Big Dogs Still Have Powerful Bite

On-site reporting from Act 11 of the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia, Spain.

Act11Day3

Carlo Borlenghi/acm 2006

VALENCIA, Spain-With one leg remaining in Act 11 of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the Italian Mascalzone Latino Capitalia team was in second place in Race 5 and, by two points, in fourth in the regatta. Vincenzo Onorato's Latin Rascals-the literal translation of the team's name, Capitalia being the bank that sponsors the team-started the day tied with BMW Oracle Racing for fourth. One team would cross the line first and break the tie in its favor. With a 39-second lead over Larry Ellison's American syndicate, and one run to the finish left, things looked good Mascalzone.However, in yet another light and variable seabreeze, BMW Oracle Racing had perhaps something more valuable than a 39-second lead, nothing to lose. There was no way they could fall to sixth, especially with Team Shosholoza and Areva Challenge over a minute behind. So they rolled the dice, jibing soon after rounding the windward mark. It wasn't a total flyer. "It looked OK over there," said BMW Oracle pitman Jamie Gale. But it was anything but a conservative move."They had been quite a way ahead of us and we split down the run and got a little bit of extra pressure and a little shift," said Gale. "Then we were sort of bow to bow with them. Unfortunately we were on the layline and they still really had us on the ropes. But they left a jibe a couple of boatlengths too late and gave us the opportunity to stick the bow up and show them the high mode. I think they had some trouble jibing their battens and they next thing you know we're going over the top. It was one of those slow painful deaths for them and I'll bet they're kicking themselves now."Along with BMW Oracle in fourth, a moral victory after a poor start to the 5-race fleet racing regatta and an over early start in Race 5, the rest of the usual suspects occupied the top four places in the standings. After coming out on the short end of a three-way tiebreak for second in Act 10, Alinghi left no doubt who was the fastest team in Act 11. They won three of five races and finished eight points clear of Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand. Just like in Act 10, Luna Rossa won the tiebreaker between these two teams to take second.The performance by Alinghi in SUI-75, the boat it built but never officially raced during the 2003 America's Cup campaign, has to give the other three big syndicates pause. While it looked during the match racing in Act 10 that ETNZ, Luna Rossa, and BMW Oracle has at least matched the speed of SUI-75 with their new boats, Act 11 once again showed Alinghi's ability to seemingly pull out an extra tenth of a knot, or a couple of degrees of height, when it really needed it.Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said that may have been a function of the longer legs and more straight-line sailing that comes at the front of the fleet race, in other words that the speed was there all along, it was just obscured slightly by the type of racing."Fleet racing the course is a bit longer and then you start to see different modes as the boat is sailing," said Butterworth, the team's tactician. The boats are sailing for nine minutes at a time on one tack. That's a long time and you start to see real performance come out. The problem was the week was light and you didn't really get a good measure anywhere during the week other than the races that were over 10 knots. Today we struggled a little bit out of the start and then a little puff from the right and the next minute we could live until the layline. It made life difficult for the other boats."Alinghi led by 12 seconds over Mascalzone Latino, which survived a very thin layline call to round in second. Once they got around the first mark, the Swiss syndicate never looked back, extending it's advantage on each leg to win the race by 1:27. In fact, in the three races it won, Alinghi was an average of 92 seconds ahead of second.For Mascalzone Latino, it was disappointing to let fourth in the regatta slip away. But the team still was very happy with it's performance overall in Acts 10 and 11."I think we sailed a very good race until the last run," said strategist and starting helmsman Jes-Gram Hansen. "We found ourselves in a fight with Team New Zealand, for their standing they had to pass us. So we had a big fight with Team New Zealand, bvut we knew we should stay ahead of Oracle. But Oracle did quite a big split on the run, they made a good gain out there. When we came in on port tack we were still leading them, but it was close, and we didn't position ourselves that well compared to Oracle on the jibe and they were able to roll past us."Maybe our jibe wasn't too good either. But in the talk on the way in that's one of the areas we have to work hard on, the close situations to understand how the boats behave in different wind conditions. We didn't do a very good job we should've been able to keep that position in front of Oracle. But we will be able to learn it."Now we have to be happy, we had two good acts, in the combined standings fifth. That's a big improvement over last year."Virtually every team, even for Victory Challenge, which had a shocking run of 10ths and 11ths after winning the first Race in Act 11, could say they improved their sailing and their boats over last year. Not maybe as much as Mascalzone Latino or Team Shosholoza, both of which have made big strides since Acts 4 and 5 last spring. But the problem is, as was apparent in Act 11, that Alinghi isn't standing still waiting. The defenders, sailing a 2002 design, were the fastest team on the water again in Act 11. Act 11Final resultsTeam Points1. Alinghi 532. Luna Rossa Challenge 453. Emirates Team New Zealand 454. BMW Oracle Racing 415. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 396. Team Shosholoza 337. Areva Challenge 328. +39 Challenge 319. Desafio Español 2610. Victory Challenge 2411. United Internet Team Germany 1312. China Team 6Race 51. Alinghi 1:23:412. Emirates Team New Zealand 1:27 back3. BMW Oracle Racing 1:49 back4. Luna Rossa Challenge 2:15 back5. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 2:16 back6. +39 Challenge 2:26 back7. Areva Challenge 2:53 back8. Team Shosholoza 3:13 back9. Desafio Español 3:34 back10. United Internet Team Germany 3:47 back11. Victory Challenge 4:10 backDNS, China Team