Points are Precious, But So Are the Right Lessons

Day 4 of Act IV of the Louis Vuitton Cup


Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-To be lucky or good, that was the question today for Victory Challenge and K-Challenge, two middle of the pack syndicates hoping to make a move upward in Act IV of the Louis Vuitton Cup. They met in Flight 8 on the Romeo, or North, Course. While the leaders held form on Day 4 of the regatta-Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand will meet tomorrow in the final battle of unbeaten teams-there was plenty of action among the second- and third-tier teams scrapping for key points while also trying to learn as much as possible. After seven flights, it was easy to say that Victory Challenge, the Swedish syndicate with match racing veteran Magnus Holmberg at the wheel, had had the better regatta. They'd produced three wins and managed to make both Prada and ETNZ sweat. K-Challenge on the other had was a little frustrated having given up leads in a couple of races and generally not producing the results they expected for a team that had been together for nearly a year. The start seemed to follow the pattern of the previous races, with K-Challenge picking up a foul and then being forced over the line with less than a minute remaining in the countdown. Having thoroughly won the start, Holmberg headed toward the committee boat end on port. Up the course awaited a big right hand shift, and more pressure. With K-Challenge still struggling to get boatspeed and get below the line, the race was all but over. But then disaster struck, at the starting signal the race committee raised both the blue and yellow flags, both boats were over the line early. With a headstart back toward the line, K-Challenge was able to start first and claim the favored right side. Victory Challenge never recovered as the French team built a lead of nearly 500 meters, plenty of time to burn off their penalty and still cross the finish line first. "I thought we were going to be fine," said Holmberg. "I was sure we were under the line. Obviously it was a misjudgement." The K-Challenge folks were careful not to read too much into the victory, though they'll take the points any way they come. "We sailed badly in the first race," said mid-bowman Matt Cornwell of their 41-second lost to +39. "We were lucky in the second. Really we can't be too happy with our performance. If they hadn't been over at the start they would've extended away pretty quickly and won that race." K-Challenge struggled in a start yesterday against Desafio Espanol as well. "It's an issue where we haven't practiced enough match-racing," said Cornwell. "Between this act and the next one we need to get match racing again." But, Cornwell added, they also need to start picking up points now. "For us it's more about winning than learning," he said. "The program has had a year already. The initial period is over and we're sort of running out of excuses now. We could've been 6 and 2 if we'd taken our chances." Holmberg would also like to have a few more wins on the board. But given that they did little more to their boat than make it measure in to Version V of the America's Cup Class rule, he's happy they've had the speed to stay with teams like Prada and Emirates Team New Zealand. "Right after you finish the race you get a little tired of these honorable losses," he said. "Getting it in perspective, though, the short amount of time-still the Acts are counting for points-we've got to keep our sights two years ahead." After today's racing, the scoreboard has taken a definite shape. Out front are the big four of Alinghi, Emirates Team New Zealand, BMW Oracle, and Luna Rossa, with the former two both still undefeated. The second group includes Desafio Espanol, Victory Challenge, K-Challenge, and +39, while bringing up the rear are Mascalzone Latino Capitalia, United Internet Team Germany, China, and Team Shosholoza, which was in position for it's first match-racing win in America's Cup Class competition today but missed judged the final layline and let the German team power past for a 6-second win, by far the slimmest margin of the regatta. Tomorrow all eyes will be on the South Course as Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi square off in the first flight. Whomever wins will in the driver's seat for the Act IV championship. The other match of interest will be in the second flight when Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle Racing go to battle. Results Flight Seven Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) beat China Team (CHN 69) - delta 1:22 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82) beat Victory Challenge (SWE 63) - delta 0:24 +39 Challenge (ITA 59) beat K-Challenge (FRA 60) - delta 0:41 BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) beat United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) - delta 1:31 Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Desafio Español 2007 (ESP 67) - delta 1:33 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) - delta 1:17 Flight Eight Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 82) beat China Team (CHN 69) - delta 1:58 Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 74) beat +39 Challenge (ITA 59) - delta 2:10 K-Challenge (FRA 60) beat Victory Challenge (SWE 63) - delta 0:58 BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 76) beat Desafio Español 2007 (ESP 67) - delta 1:49 United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) - delta 0:06 Alinghi (SUI 75) beat Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) - delta 2:08 Points Leaderboard Alinghi 8 Emirates Team New Zealand 8 BMW ORACLE Racing 7 Luna Rossa Challenge 7 Desafio Español 2007 4 Victory Challenge 3 +39 Challenge 3 K-Challenge 3 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team 2 United Internet Team Germany 2 China Team 1 Team Shosholoza 0