Luna Rossa Wins Act V After Protest

Day 3 of Act V of the Louis Vuitton Cup

Valencia0626

Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-With a solid fifth in the match racing in Act IV and then a stunning win on the water in Act V, Victory Challenge proved they'd taken to heart many of the lessons learned in Auckland during the previous America's Cup campaign. But in the jury room after the finish of the last race, the learned one more: make sure to invest some money in a legal advisor. In a protest that was initiated after racing on Saturday, first held early this morning and then continued until after the final race, the America's Cup Management Measurement Committee ruled that Victory Challenge was in violation of class rules because they were found during a spot check after racing on Saturday to be carrying 160 kilograms (approximately 350 pounds) of water in contained compartments in the bilge. As a result, the Swedish team, which didn't have a legal advisor among its barebones staff of 20 sailors and 5 shore crew, was disqualified from Race 4, which they won, and dropped to sixth in the overall standings. This elevated Luna Rossa and Alinghi into a tied on points for first, with Luna Rossa winning the tiebreak. The Luna Rossa team eagerly showered each other in champagne and Francesco de Angelis buoyantly accepted the first-place trophy in front of a packed house of cheering spectators. He was a little more reserved when speaking to the press. "Those are the rules, and the jury decided to take the steps [to disqualify Victory Challenge]," he said. He complimented Victory Challenge on a strong week of sailing, and also said he felt Alinghi showed a bit of a speed edge over the rest of the fleet. The Swedish sailors, who hoped to be celebrating a very encouraging win, we're left at a loss. "It's hard to describe the feeling when you get a decision like that," said tactician Stefan Rahm. "You feel anger and you want to cry. We have been so pleased with the performance of the boat and the team. It's hard going from up here [holding his hand above his head] to below the earth." According to Rahm, the water in the bilge leaked in through the keelbolts, and was not put there intentionally by the team. A common rule of thumb in high performance keelboats is that more weight in the bilge, even if it's water, is a beneficial thing, especially in heavier air. Victory Challenge afterguard members were steadfast that the water was not put there on purpose. Rahm asked rhetorically why would they try to make the boat heavier with water while at the same time tossing off sails that they didn't think they would use in the race. According to Rahm they had only 400 kilograms of sails on board, well under the 650 kg allowed by class rules. However, the letter of the rule doesn't concern itself with intent, and by those standards, the Victory Challenge boat was out of measurement. Whether it improved their performance, and whether it's a problem that also effects other teams is up for debate. The jury decision dampened what was a very exciting finish to a new, and well-received, facet of the America's Cup competition. Today's race went down to the wire with the true home team, Desafio Español, winning by just three seconds over Mascalzone Latino Capitalia. Right on the transom of those two boats was a thrilling race for the overall championship as Alinghi capped another strong comeback-a trend in the fleet racing regatta-by closing in on Luna Rossa and Victory Challenge. The Swedish team was able to slide across the line with Alinghi and Luna Rossa bow to bow just a few seconds behind. As it would turn out, after the protest, this was where the Act V title was decided. Luna Rossa timed its turn down perfectly and finished just one second ahead to prevent the defenders from sweeping both of the 2005 Valencia Acts. Alinghi took second overall, Emirates Team New Zealand third, and BMW Oracle, which had a very difficult final race, was fourth. Race 5 was a satisfying end to a frustrating regatta for Desafio Español. After a solid performance in the match racing (Act IV) they switched to second helmsman Jesper Radich and struggled getting off the starting line, finishing the first four races with two eighths and two ninths, good enough for 10th place out of 12 boats. For the final race, the team switched back to former match racing world champion Karol Jablonski. Whether that was the crucial change is hard to say, the breeze was very light and shifty-as it's been for all of Act V-and the Spanish team played the left corner very hard on the first beat to jump into the lead. But, Jablonski's presence certainly didn't hurt. Victory Challenge helmsman Magnus Holmberg once again got SWE-63 off the starting line in clear air. As they have done all regatta they sailed their own race on the first beat, working the middle of the course, playing the shifts and variances in pressure well enough to be among the leaders at the top mark. Luna Rossa worked the left side, looked to have the lead for most of the leg, and were the first boat to get to the windward mark. But they had to pinch hard to get around it and were rolled on the offset leg by the Spanish team and then Victory Challenge. The top three didn't change at the leeward mark as Desafio Español rounded the port gate mark first with Victory Challenge and Luna Rosso rounding bow to bow a few boatlengths behind. Though Victory Challenge had the inside position, Luna Rossa came into the rounding with more speed and the Swedes were first to tack away. Rounding in fourth, Mascalzone Latino took the starboard gate and then sailed a strong windward leg, passing Luna Rossa, who dropped the fourth, Victory Challenge holding on to second. On the final run the fleet compressed. Mascalzone Latino found a great vein of breeze and passed Victory Challenge. Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand, which rounded the first mark in eighth and ninth, respectively, roared down the run aided by spinnaker staysails. Alinghi pressed the action and had a chance to move up to third. But in the end both Victory Challenge and Luna Rossa were able to hold their positions. Team New Zealand finished a strong sixth. "Once we tacked [after the start] and took everybody's transom it was really good," said ETNZ tactician Terry Hutchinson of the race. "I mean that seriously. We were able to get clean air and take the lifts off their sails and pick our way up the first beat. Halfway up we tacked on the Spaniards and forced them out to the left side and it was a little disappointing to see them round in first." After a week and a half of hard racing, every sailor is looking forward to a break. But there was nothing but positive things to say about the Acts and Valencia. The seabreeze, while it was mostly light, was regular enough to allow for racing to take place with a minimum of delays. The crowds came out in droves on the weekend days, both in spectator boats and on land. "I think the format is good," said de Angelis. "I like the Acts, I like the racing. I think it's a great thing for the sailors and the public as well." For Victory Challenge, the result will sting, but on the positive side, the Acts VI and VII will take place on Victory Challegne's home turf in Malmo, Sweden, at the end of August. The stage is set, Rahm said, for a little bit of revenge. Results Points Leaderboard Race Results Overall Points Luna Rossa Challenge (2, 6, 6, 1, 4) 46 Alinghi (3, 7, 2, 2, 5) 46 Emirates Team New Zealand (1, 9, 1, 5, 6) 43 BMW ORACLE Racing (5, 5, 3, 3, 10) 39 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (12, 1, 5, 7, 2) 38 Victory Challenge (4, 2, 7, DSQ, 3) 36 K-Challenge (7, 4, 4, 6, 9) 35 Desafio Español 2007 (8, 8, 9, 8, 1) 31 +39 Challenge (10, 3, 10, 9, 7) 26 United Internet Team Germany (6, 11, 8, 4, 11) 25 China Team (11,12,12,10,8) 12 Team Shosholoza (9, 10, 11, 11,12)12