Alinghi Extends Its Lead as Big 4 Dominate Day 2

On-site reporting from Act 11 of the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia, Spain

Act11Day2
Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-In the light air of Act 10, sailors from the Big 4 syndicates in the Louis Vuitton Cup-Alinghi, Luna Rossa, BMW Oracle Racing, and Emirates Team New Zealand-maintained that if the breeze picked up they would be able to distance themselves from the smaller teams. Today, in by far the strongest winds of Act 10 or 11, they did just that, sweeping the top three postions in Races 3 and 4 and finishing no worse than 5th in either race. In bright sunshine, the breeze hit 18 to 19 knots in the first race before fading a bit later in the afternoon.Alinghi sailed today like a team that had something to prove, dominating the first race and then battling back for a third in the second. The Swiss syndicate currently leads the regatta by 5 points over Luna Rossa-which also had a first and a third today-with one race remaining Sunday.Competitors have noted that Alinghi hasn't seemed to have its "high" mode this summer. Last year, the defenders often showed the ability to separate to windward from just about any other boat without losing anything forward. It's an impressive tool for a match racer. In the first race, they blasted off the line a little ways down from the boat and then motored to weather and away from the fleet."I think we just hit the line with speed and that definitely gives you that quarter boatlength or whatever," says Alinghi's Rodney Ardern, who trims the running backstays. "As long as you're at your target boatspeed upwind rather than turning the boat as you hit the line that's going to give you a little bit already. I think we were lucky that we had a good gap to leeward so we felt comfortable that we weren't going to fall into anyone and we could sail our target numbers without being bunched."We planned to go left if we could and we could go all the way. We understood from our weather team the breeze was oscillating and we wanted to hang in there as long as the breeze allowed and go back when it suited."Trailing Alinghi around the mark was BMW Oracle Racing, 9 seconds behind, and Team Shosholoza, which had pieced together an impressive first beat despite behind unable to hold its lane off the line as long as Alinghi.Team Shosholoza would creep into second at the leeward mark, but on the second lap, the Big 4 took over the race, with Emirates Team New Zealand moving into second, Luna Rossa moving from sixth around the first mark to third by the finish, and BMW Oracle Racing taking fourth. The South Africans fell to sixth.For the American challenger of record, fourth was a good piece better than Friday's two dismal results."I think yesterday we had two kind of average starts," said BMW Oracle strategist Eric Doyle. "Today we had two stellar starts, were able to hold a lane. A little bit steadier breeze drops the older boats back a bit too. When it's windier and bumpy, the new boats definitely go better in that."In the second race, it was BMW Oracle that got the best start, hitting the line just down from the committee boat with enough speed to quickly roll Alinghi. It was a start that came together at the last moment. Alinghi was setting up for the boat-end start and it looked like they had the position they needed to push anyone else out."When we tacked at a minute thirty or a minute I was pretty concerned about getting shut out," said Doyle. "But Chris [Dickson] did a nice job showing them the bow, that we were going to go down, and pushed them a little bit, a little bit of a match race thing there. So [Alinghi skipper Ed Baird] had to bear off. [Dickson] pushed at the right time, there was 20 seconds to kill the first time he did it and 4 to kill the second. And they were a bow ahead of us, so they had more time to kill. It was a nice move on Chris' part."While BMW Oracle was rolling Alinghi off the start, Luna Rossa was, for the fourth time in four races, motoring away from the pin. In this race, it proved to be the right call as the Italian syndicate rounded the first mark with a lead of 15 seconds over BMW Oracle. Despite getting ping-ponged around to the tune of three tacks in the first four minutes of the leg, Alinghi was third around the mark."We found the left corner, there was good pressure over there," said Luna Rossa navigator Michele Ivaldi. "We had an indication from our weather program, so the call was good. It's typical that there can be a left trend during the end of the day so we went for it and it was a good call, it was the race. We found a good lane where we could express out boatspeed going there so it was good."Last summer, sailing a boat from the 2003 campaign, Luna Rossa never quite felt like it had the boatspeed to match BMW Oracle or Alinghi. Ivaldi said the team is very happy with ITA-86, its new boat. "It was a good day where we could check with some more breeze against some of the other challengers," said Ivaldi. "We're happy to be in the ballpark. We knew our last boat was not the fastest in the fleet. It was good to race with a slightly slower boat last year and make our crew work and tactical work stressed more. Now if we have good boatspeed, we can race well against everybody with no fear of anybody."While the Big 4 dominated today, Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia holds fourth by virture of a tiebreak over BMW Oracle Racing. Sailing ITA-77, one of Dennis Conner's boats from 2003, they've shown some good speed this regatta. With just one race tomorrow, they will be pushing hard to keep ahead of BMW Oracle Racing.There was also one casualty from today's racing. China Team withdrew from the fourth race halfway into the first beat. "We won't be able to race [Sunday]," said Pierre Mas, China Team's skipper. "We heard a loud crack in the structure of the hull. So that has to be repaired and we need to check the entire boat to see what the problem is. This boat hasn't sail much before and it hasn't been tested in heavy conditions."Act 11Overall resultsTeam Points1. Alinghi 412. Luna Rossa Challenge 363. Emirates Team New Zealand 344. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 315. BMW Oracle Racing 316. Team Shosholoza 287. Areva Challenge 268. +39 Challenge 249. Victory Challenge 2210. Desafio Español 2211. United Internet Team Germany 1012. China Team 6Race 31. Alinghi 1:10:312. Emirates Team New Zealand 1:19 back3. Luna Rossa Challenge 1:25 back4. BMW Oracle Racing 1:36 back5. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 2:05 back6. Team Shosholoza 2:16 back7. +39 Challenge 2:21 back8. Areva Challenge 2:34 back9. United Internet Team Germany 3:05 back10. Desafio Español 3:06 back11. Victory Challenge 3:15 back12. China Team 4:03 backRace 41. Luna Rossa Challenge 1:15:122. BMW Oracle Racing 0:36 back3. Alinghi 1:31 back4. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 1:34 back5. Emirates Team New Zealand 3:27 back6. +39 Challenge 3:37 back7. Areva Challenge 3:38 back8. Team Shosholoza 4:02 back9. Desafio Español 5:37 back10. Victory Challenge 6:30 back11. United Internet Team Germany 7:09 back12. China Team DNF