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Grand Prix Sailor-America’s Cup Edition

October 15, 2002
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©sharon Green/oneworld

Issue 4, Oct. 13, 2002
Grand Prix Sailor is a 13-year-old racing news publication of Sailing World Magazine. This AMERICA’S CUP EDITION is a weekly summary of Cup action, brought to you this week by Offshore sailing School, Harken, and Dufour Yachts.

Bob Fisher in Auckland

Kiwis plan a surprise rig for 2003 There is no doubt that the Team New Zealand three-spreader “millennium” rig was contributory to its successful defense of the America’s Cup, no doubt whatsoever, or why would every challenger endeavored to copy it? That being the case, the Kiwis are known to have further investigated spar technology for the upcoming defense.

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They do have a revolutionary design that is currently in build at Southern Spars, the carbon-fiber mast making division of the North Sails Group, that’s a mega-advance on the millennium rig. Inside information from the spar-makers indicates that a totally new, low drag rigging system has been developed and that it will be used on one of the TNZ boats within two weeks.

The information received indicated that the design team of the black boats has been concerned with the added drag of the extra staying necessary to make the millennium rig work successfully, but when the source was questioned, it would reveal no more. Speculation therefore is that the majority of the diamond bracing could go and that an extra one or two pairs of spreaders introduced as they have far less drag than the lengthy rods because they can be airfoil shaped.

Two teams emerging best from First Round Robin While it is far too early to make long-term predictions on the outcome of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the indications of the racing so far is that there are only two outstanding teams in the competition, the Seattle-based OneWorld Challenge and the Swiss Alinghi Challenge. Both of their boats bear striking resemblance to NZL-60, and there is nothing surprising about that. After all, OneWorld has NZL-60’s chief designer, Laurie Davidson, heading its design team, while Russell Coutts and his band of TNZ renegades were all part of the input into the winning design and must have carried a great deal of them in their heads when they jumped ship.

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The obvious disappointment is that of the Farr designed Oracle-BMW Racing that may have been pitched towards the upper end of the wind scale. But bearing in mind that races are only started in breezes between seven and nineteen knots, this may have been a trifle stifling. Certainly, she is slow downwind because she is short of sail area, a situation caused by taking a design penalty, possibly not as was indicated earlier from lighter displacement, but more likely from a slightly deeper draught. The changeover point in USA-76’s performance would appear to come at 17 knots, above that wind speed she is highly competitive.
–Bob Fisher

Bob Fisher will be Grand Prix Sailor’s correspondent on scene in Auckland throughout the Louis Vuitton Cup. For the rest of Fisher’s latest commentary and observations on Round Robin 1, see www.sailingworld.com

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Saturday’s Matches: Surprises and a Hard-Fought Match at the Bottom of the Leaderboard
Despite the oft-reported statement by syndicate head Vincenzo Onarato that they hadn’t come to win, the winless team on Mascalzone Latino obviously felt a lot better after defeating their companions at the bottom of the barrel, the luckless Le Defi Areva syndicate. In the day’s closest racing, Mascalzone Latino and Le Defi exchanged the lead many times during their match. Mascalzone finally forced a penalty on Le Defi in the final two minutes of the race, and finished 5m:19s ahead. The delta belies the closeness of the racing; Le Defi did their circles just before the finish.

After taking and losing the lead, GBR Challenge used superior downwind speed against Oracle to win their second race in a row. Despite a 26-second deficit on one rounding, GBR was able to attack and pass Oracle downwind. The final delta was 36 seconds.

Another fast downwind team, the Swedes, nearly beat Russell Coutts in another close match. Alinghi was able to scoot ahead upwind but had a hard time fending off the SWE-63 downwind. The final downwind leg saw Orn close to within meters of Alinghi and initiate a jibing duel which the Swedes lost as their spinnaker tore. Alinghi won by 25 seconds.

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James Spithill, helming OneWorld, stayed on top of Prada from the get go of their match, and played the match racing game perfectly; staying between the Italians and the next mark for the entire race. The Seattle team won by 1m:11s.

