BMW Oracle Racing Wins Act 10

On-site reporting from Valencia, Spain

Act10Day6

Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-With two wins on the sixth day of competition, BMW Oracle Racing leapt from fourth to first and won Act 10. A day after a loss to Alinghi, the American syndicate knocked off Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand, and received some help from ETNZ, which handed Alinghi its second loss. The final scoreboard shows all four syndicates equal on points with nine victories, but BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa each went 2-1 in that group and since BMW Oracle prevailed when those two raced, it was Larry Ellison's team that took the overall win. Since ETNZ was able to dispatch Alinghi in today's final match, the former Cup holders took that tiebreaker, leaving the defenders in fourth."A very nice day for our BMW Oracle Team," said skipper and CEO Chris Dickson. "We came close in a number of regattas last year. The team's worked very hard just to have 87 on the start line for this regatta. So to come out with a win is a real nice bonus. It's not something we expected, but we're certainly very, very pleased for the whole team. It's a nice place to start the year."The regatta actually isn't over for BMW Oracle. Because of slight difference in how the Challenger Rankings, which will determine the bonus points to be carried into the Louis Vuitton Cup next spring, are calculated, BMW Oracle actually needs the win over +39 Challenge, a match which was abandoned due to poor wind earlier in the week. As opposed to the Act 10 results, in the Challenge Rankings, from which Alinghi is removed, ties are not broken. So as it stands now BMW Oracle, ETNZ, and Luna Rossa are all tied for first with 9 points. If BMW Oracle wins tomorrow against +39, it would stand alone in first, with the other two in second. The Italian +39 Challenge has a similar reason for wanting to sail; they would move up from ninth to eighth.The sea breeze had slightly more punch today, whipping up the occasional white cap as it crept into the low double digits. While it was a subtle change, it certainly affected the racing. With a bit more power the pre-starts were a little more combative, and saw a number of extended dial-up situations. Downwind the boats had a wider groove. When this was combined with a number of excellent match-ups, Day 6 provided the best racing of the Act. In general the racing this spring in Valencia has been much closer than 11 months earlier during Acts 4 and 5. The finish line deltas are significantly smaller across the board and there were a lot more matches that were close all the way around the track. While there appeared to be significant speed differentials last year, this year the gap from the slowest to the fastest is very small.The highlight of the day was the match between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand (see photo sequence). The boats split tacks at the start, with the Italian team taking the right side, which appeared to be favored with a little more pressure, and New Zealand helmsman Dean Barker starting down by pin. Barker won the first cross and appeared to extend a bit on the second one. But Luna Rossa, with James Spithill at the helm hung tough and the two boats rounded the first windward mark overlapped. From there it was a test of spinnaker trimmers as Luna Rossa tried to sail low of ETNZ's stern in anticipation of being able to eventually jibe on Emirates Team New Zealand's air. Both spinnakers were extremely unstable as the boats worked down the run, one slip by either crew would've proved disastrous. Luna Rossa tried to beat ETNZ to the first jibe, but Dean Barker did a splendid job of putting the bow up just enough to keep Luna Rossa from rolling over them to windward. However the second time, it was Spithill who won the battle, rolling over the New Zealand team on port tack and soaking low. He then jibed and ETNZ tried to repay the favor. But an aggressive luff caused Emirates Team New Zealand's spinnaker to part near the head. It draped over the Luna Rossa boat before the team could haul in the remnants, which resulted in a penalty."The trailing boat doesn't really have an advantage because the leading boat can still choose which side they want," said Luna Rossa main trimmer Jonathan McKee, when asked how they were able to get past ENTZ. "If they want to get into a duel, it's their option whether to do that or not. Maybe we jibed in some good places. But the crew did a great job with the handling in that race in particular. That was pretty decisive as it turns out.Luna Rossa's second match, with BMW Oracle, was