Alinghi Wins Day, But Victory Still Leads

Day 2 of Act V of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Valencia0625

Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-Like a cat that's climbed too high on the living room drapes, underdog Victory Challenge is clinging to its position at the top of Act V with all the energy it can muster. But like gravity, the pull of the big four syndicates is tough to resist. With one fleet race remaining the Swedish challenger has a 1-point lead over Alinghi. Luna Rossa is in third, one point further back, with BMW Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand tied for fourth and just three points off the lead. Though the wind direction was more to the left of the traditional seabreeze direction, the wind was similar in composition to yesterday: light, shifty, and full of holes. In this light wind, two things are quickly becoming apparent: few people, if any, have a firm grasp on what the wind is going to do, and the boats are very even in speed in light air. "It was definitely a little better than yesterday," said Luna Rossa mainsail trimmer Jonathan McKee of the breeze. "There was just a little more wind. But it wasn't super stable. Not just shifts, but puffy, too. I'd say nobody really had a great handle on it." Alinghi won the day with a second and a third. The speed they showed in the match racing portion of the regatta has been evident in the fleet racing as well. "I feel like we were going well," said Alinghi pitman Josh Belsky. "But in the light air I don't think it's as much of an issue." Starting, on the other hand, hasn't been going as well for Alinghi. They started one race today on the front row, but were 20 seconds late for the other and forced to work through the fleet on the first beat to stay in touch with the leading boats. "It's hard to us to get off the starting line fast and clear," said Belsky. "It's hard for anybody. I don't think anybody's starting all that well." Even Victory Challenge had its struggles on the line today, fouling Alinghi in the first start and then doing a penalty turn soon after the gun. But they were able to salvage at least a seventh out of that race-they're filing for redress as they believe they actually crossed the line in front of Luna Rossa Challenge, whom the race committee scored sixth by a second. Then in the second race, the Swedes won the start, played the wind correctly up the first leg, and rounded the first mark with a 16-second lead over Luna Rossa. The lead shrunk to 11 seconds by the leeward mark, but Victory Challenge played the second windward leg even better than the first and turned toward the finish with a 45-second lead. Luna Rossa was able to hold on for second. After winning the first race, Emirates Team New Zealand was in a great position to move into the overall lead as they closed in on the first windward mark of the second. They were in third place, but coming in on the port layline. Helmsman Dean Barker tried to slip in between Luna Rossa and the mark, but there wasn't enough room. The required penalty turn dropped ETNZ into the cheap seats for the first run. They were able to climb back to sixth in the race, but that penalty turn could prove to be the difference in the regatta. BMW Oracle was also forced to do a penalty turn as their spinnaker brushed the back of Alinghi's mailsail during a downwind cross just seconds from the finish of the first race. Helmsman Gavin Brady called for the spinnaker drop and rolled USA-76 into a quick circle. While it initially appeared as though a group of boats might threaten BMW Oracle's finish position they were able to comfortably slide across the line in third with only their main and spinnaker staysail. Tomorrow's final race will close out Act V and the Valencia portion of the 2005 America's Cup Class schedule. The teams will meet again in Malmo, Sweden, at the end of August and then Trapani, Italy, in late September for a pair of match race-fleet race combination events. As was the case here, each regatta will count toward the bonus points to be handed out on the eve of the Louis Vuitton Challenge Selection Series in April 2007. Results Points Leaderboard Race Results Overall Points Victory Challenge (4, 2, 7, 1) 38 Alinghi (3, 7, 2, 3) 37 Luna Rossa Challenge (2, 6, 6, 2) 36 Emirates Team New Zealand (1, 9, 1, 6) 35 BMW ORACLE Racing (5, 5, 3, 4) 35 K-Challenge (7, 4, 4, 7) 30 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (12, 1, 5, 8) 26 United Internet Team Germany (6, 11, 8, 5) 22 +39 Challenge (10, 3, 10, 10) 19 Desafio Español 2007 (8, 8, 9, 9) 18 Team Shosholoza (9, 10, 11, 12) 10 China Team (11, 12, 12, 11) 6