Alinghi Proves it's Still the Boss, Knocks off BMW Oracle

On-site reporting from Valencia, Spain


Steffano Gattini/acm 2006

VALENCIA, Spain-BMW Oracle had the new boat, the eight-win winning streak, and the start it wanted. But Alinghi had enough to overcome those factors and prevailed today off Valencia in the first 2006 rematch of the 2003 Louis Vuitton Cup final. The 21-second loss bumped BMW Oracle from first place. Alinghi, Emirates Team New Zealand, and Luna Rossa all picked up a pair of wins today and are currently tied for first, each with eight wins in nine races. The American syndicate now needs some help from ETNZ or Victory, who are scheduled to sail Alinghi on Tuesday, if it wants to win Act 10.With the breeze late in stabilizing, and never really getting much about eight knots, today's second flight was in doubt for much of the afternoon. But the race committee and the individual teams, many of which had to do a four-mile commute between courses for the second set of races, worked quickly after the finish of Flight 8 and were able to get Flight 9 off before the breeze, and the light, faded.While Flight 9 featured a number of compelling match-ups, there was little doubt which one would attract the most interest. The third start on the South Course featured BMW Oracle Racing's new, and undefeated, USA-87 against Alinghi's SUI-75, which won 31 of 33 match races last season.In the light air, the pre-start was predictably tame, neither team willing to maneuver too intensely for fear of getting caught downspeed and unable to properly accelerate. But Dickson certainly never appeared to be under pressure. With time running down, he allowed Alinghi, with Ed Baird on the wheel, to his right and made for the pin end on starboard. Alinghi tacked and quickly closed the gauge to start midline. From there, both boats held on starboard for a 12-minute speed test that took them to the port-tack layline. While the data from the test will certainly be reviewed intensely by both teams, both skippers pleaded ignorance when inevitably asked how the two boats stack up."I didn't actually see anything," said Dickson. "I'm sure the other guys on my boat will have plenty to talk about, but I was driving, so I didn't actually get to see any of Alinghi on that first beat."While Dickson got the start he wanted, it was Alinghi that squeezed out a small advantage and by the time the boats reached the layline, BMW Oracle had to wait for Alinghi to tack before it could turn for the mark, giving the defenders a lead of two to three boatlengths."Alinghi had maybe a very small jump off the line," said Dickson, "and the breeze went maybe just a little bit their way, enough to keep them in the game and strong out to the layline."Alinghi pitman Yves Detrey said they also got the start they wanted, as they felt the pressure would be coming down the course and being to windward would enable them to get it first.By carrying BMW Oracle out to the layline, Alinghi was able to build a lead of 20 seconds at the first mark. This increased to 33 seconds at the leeward mark, but BMW Oracle ground back 20 seconds of that advantage on the second beat and rounded just a few boatlengths behind for the final run. From there Alinghi defended well for a 21-second win.Neither of the other two syndicates tied for first place going into the day faced particularly stiff competition. But as the deltas showed, it wasn't purely a walk in the park for Luna Rossa or Emirates Team New Zealand. Luna Rossa beat Areva Challengfe and Victory Challenge by a combined 1:13. ETNZ dispatched Mascalzone Latino Capitalia and Desafio Español by a combined 1:26. Tomorrow both of those syndicates face an unenviable double bill, sailing against each other in Flight 10, and then against BMW Oracle (Luna Rossa) and Alinghi (ETNZ) in Flight 11. 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 8 Match 1 Luna Rossa Challenge def, Areva Challenge by 0:18Match 2 United Internet Team Germany lost to Desafio Español 2007 by 0:20Match 3 Team Shosholoza lost to Alinghi by 0:21Match 4 China Team lost to BMW ORACLE Racing by 4:38Match 5 Emirates Team New Zealand def. Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team by 0:32Match 6 Victory Challenge def. +39 Challenge by 0:15Flight 9 Match 1 Areva Challenge lost to Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team by 1:31Match 2 +39 Challenge lost to Team Shosholoza by 0:57Match 3 United Internet Team Germany def. China Team by 1:50Match 4 Luna Rossa Challenge def. Victory Challenge by 0:55Match 5 Emirates Team New Zealand def. Desafio Español 2007 by 0:54Match 6 Alinghi def. BMW ORACLE Racing by 0:21Act 10 Standings Through Nine of 11 FlightsPlc. Team Points1. Alinghi 81. Emirates Team New Zealand 81. Luna Rossa 84. BMW Oracle Racing 75. Victory Challenge 66. Desafio Español 57. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 37. Team Shosholoza 39 Areva Challenge 29 United Internet Team Germany 211. +39 Challenge 112. China Team 0*Did not finish their match in Flight 6, which will be resailed later.