Alinghi, OneWorld Win First Races of Semifinals

Prada breaks pole, OneWorld shreds chute in breezy conditions

The starts of the first races of the Semifinals were full-on fun to watch; the breeze was up and it appeared as if all four teams had decided to take the gloves off. The Hauraki Gulf seemed to welcome the return of racing and showed the boys a southwesterly breeze of 15 to 20 knots, some small swells, and 10 to 15-degree windshifts to keep things interesting.

OneWorld took back the point it had been penalized by the Arbitration Panel, and did it with good, old-fashioned boatspeed and sound tactics. The Seattle team didn’t win the start, but straightlined it up the first beat with pace, earning the vital first cross. The Italians showed impressive downwind speed, passing OneWorld twice, but giving up the lead with fatal combinations of bad crew work and a broken spinnaker pole. The Prada crew looked smooth until pushed, then seemed to crumble when pressure was applied. OneWorld did have one speed bump, a blown chute at the final weather mark that took an agonizingly long time to clear away and replace. That cut a 1m10s lead down to a 47-second victory. OneWorld def. Prada by 47s.

OneWorld’s win should help take some of the sting out of the penalty but they’re not out of the woods yet. Race committee head Dyer Jones has reportedly asked the Arbitration Panel to count OneWorld’s penalty point as a loss. The proposal makes sense, and removes the scenario proposed Monday night; that the Race Committee would provide an extra race should the boats be tied at 4 each. This new solution would mean that Prada would only have to score three wins on the water to take the series, especially important as both teams are in the lower part of the ladder, and to lose this series means game over.

Oracle showed good turning ability and boatspeed at the start, but once Alinghi passed, thanks to a helpful windshift on the first leg, it was adios. Alinghi’s skipper Russell Coutts and tactician Brad Butterworth demonstrated an impressive mastery of the nuances of the Hauraki Gulf, staying comfortably ahead of Oracle throughout the race. Alinghi def. Oracle by 1m11s