Advertisement

Alinghi Pushes Lead to 3-0

February 17, 2003
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Stuart Streuli

For Team New Zealand, things are getting desperate. For with a cool, efficient, error-free performance, the Alinghi Challenge of Switzerland today executed a wire-to-wire victory over a game but outmatched Team New Zealand squad to open up a 3-0 lead in the best-of-nine series for the America’s Cup.

As in the first two races in this 31st Cup contest, boat speed was not the deciding factor. Despite all the pre-event patter regarding hulas, keel bulbs, sail area, and the potential for upwind or downwind speed advantages, in the wide range of conditions experienced thus far, for all intents and purposes the boats are dead even.

Just as in Race 2, however, the Swiss crew displayed extraordinary tactical prowess. With yet another surgical outing, the Alinghi strategist Brad Butterworth once again proved this afternoon that whatever princely sum the billionaire syndicate chief Ernesto Bertarelli is paying him, it appears to be a bargain.

Advertisement

Remarkably, in many respects the outcome of Race 3 was determined just moments after it began. On an overcast day with winds forecast to build from the northwest to 15 to 20 knots, in comments broadcast via the live television feed it was clear that both Butterworth and the Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper sought the left-hand side of the race course up the first windward leg.

With the committee boat slightly favored, the Kiwi boat NZL-82 entered the starting box from port, and Alinghi’s SUI-64 rolled in from starboard. Displaying deft boathandling, the New Zealanders maintained control of the left, an advantage Butterworth ultimately was more than willing to concede. With two minutes before the start, he said to running mate and helmsman Russell Coutts, “The right looks okay. I’ll take the boat.”

Ultimately, it was an understatement. The two boats performed a split-tack start with the Swiss peeling off on port past the committee boat and the Kiwis sprinting by the pin on starboard. The wind, as it had been for the better part of the previous hour, was rock steady at 11 knots from a direction of 332-degrees.

Advertisement

Just moments off the line, however, the breeze veered five degrees to the right and built to 13 knots. “Good pressure on the right,” said Butterworth, as Alinghi tacked to starboard and lined up with the Kiwis for the initial Race 3 drag race. But the right-hand shift was just beginning, and within minutes it had swung a full 20 degrees and settled in at 352-degrees. What had been a two-boatlength lead almost instantly extended to six boatlengths. Alinghi had established a lead it would never relinquish. At the top mark the Swiss led by 28 seconds.

|

|

Advertisement

| |

|

|

Advertisement

| |

| Stuart Streuli|

| |

|

|

| |

| Though Team New Zealand closed to within two boatlengths midway up the final beat, Alinghi was able to extend just before the mark and cover on the final run, matching TNZ’s jibe set (above).* * *|

| |

|

|

|

To their credit, the New Zealanders never gave up. As a small squall passed over the Hauraki Gulf, the wind built to 15 knots and the Kiwis went on a downwind attack. At the end of the first run they’d regained 8 seconds to close the lead to 20 seconds with two-thirds of the race still to sail.

The breeze continued to oscillate but Butterworth and Coutts maintained a tight cover in the subsequent legs and never gave the Kiwis a genuine opportunity to pounce. As the afternoon wore on the skies cleared and the breeze built to a steady 16 knots, and the sun was shining on the Swiss at the finish when they took the gun with Team New Zealand some four-and-a-half lengths back and 23 seconds in arrears.

It was a day when one shift made all the difference. It’s no surprise that Brad Butterworth and the Swiss absolutely nailed it.

Advertisement

More Racing

Advertisement
Advertisement