Butterworth, Alinghi Are Too Strong in Race 1

Emirates Team New Zealand looked strong off the line, but it was Alinghi that laughed best and laughed last in Race 1 of the 32nd America's Cup scoring a 35-second victory. Audio clips from Dean Barker, Juan Vila, Matt Welling, Barry McKay, and Adam Beashel.

AC07_0623_LWMark
Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-Brad Butterworth and his Tight Five Kiwi cohorts pushed their remarkable America's Cup winning streak to 16 in Race 1 of the 32nd America's Cup. The Swiss Alinghi syndicate, the holders of the Cup, sailed impressively, showing solid, if not otherworldly, speed in SUI-100, polished crewwork, and Butterworth's patented tactical poise, which proved invaluable on a difficult day. The final delta was 35 seconds. Of course everyone wants to know whether one boat has a speed edge. Alingh navigator Juan Vila gave us the expected answer here.History has not looked too kindly on the boat that loses the opening race of the Cup, particularly recent history. The last three America's Cups (all won by a boat sailed by Butterworth, Warwick Fleury, Simon Daubney, Dean Phipps, and Murray Jones) have been 5-0 sweeps. In 1992 it was 4-1 and in 1987, 4-0. The last final where the loser won more than one race took place in 1983, when Liberty lost 4-3 to Australia II. Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Dean Barker knows what that feels like. He compared today's result to that of four years ago, Race 1 of the 2003 America's Cup when Team New Zealand had to drop out of the opening race with gear failure. Grinder Matt Welling explained what the win meant for Alinghi, which hasn't had a race that counts in more than two months. He also spoke about the emotion of the moment, this was his first America's Cup match, and whether the team might have been a little anxious coming off the line.While the conditions on the Mediterranean seemed to be what everyone had expected for this time of year, around 12 to 14 knots of wind, there were a few twists. The first was that the wind on the course was not the product of a traditional seabreeze, but rather that of some northeasterly gradient flow. The expected pattern for this breeze, though it different in direction by less than 50 degrees from the normal east-southeast seabreeze, was for it to die and to go left. The second was a very short and steep swell augmented by some wind-driven chop and, of course, the wash created by an extremely large spectator fleet, estimates of which were around 800 boats. The traditional seabreeze in Valencia heavily favors the right side of the course, making the upwind tactics somewhat easy for the lead boat: Protect the right side for better breeze and the starboard advantage. This breeze however would likely force Butterworth and Terry Hutchinson, the two opposed tacticians, to choose either the favored side for breeze or the starboard advantage. ETNZ Strategist Adam Beashel spoke about why and how this breeze is different from what they usually expect to see this time of year. From the looks of the start, Butterworth wanted the former, setting up to leeward and ahead as the boats set up for the final approach to the starting line. Emirates Team New Zealand didn't too worried about them taking it. The boats seemed virtually bow even coming off the line. But Emirates Team New Zealand seemed to benefit from a stellar "ramp up" off the line and quickly moved into a position in which it would be able to live comfortably. Alinghi on the other hand seemed to take some time to settle into a groove, at one point finding itself trailing by a boatlength as the two boats raced toward the left side of the course. In this audio clip, Barker talks about the start and the ensuing few minutes of sailing. Alinghi navigator Juan Vila offers a different perspective here.After about 5 minutes of sailing, Alinghi was able to shrink the advantage line down to 5 meters and get close enough to ETNZ to force them to tack away. Alinghi waited a minute to clear its air and then followed suit. On the long port tack that followed, Alinghi seemed to sail higher and just a fraction slower, the bottom line being a VGM gain to the Swiss team and after 8 minutes of side-by-side sailing, a boatlength lead.From there Alinghi went right to the playbook and forced Emirates Team New Zealand over to the right side of the course. The lead stretched to more than two boatlengths, but just as ETNZ was nearing the layline, a small right-hand shift and then perhaps a slight miscalculation by Alinghi and helmsman Ed Baird, gave Dean Barker the window to put the bow down, sneak through Alinghi's wind shadow and live to leeward as the boats made for the port-tack layline. Welling allowed that this might have been a slight mistake on the part of his team.The delta at the first mark was just 13 seconds, something of victory for Emirates Team New Zealand, as boats in that position-behind and being herded toward the starboard layline-often come out of the rounding with a slightly larger deficit. However, New Zealand's ability to attack downwind was quickly compromised around the mark. Alinghi somehow stretched the 40- to 50-meter lead to 90 to 100 meters. The difference is crucial in America's Cup sailing and it allowed Alinghi to jibe knowing that even if the New Zealand team match jibes it wouldn't be able to clamp on the Swiss team's air. ETNZ pitman Barry McKay recalls that rounding and also briefly addresses Alinghi's performance downwind in this audio clip.At the leeward mark, Butterworth faced another difficult choice. Based on the breeze angle, the right-side gate was favored. However, there was more wind on the left side of the course, and the douse would be easier rounding the left-side mark.So Alinghi did, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to split and get a bit of separation. In one or two knots less breeze, the New Zealand boat seemed more comfortable on the second beat, closing to within 15 meters at one point. Adam Beashel explains how ETNZ was were able to gain on the second beat. But with Alinghi now protecting the right, there wasn't really a passing lane for Emirates Team New Zealand to sneak past.The delta around the second windward mark was almost identical for the first, 14 seconds. This time, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to stay within striking distance as the two boats set. But it didn't last. The lead grew to 100 meters then 120, and topped out at around 170 meters down the run. Hutchinson and ETNZ helmsman Dean Barker did what they could to try to find enough separation to close the gap, but nothing worked.The forecast for tomorrow is for lighter winds. That certainly can't hurt Emirates Team New Zealand. Whether it will help enough though remains to be seen. Alinghi seemed to sail with some first-race jitters today. The team is sure to get faster as it shakes those out.Race 1, 32nd America's Cup MatchAlinghi def. Emirates Team New Zealand by 35 seconds.Alinghi leads the best-of-9 series by 1-0.Intermediate Deltas: Start, 1 second to ETNZ; first windward mark, 13 seconds to Alinghi; leeward mark, 20 seconds to Alinghi; second windward mark, 14 seconds to Alinghi.