Alinghi Takes Act IV

Day 5 of Act IV of the Louis Vuitton Cup

Valencia0621

Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-If Act IV wasn't as big a win as the America's Cup, there was no way to tell from the smile on Alinghi syndicate chief Ernesto Bertarelli as he stood on the podium in Valencia. After sweeping to the Act IV championship with an unblemished 11-0 record, Bertarelli appeared as happy as he had been in early March 2003 in Auckland's Viaduct Basin. He had good reason to smile, the defenders looked every bit as fast and as polished as they did over two years ago. They didn't make any major mistakes, rarely, if ever, trailed, and raised their game as necessary when battling the more competitive teams. Helmsman Peter Holmberg pronounced himself, "completely satisfied," with the regatta. "We've been preparing for testing not racing," said the U.S. Virgin Islander. "We only modified our schedule at the last moment to allow for racing practice. I was just comfortable." Yet they seemed to have a speed edge on every other boat. In today's match with Luna Rossa, which didn't really matter much for Alinghi since they'd already clinched the regatta, they lost the start by 2 seconds, but defended the favored side and powered away to a 27-second lead at the first mark. The would add to that lead on each of the next two legs before losing 2 seconds on the final run. The margin of victory was an even 1 minute. On Monday, Alinghi proved that it had a slight speed edge on Emirates Team New Zealand in breeze. After handling Luna Rossa in moderate conditions, Holmberg felt this advantage existed over the entire fleet of challengers. "In the last few months our design team did a better job than the others," he said. "I think our package right now is a better package. That's not just the boat, but the boat, the sails, the set up and how you sail it." While Alinghi may have taken home the hardware, the first-place points were actually up for the grabs in the match between Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle Racing. As defender, Alinghi has no need for the points available in each act. Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle each entered their final match with one loss. The pre-start was relatively tame as both boats took different sides of the line, ETNZ on the pin with BMW Oracle on the committee boat. ETNZ tactician Terry Hutchinson said they were expecting better pressure on the left side and they got it, quickly building a lead of a few boatlengths. "We sailed for two to three minutes on starboard before we picked our shift and tacked," said Hutchinson. The first cross went comfortably to ETNZ and they protected the left side and built a 32-second lead at the top mark. BMW Oracle tactician John Kostecki felt this lead was completely due to the strategic advantage the New Zealand team enjoyed on the right side, and not an edge in boatspeed, possibly from the extreme roach on ETNZ's main and jib. "Probably that side was worth four lengths," said Kostecki, "and then I think they had a length and a half off the starting line because the pin end was favored." The rest of the race, to some extent, bears this out. While ETNZ was happy to play defense and give up a little time here or there to maintain control, the American syndicate picked up time on each successive leg. The second leg featured 31 tacks by BMW Oracle and 29 by Emirates Team New Zealand. The margin of victory was 17 seconds, approximately three to four boat lengths. "We sailed a very conservative race-protecting the lead, not extending the lead," said Hutchinson. "On the second beat they took 6 seconds out of us, which we don't necessarily feel great about, but we'll take the win every day of the week." The other important match of the day could effectively be called "The Best of the Rest" championship. With five points each heading into the final race, both Desafio Español and Victory Challenge had established themselves firmly in the middle tier. The winner would claim fifth overall in the regatta. The Swedes picked up a penalty in the pre-start, but sailed well from that point on, building a 43-second lead by the second upwind mark, just enough to complete their penalty turn at the finish line and cross with a 10-second lead. Aside from Alinghi, who looked very strong in all facets, the most impressive performance of Act IV would have to go to Victory Challenge. Were it not for a basic error in their race against K-Challenge they would've racked up sevens wins and were able to make a number of the big teams sweat. Sentimental favorites Team Shosholoza are still looking for their first win in America's Cup Class match racing. They won the start today against K-Challenge, but we unable to hold the French syndicate off on the first leg. After two well-earned days off, the fleet racing portion will start on Friday. Holmberg had one request. "I hope the committee is smart enough to give us a big starting line," he said. While there are just as many points at stake in the regatta, the chances to learn are limited and the chances for disaster, with 12 boats on the line, greatly increased. Results Flight 11 K-Challenge (FRA 60) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) - delta 2:08 Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) - delta 1:00 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82) beat BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) - delta 0:17 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) beat China Team (CHN 69) - delta 0:29 Victory Challenge (SWE 63) beat Desafio Español 2007 (ESP 67) - delta 0:10 +39 Challenge (ITA 59) won, United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) did not finish Points Leaderboard--Final Results Alinghi 11 Emirates Team New Zealand 10 BMW ORACLE Racing 9 Luna Rossa Challenge 8 Victory Challenge 6 Desafio Español 2007 6 K-Challenge 4 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 4 +39 Challenge 4 United Internet Team Germany 3 China Team 1 Team Shosholoza 0