BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa Score Big Wins on Day 3

On-site reporting from Valencia, Spain

Act10Day3

Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-The big dogs squared off for the first time on Day 3 of Act 10 of the Louis Vuitton Cup. When the dust settled, just one of the four teams, Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing, remained unbeaten. With Ellison sailing in the afterguard aboard USA-87, BMW Oracle pounced on a rare boathandling mistake by Emirates Team New Zealand and opened up a match that had been, for the first two legs, as close as any match race can be.The scoreboard shows BMW Oracle racing tied with Alinghi, Emirates Team New Zealand, and Luna Rossa, however, that is only because BMW Oracle's second race, against +39, was abandoned when neither boat could finish the second windward leg within the time limit as the breeze became very light and variable late in the afternoon. So while all four teams have five wins, only BMW Oracle has yet to lose.Luna Rossa handed Alinghi its first lost of 2006 in the other marquee match of Day 3. It was a great win for the Italian syndicate, which suffered a stinging defeat a day earlier at the hands of Desafio Español.The Spanish syndicate was in a great position to join the logjam at the top of the leaderboard. They handily dispatched Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia in the first flight of races for their fourth straight win, but then lost to Team Shosholoza, which after not winning once in its first four races, won twice today.The Swedish Victory Challenge also won twice today, while +39 and Areva Challenge each picked up their first win of the regatta. Only China Team remains winless.The match between BMW Oracle Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand featured the first clash of boats sailing their debut in Act 10. The race was sailed in a light 7- to 9-knot easterly. Neither team appeared to dominate the pre-start. Dean Barker on ETNZ was able to win the left side, which both teams appeared to want, but he seemed a little off on his time and distance to the pin and didn't hit it at full speed. A long drag race to the left side followed, finally broken by ETNZ. After 10 tacks for BMW Oracle and 12 for ENTZ, the two boats converged on the windward mark neck and neck, BMW Oracle using the power of the right side, which it had held for the entire leg, to force ETNZ head to win before both boats tacked and rounded the mark. ETNZ had a better set and was able to force BMW Oracle to jibe away, however this ended up going BMW Oracle's way as a right shift halfway down the beat gave them the advantage. At the bottom mark it appeared the ETNZ, how holding the right side, would be able to use starboard rights to control the leeward rounding. But then the spinnaker caught on the rig during a jibe just a few hundred yards from the gate, tore, and dropped into the water, necessitating a rapid spinnaker change and handing BMW Oracle a 45-second lead.While many of the boats have been using an outside jibe, where the clue of the asymmetric rotates in front of the luff, ETNZ decided to go with an inside jibe in lighter air. This is generally faster, but riskier, as the sail can catch on the jumpers or the flippers used to support the jib roach. "I think the decision to be inside is still good," said ETNZ tactician Terry Hutchinson, "because it's really helping our jibes and I think our jibes look really, really nice. We've just got to fine some of those details and some of the things in our rig. It's great to have a boat that's fast but if you can't race it 100 percent all the time it's not going to do you a lot of good. All the boats are so close that every little detail has to be perfect."Barker and Hutchinson were able to take 19 seconds out of the BMW Oracle lead on the next beat, which helped build the team's confidence in the new boat. But they were unable to get close enough to really make BMW Oracle skipper Chris Dickson sweat.Luna Rossa controlled the start in it's match with Alinghi, and led at every mark, including rounding the leeward gate a full minute ahead. But Alinghi gained all that back on the second beat and the boats were in a virtual dead heat as they approached the second windward mark. Alinghi had the right side of the course, and therefore the power of starboard tack when the boats would come together. As the boats came together just a few boatlengths from the windward mark, Alinghi planted a leebow on a port-tack Luna Rossa. But somehow, Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill was able to hang on Alinghi's weather hip long enough to force both boats past the starboard layline. There, with both boats nearly stopped, Spithill swung ITA-86 through a down-speed tack, bore off, and rounded the windward mark with a 21-second lead on Alinghi. It was a deft bit of match racing from the current world champion."We came rolling in there and our plan was to do a nice leebow tack and get him to peel off," said Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth. "We didn't quite convert it. We didn't do the maneuver well enough to make it stick. That's something we'll have to work on. Nine times out of 10 I'm sure we do it right, but today we didn't do it right."Aside from the battles between the Big 4 syndicates, the other interesting development of the day was Team Shosholoza taking a pair of wins. While the first win, over Areva Challenge wasn't much of a surprise, the second one definitely was. Save for the opening loss to Alinghi, Desafio Español has been sailing exceptionally well. But the South African team used its strong upwind boatspeed to get the early lead and then was able to lead around all the marks for the win. "I think what's important is just to keep going," said sewerman Salomon Diperee. "Don't change a lot because we knew it would come together sooner or later."The two wins lifted Team Shosholoza into a tie for seventh, and within two points of fifth, a position that Diperee says, "belongs to anyone, as we've seen today."Results from Day 3(Matches 1 through 3 sailed on the North Course, 4 through 6 on the South Course. The left-hand boat entered the starting box from the pin end, the right-hand boat from the boat end.)Flight 5 Match 1 +39 Challenge def. China Team by 1:36Match 2 BMW ORACLE Racing def. Emirates Team New Zealand by 0:47Match 3 Victory Challenge def. United Internet Team Germany by 0:48Match 4 Areva Challenge lost to Team Shosholoza by 0:14Match 5 Alinghi lost to Luna Rossa Challenge by 0:34Match 6 Desafio Español 2007 def. Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team by 0:40 Flight 6 Match 1 China Team lost to Emirates Team New Zealand by 7:07Match 2 +39 Challenge vs. BMW ORACLE Racing was abandonedMatch 3 Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team lost to Victory Challenge by 1:53Match 4 Desafio Español 2007 lost to Team Shosholoza by 0:33Match 6 Luna Rossa Challenge def. United Internet Team Germany by 2:18Match 5 Areva Challenge lost to Alinghi by 5:07Act 10 Standings Through Six of 11 FlightsPlc. Team Points1. BMW Oracle Racing 51. Alinghi 51. Emirates Team New Zealand 51. Luna Rossa 55. Desafio Español 45. Victory Challenge 47. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 27. Team Shosholoza 29. Areva Challenge 19. United Internet Team Germany 19. +39 Challenge 112. China Team 0*Did not finish their match in Flight 6, which will be resailed later.