Revenge of the Kiwis in Race 2 of the America's Cup

Emirates Team New Zealand capitalizes on a small opening on the second beat and hands Alinghi its first ever loss in the America's Cup match. The 32nd Cup match now stands even at one win apiece.

AC07_0624_Upwind
Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-In Race 1 of the America's Cup, it was hard to find fault with the performance of the Emirates Team New Zealand sailors. They simply didn't win the race. Today, it looked like we might be saying the same thing as Alinghi lead the Kiwi team around the first lap and a quarter of Race 2, and seemed to do so purely on the basis on having a faster boat.But in a soft seabreeze that faded just a touch through the afternoon, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to sneak past Alinghi on the second beat and then play textbook defense on the final run to even the 32nd America's Cup match at one win apiece.It was a huge moment for Emirates Team New Zealand-which went a long way toward exorcising the demons of lingering from Alinghi's sweep in 2003-and a big moment for the America's Cup, which has seen three straight 5-0 wins in the match. In fact, dating back to 1987, the compiled record of the winners of the America's Cup is 26-1. Main trimmer Don Cowie speaks about what the win means for the team. Strategist Ray Davies of Emirates Team New Zealand agrees.Whether this is a start of a run for Emirates Team New Zealand or merely a slight bobble by the powerful Alinghi team won't be known until at least Tuesday when Race 3 kicks off. And it may not be known after that. Alinghi may have an edge in speed, but if it does, it's very slight. Once they snuck past today.The key moment in this race took place midway up the second beat, though the comeback by Emirates Team New Zealand may well have started at the leeward gate when Alinghi again chose the left-side gate. ETNZ took the right-side, executing a very slick jibe/douse maneuver, and quickly halved the lead from 80 meters to 40 meters.Alinghi still had plenty of room to cross when the boats came together, and tactician Brad Butterworth decided to switch sides and regain the starboard advantage. In a seabreeze, especially late in the day, this is usually a very safe move. But Ray Davies of Emirates Team New Zealand says that today didn't quite follow the normal patterns. After about 55 minutes of sailing the two boats came together midway up the beat and slightly toward the right side of the course. Alinghi had the lead and the starboard advantage and tried to force Dean Barker to tack away. But the leebow didn't stick and Barker, says Cowie, did a magnificent job holding a thin lane. An impending right-hand shift, as much as 10 degrees, drastically shortened the time to the layline and Emirates Team New Zealand was able to hold off Alinghi's weather hip-the two boats separated by less than a boatlength of distance-long enough to reach the layline and tack for the mark. Alinghi at this point was powerless to do anything but follow NZL-92 into the windward mark and then hope for an opportunity to pass on the run. Offering up their perspectives of this crucial moment are Davies, ETNZ's strategist, and Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth.Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Terry Hutchinson did a perfect job of playing defense down the run-not necessarily the most difficult thing in Valencia where the right is usually favored in a seabreeze-and NZL-92 crossed the line for a 28-second win. With the light air, the runs were more difficult because of the spectator chop. Apparently Butterworth had a few choice words for no one in particular while Alinghi was working down the first run. As always seems to be the case with this wily Kiwi, even this outburst had a point. Though Emirates Team New Zealand entered from the port side, Dean Barker quickly leveled the situation by crossing Alinghi to leeward. Though both boats said they got what they wanted off the line-Alinghi toward the pin, and Team New Zealand toward the boat-it was quite a combative pre-start. Barker was able to get an overlap from behind, and force Alinghi to tack. ETNZ followed suit, both boats sailing on port for a brief moment with less than 90 seconds to go until the start. Alinghi peeled away first and then worked down the line a bit to built boatspeed. Butterworth says that the end result was what they wanted going into the start.Just like Race 1, Barker hit the line with outstanding pace and right at the gun. The timing sheet had ETNZ with a 3-second advantage off the line. And just like Race 1, Alinghi was quickly able to neutralize that advantage, forcing ETNZ away after four and a half minutes of sailing. For Emirates Team New Zealand, it was a discouraging start to the race.Butterworth sailed the first beat like someone who had extreme confidence in his craft, occasionally letting ETNZ split away gain a little separation. The result was a 22-second gain, and a 19-second lead at the first mark.But Alinghi would lose time the rest of the way around the track, and Emirates Team New Zealand was able to pick up its first America's Cup match victory since 2000. Monday is a lay day for the two teams, both of which said they would stay ashore and rest up for Race 3 on Tuesday.