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Sunday’s Matches Cancelled
Peter Reggio, the PRO for the Louis Vuitton Challenger Matches gave it his best shot Sunday, sending the Cup Challenger teams out on the Hauraki Gulf despite a high wind forecast, and not bowing to the inevitable until 1:55 Sunday afternoon. Squalls blasted across the racing area, with puffs as high as 45 knots recorded. The Challenger Match rules state that no racing will occur when winds are steadily over 19 knots.

If the weather allows, we’ll see an interesting day of racing, with two separate flights taking place. Since Monday is the last possible day for racing in Round Robin One, there will be two matches from Flight Five, and three matches from Flight Six sailed. The schedule is for the two partial flights of matches to be sailed over Course B. Racing will not start before 10:40, and no Warning Signal will be displayed before 10:30. Matches on Course B will be four legs rather than three. Mascalzone Latino and Oracle-BMW Racing will both race twice. “Because the races will be shorter, it’s more similar to the match-race circuit,” said Oracle helmsman Peter Holmberg. “You go punch it out, then return for a slight reprieve and a quick bite to eat, before heading back out for some more fun and action.”

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EXTRA Final Day of Round Robin 1
At first, with winds in the low to mid teens on Monday, it looked as though the challengers and the race committee were going to end the first Round Robin with a full slate of races completed. However, the capricious Hauraki Gulf had other ideas.

The first matchup of Monday was the much-anticipated clash between OneWorld and Oracle. In a fierce prestart, OneWorld seemed to control Oracle until 1m:30s before the start, when a bold move by helmsman Oracle helmsman Peter Holmbergóa seemingly impossible turn between OneWorld and the pin end of the starting lineóseemed to give Oracle a brief respite. But by the time that both boats had made it back to the starting line for the gun, OneWorld, to leeward of Oracle, had pace, and quickly stretched out a lead. The combination of first leg advantage and good racecourse management gave OneWorld its eighth and final victory in Round Robin 1, and left the Seattle based team as the only undefeated syndicate. “Once the Arbitration Panel decided against us,” said skipper Peter Gilmour after the race, “We knew that we had to go out there and be better than anyone else.”

Mascalzone Latino, fresh off their first win for the series, went up against team GBR. After a relatively non-aggressive start, Mascalzone Latino, to weather, led briefly, but was soon passed by Wight Lightning, which rounded the first mark 25 seconds ahead of the Italians and stayed ahead for the rest of the 4-leg race.

The race between Stars & Stripes and Le Défi Areva was, to say the least, interesting. Le Défi led initially but was overtaken by USA-66. In the third leg, Le Défi suffered a major equipment failure involving one of their winch drums and/or the headstay. At around the same time, the wind picked up, exceeded the 23-knot limit, and the race was abandoned. The winless French team, unlucky to the end, were unable to fix their damage before a second race was started at 2:05, and Stars & Stripes crossed the line alone, ending their series at 4 and 4, tied with Team GBR in fourth overall.

The last match of the day, between the Swedes and Oracle, was a done deal by four minutes into the first leg when the Victory Challenge, trailing Oracle, broke a halyard and dropped their headsail. When we went to press, it looked as though Oracle would take the win unless the race committee called the race because of the windspeed limit. If Oracle wins, they’ll be 5-3 and in third for the series, behind OneWorld and Alinghi.

Because of the windy conditions, the race between Mascalzone Latino and Prada was postponed until the beginning of Round Robin 2, which begins Oct. 22.

Standings at the completion of Round Robin 1

OneWorld (8-0) 7 points*
Alinghi (7-1) 7 points
Oracle (5-3) 5 points
Team Dennis Conner (4-4) 4 points
GBR Challenge (4-4) 4 points
Victory Challenge (3-5) 3 points
Prada (3-3) 3 points**
Mascalzone Latino (1-6) 1 point**
Le Défi Areva (0-8) 0 points

*OneWorld is being deducted one point from its round robin score because of America’s Cup Protocol violations.

**The match between Mascalzone Latino and Prada, the only one not sailed during the first round robin, will be sailed at the start of the second round robin.

Grand Prix Sailor and Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition are weekly newsletters compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. If you’d like to subscribe, see http://www.sailingworld.com Contributing Editors: Tony Bessinger ([email protected]), Dave Reed ([email protected]), Stuart Streuli ([email protected]), John Burnham ([email protected])

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