Four Go In, But Only Two Come Out

Day 3 of Louis Vuitton Act IV in Valencia

Valencia0618
Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-The stoics will tell you that a win is a win, especially in Act 4 of the Louis Vuitton Cup where the final results will be based on a single round robin of match racing. But today, Day 3 of the regatta, had at least two races where the pressure and spectator interest spiked. The first flight of the day saw four previously unbeaten teams racing in two matches that somewhat clarified the top of the pecking order among the 12 teams competing for the 32nd America's Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi emerged from the day with perfect 6-0 records, while rivals BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa Challenge are now a point behind. On the south course it was a rematch of the 2003 Louis Vuitton finals with BMW Oracle and Alinghi squaring off. The final delta was 27 seconds, but this race was won at the start according to BMW Oracle navigator Peter Isler. "They wanted the left, we wanted the right," said the recent addition to Larry Ellison's squad. "They were going full speed and we were a little behind." Alinghi turned a 10 second lead off the line into a 28 second advantage at the first mark. Oracle was able to claw back 11 seconds on the first run and had a window of opportunity when the defenders broke their spinnaker pole on the final run. But the Alinghi crew quickly patched it together and held on for the win. The match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa was close until the first leeward mark rounding. ETNZ had the advantage off the starting line, but allowed Luna Ross to get a little breathing room on the left side of the course as the two boats closed in on the mark. "We were pretty confident in the upper right for shift and pressure," said ETNZ tactician Terry Hutchinson. "But the shift didn't go our way. It was still right enough that they couldn't cross us and Dean [Barker]did a great job not letting them cross. From that point on we had a good boat race on our hands." The boats were overlapped as they turned downwind toward the leeward mark and overlapped as they approached the leeward gate. But ETNZ held the commanding position and was able to pick the favored gate, adding a crucial few seconds its lead. From there Hutchinson and Barker, the team's helmsman, pushed the Italian team to the port layline, adding fractions of a second to their lead with each tack. By the second windward mark, after 23 tacks for Luna Rossa and 24 for Emirates Team New Zealand, the lead was up to 23 seconds. Any hope of an Italian comeback ended a quarter of the way down the leg when Luna Rossa's spinnaker split in half during a jibe. The second races for both Alinghi and Team New Zealand were expected to be significantly easier. Though as ETNZ syndicate head Grant Dalton pointed out, "You've got to always be careful," he said. "These are all really good sailors." The Alinghi contest with the recently formed United Internet Team Germany went as expected, but the Italian +39 team put up a strong fight in its match with ETNZ. Barker was masterful in the star, drawing a penalty on +39 helmsman Iain Percy and then earning the "Wide Right" position that Terry Hutchinson had said he wanted-the ETNZ boat at the starboard end of the line with some space between it and the opponent. But in the 12- to 14-knot breeze Percy and his crew had clearly found a great groove for ITA 59, which started its existence as the snake-bit Swiss boat BeHappy in the 2000 Cup campaign. For the first half of the beat the Italian team took little bits out of ETNZ's lead with each tack, closing to within a half boatlength and forcing Barker to leebow ITA 59 in order to preserve the starboard advantage. The lead was just 14 seconds at the top mark and despite controlling both the run and the next beat nicely, Barker and his crew were only able to add 2 seconds to their lead. Of course, with a penalty still to burn, the +39 team had a lot of ground to make up on the final run. They were unable to get close enough to engage ETNZ and equalize the penalty count and, after completing their penalty turn, finished just over a minute behind. "That was a bit of a surprise," said Dalton after the race was finished. Though the result will go down as a "0" on the board that tracks each teams' performance in the round robin, Percy was almost equally as pleased with the result. "That was a bit of an error," he said about the start. "But around the course we didn't make many mistakes, we don't make many mistakes. The first few tacks [on the first beat] we tacked better than then up the rest it was pretty same-same. They had a slight speed edge, and we're pleased it was slight." In other action, Mascalzone Latino Capitalia picked up its first win, handling Team Germany fairly easily. Sweden's Victory Challenge also had a good day, knocking off the Team Shosholoza, which has struggled to get its new boat up to speed and is still winless, and then hanging tough against Luna Rossa, losing by 32 seconds. With three wins, the Swedish team, along with the Spanish team-four wins after a two-win day-have distanced themselves slightly from the bottom pack. Action in Act IV is expected to continued through Tuesday. The fleet racing portion, Act V, will start on Friday, June 24. For complete results, see www.americascup.com