0 defeat of Luna Rossa Challenge. The Petite Final was shortened to one race by the International Jury after a collision in the first race mangled the bowsprit on USA-87 and sliced the outer skin of Luna Rossa's hull near the running backstay blocks. The incident occurred during a tacking duel on the first beat. Luna Rossa had been laying a series of starboard-to-port leebow tacks on BMW Oracle to protect the right side. About halfway up the leg Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill mistimed his tack to port and BMW Oracle hit him in the port quarter. "That final one we had closed up quite a bit and so our duck was bigger and they were in a little more difficult position to fend us off," said BMW Oracle navigator Peter Isler. "We were in a dip, either going behind them or expecting them to do a normal leebow, but instead James waited too late and turned right in front of us and his stern swung into us and smacked into our bowsprit." The on-water umpires ruled that Spithill and Luna Rossa had tacked too close. Luna Rossa, however, decided not to continue the race. The damaged area was where the running backstay blocks are located on the port sheerline. The outer skin of the carbon-fiber hull had been sliced. Since there was significant damage the crews wound up in the protest room. The jury found several pertinent facts:

  • At approximately five boatlengths of separation USA-87 bore away to pass behind ITA-86;
  • At approximately 1.5 boatlengths of separation, ITA-86 luffed up and went into a tack;
  • USA-87 attempted to bear away further but then luffed up sharply;
  • It was not reasonably possible for USA-87 to avoid a collision;
  • Luna Rossa luffed and tacked in a position where contact between the boats was extremely likely;
  • Luna Rossa broke Rule 14 (avoiding contact);
  • Both boats are damaged too badly to sail (today). Due to the facts the jury ruled that BMW Oracle was eligible for redress. "BMW Oracle is awarded one point as redress as they are unable to race through no fault of their own," the jury decision read. "The decision means BMW Oracle Racing wins the Petite Final and third place. Luna Rossa will be in fourth place in Louis Vuitton Act 12." On Sunday the jury further awarded BMW Oracle repair costs to be paid by Luna Rossa. Italian skipper Francesco de Angelis explained his side of the story in a hastily arranged press conference at the team's base, saying he accepted the jury's decision but felt that the collision wasn't necessary. "Having been in that situation, having reviewed the video, I believe the collision could've been avoided," de Angelis said. "They could've turned left and followed the indication of the bowman." Later he added, "I believe in those situations you can put a penalty without a collision. You don't need a collision to prove your point." De Angelis estimated that the damage to ITA-86 would take at least a week to repair. Second and Third Division Results Desafio Español finished the regatta strongly to place fifth overall. The home team defeated Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia 2-0 in the match for fifth and sixth. The Spanish team look more and more impressive throughout the regatta, especially in Saturday's first race when the jib halyard on ESP-88 broke on the second upwind leg while the team was comfortably in the lead. Mascalzone overtook while the Spanish crew made repairs and rehoisted the headsail, but Desafio Español had found more speed during the last two weeks of racing and promptly overtook the Italian crew for a 19-second victory. Desafio Español closed out Mascalzone yesterday with help from the Italian crew's chute-packing mistake. Desafio led by 31 seconds at the first mark, and that lead quickly increased when Mascalzone hoisted its spinnaker with a twist in the middle. Desafio went on to win by 1 minute, 29 seconds. The battle for seventh and eighth between Sweden's Victory Challenge and South Africa's Team Shosholoza was the only other final to go three races. Shosholoza won the first race on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead, but Victory rebounded with two wins on Sunday, by 13 and 45 seconds, to claim seventh place. Division 3 wrapped up racing on Saturday with France's Areva Challenge defeating +39 Challenge 2-0 in the battle for 9th and 10th. Areva won the first match when +39 withdrew due to a broken trim tab on the keel. The Italian team returned for the second flight but was once again crippled by breakdowns when their jib halyard broke in the pre-start allowing Areva to start the race with a 41-second advantage. +39 Challenge charged around the racecourse and approached the finish with a chance to win the match, but ultimately lost by 1 second. United Internet Team Germany won the battle for 11th and 12th versus China Team, 2-0. Finals, Petite Finals Results (The left-hand boat entered the starting box from the pin end, the right-hand boat from the boat end.) Division 1 Final Flight 1 Emirates Team New Zealand def. Alinghi by 0:17 Flight 2 Alinghi def. Emirates Team New Zealand by 0:24 Flight 3 Emirates Team New Zealand def. Alinghi by 1:24 Division 1 Petite Final Flight 1 Luna Rossa lost to BMW ORACLE Racing by jury decision Division 2 Final Flight 1 Desafio Español def. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 0:19 Flight 2 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia lost to Desafio Español by 1:29 Division 2 Petite Final Flight 1 Victory Challenge lost to Team Shosholoza by 0:33 Flight 2 Shosholoza lost to Victory Challenge by 0:13 Flight 3 Victory Challenge def. Shosholoza by 0:45 Division 3 Final Flight 1 Areva Challenge def +39 Challenge (DNF) Flight 2 +39 Challenge lost to Areva Challenge 0:01 Division 3 Petite Final Flight 1 China Team lost to United Internet Team Germany by 1:34 Flight 2 United Internet Team Germany def. China Team by 7:00 Act 12 Final Standings 1. Emirates Team New Zealand 2. Alinghi 3. BMW ORACLE Racing 4. Luna Rossa Challenge 5. Desafio Español 6. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 7. Victory Challenge 8. Shosholoza 9. Areva Challenge 10. +39 Challenge 11. United Internet Team Germany 12. China Team