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Bad Takedown Dooms Oracle in Race 2

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January 12, 2003
Stuart Streuli

A botched leeward mark rounding doused any hopes of Oracle/BMW Racing leveling the Louis Vuitton Final at one apiece. Sailing through intermittent showers and in a 10- to 15-knot easterly, Russell Coutts and his Alinghi team once again showed superior crewwork and solid boatspeed on their way to a 40-second win in Race 2. The win lifted the Swiss team to a 2-0 lead in the best of nine series.

But as impressive as the Alinghi team was in recording their 10th straight win in the elimination rounds of the Louis Vuitton Cup, it was Oracle’s mistake which played the biggest part in deciding this race. After rounding the first mark 26 seconds behind, Oracle was able to sail lower and as fast down the run. A favorable left shift on the final approach to the leeward mark helped Oracle close to within two or three boatlengths. Then disaster struck. Carrying the spinnaker until the last possible second, Oracle’s pole dropped accidentally when, according to Ian Burns, the jammer holding the topping lift failed. The tip of the pole caught the water in front and to windward of the boat and the pole broke. The boat then ran over the spinnaker, which wrapped around the keel. Oracle’s speed dropped to below six knots as they struggled to get the two parts of the pole on board and shed themselves the shredded spinnaker. By the second windward mark, the 19-second deficit from the leeward mark had ballooned to 52 seconds. Oracle still showed a speed edge off the wind, making 21 and 8 seconds respectively on the second and third downwind legs, but was never able to get the break it need to get close enough to Alinghi to worry the Swiss syndicate.

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| Stuart Streuli|

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| Team New Zealand’s two boats round a windward mark during a practice race on the Hauraki Gulf.* * *|

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The start was, for the second straight day, fairly tame. Oracle, approaching from the pin end, won the dial-up by stopping on a dime and then backing down and spinning behind Alinghi’s stern. That would be about as close as the boats would get, with Alinghi taking the leeward position and starting mid-line on starboard while Oracle hit the boat. Alinghi forced Oracle to tack away and for the rest of the leg showed gains of a few feet every time the boats came together. Unlike yesterday, when Brad Butterworth refused to confirm that his team might have a slight speed edge upwind, today Murray Jones acknowledged that Alinghi did feel like they had an edge upwind.

“We were always comfortable,” said Jones who does the traveler and helps with tactics. “I think they’re good downwind; we’ve got an edge upwind. But we could still have some pretty good races.”

Race Statistics, Race II
Intermittent showers, wind at the start was 10 to 14 knots from 080
Alinghi approached from starboard, Oracle from port
Course Deltas
Start: Alinghi by a hair
1st mark: Alinghi by 26 seconds
2nd mark: Alinghi by 19 seconds
3rd mark: Alinghi by 52 seconds
4th mark: Alinghi by 31 seconds
5th mark: Alinghi by 48 seconds
Finish: Alinghi by 40 seconds.

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