equally as nerve racking. Luna Rossa had a slight edge off the starting line, starting tight of leeward of BMW Oracle, which started at the boat. The Italians were able to turn this 2-second advantage into enough of a lead that they could cross and take the right. But Dickson was able to claw back on the left side and the teams were dead even as they approached the windward mark, Luna Rossa on starboard, BMW Oracle on port."The game was what you saw," said BMW Oracle navigator Peter Isler. "Both boats on the layline coming in. They dial us down, we come down and they start turning up, we turn up and now we're on the right side of them and they're no longer on the layline because they've dialed down. So there's a little bit of room for us to slip in there. We tack to starboard, they tack to port and they got pinged for tacking too close."From there, BMW Oracle was able to hold the Italians at arm's length, preventing Spithill from engaging Dickson in any attempts to equalize the penalty Luna Rossa picked up at the windward mark.The only thing that remained for BMW Oracle was a win by Emirates Team New Zealand. Alinghi had the slightest of advantages off the line, settling in just to leeward of ETNZ, which tacked fairly quickly. At the first cross, Alinghi executed an effective leebow. By the second cross they were able to cleanly pass in front of the New Zealand boat and take the right side. However, ETNZ was happy to take the left as they were expecting a shift to come through. When it did, they jumped into the lead. From there it was a matter of defending, which helmsman Dean Barker and tactician Terry Hutchinson did without too much difficulty for the rest of the race.The loss dropped the defenders into the four-way quagmire, and from there they came out on the short end of the stick. But while the Alinghi team was disappointed, it was far from heartbreaking."That's the nature of a single round-robin event," said Alinghi mastman Mark Newbrook. "There's big long ties in these. We can't complain, last year we came out on top on all the tiebreakers and so finally things have gone against us. But we've learned a lot this week and we're relieved to see that nobody's got any magic bullets right now and we can just focus on good, decent boat racing and hopefully come out in the next Act and do a little better."Act 10 will officially conclude tomorrow when +39 Challenge and BMW Oracle Racing square off in their postponed match. Act 11, the only fleet racing Act of 2006, will begin on Friday. The competition is sure to be exciting, especially since many of the second-tier teams appeared to have noticeably closed the speed gap and improved their boathandling. While few teams spend a lot of time preparing for fleet racing, it does provide some good opportunities for research against the other teams."I think it's pretty good," said Luna Rossa's McKee, when asked about the opportunities to gauge speed against the competition in the fleet racing. "You tend to spend more time just sailing side-by-side with other boats rather than just tacking all the time or doing maneuvers. It's probably better than match racing as far as your speed goes."Results from Day 6(The left-hand boat entered the starting box from the pin end, the right-hand boat from the boat end.)Flight 10 Southern Race CourseMatch 1 Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team def. Team Shosholoza by 0:15Match 2 China Team lost to Areva Challenge by 1:48Match 3 +39 Challenge def. United Internet Team Germany by 0:38Northern Race CourseMatch 4 BMW ORACLE Racing def. Desafio Español 2007 by 0:25Match 5 Alinghi def. Victory Challenge by 2:33Match 6 Emirates Team New Zealand lost to Luna Rossa Challenge by 1:08Flight 11 Northern Race CourseMatch 1 Desafio Español 2007 def. Victory Challenge by DNFMatch 2 BMW ORACLE Racing def. Luna Rossa Challenge by 1:38Match 3 Alinghi lost to Emirates Team New Zealand by 0:16Southern Race CourseMatch 4 Team Shosholoza def. China Team by 1:27Match 5 Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team def. United Internet Team Germany by 2:28Match 6 Areva Challenge lost to +39 Challenge by 0:31Final Act 10 Standings Through 11 of 11 FlightsPlc. Team Points1. BMW Oracle Racing 92. Luna Rossa 93. Emirates Team New Zealand 94. Alinghi 95. Desafio Español 66. Victory Challenge 67. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia 58. Team Shosholoza 49. +39 Challenge 310. Areva Challenge 311. United Internet Team Germany 212. China Team 0*Did not finish their match in Flight 6, which will be resailed on Wednesday. This match won't affect the Act 10 standings, but does have an effect on the challenger rankings.