Sunday, February 1, 2009

British Team Defeats Switzerland’s Alinghi

Juerg Kaufmann - - day 2

Oracle vs China

Photo Gilles Martin-Raget / BMW ORACLE Racing

AUCKLAND, NZ – Britain’s newcomer TEAMORIGIN, with Olympic ace Ben Ainslie at the helm, put away the powerful Alinghi team from Switzerland today, right at the start of their race in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.

It was the biggest scalp so far in the first three days of racing on the Waitemata Harbor as Ainslie forced Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird over the start line just one second before the gun. After circling back to restart, the Swiss trailed by over a minute behind at the first weather mark and although they closed the distance, never got back in the race.

Spectators ashore on vantage points like North Head and a fleet of waterborne watchers were treated to some close racing in winds that quickly built to 18 to 20 knots. The last race of the day was abandoned as the breeze went over 27 knots.

Ashore afterwards, Kiwi Mike Sanderson who is Team Director for the British said: ”Ben did a fantastic job, giving them (Alinghi) a little push. It made it pretty tough for them to get back behind the line.” Sanderson acknowledged the expertise of the two-time America’s Cup champion team, pointing out that the Swiss have set the benchmark in sailing Version 5 Cup boats. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he added.

The closest race of the day saw Italy’s Damiani Italia Challenge overcome a determined challenge from France’s Pataugas K-Challenge. Helmsman Francesco Bruni led at every mark although the leg changed at least once on the first weather leg. Sebastian Col, skipper of the French boat and the top-ranked match racer in the world, took the fight back to the Italians on the run, working into a position where the French were overtaking their opponents, only to be penalized for failing to respond to a luff.

A penalty played a role in the third race when China Team, sailing by Ian Williams was flagged by the umpires for sailing too close to BMW Oracle Racing, skippered by Russell Coutts. After that Williams did a good job of staying in contact with his opposition but a gennaker that blew out on the last run put paid to any hopes of redemption.

The last race of the day between South Africa’s Shosholoza and Italy’s Luna Rossa was initially delayed because of headfoil problems on the South African boat, and then abandoned because of strong winds. The race will be sailed tomorrow.

Scores: Pool A – Emirates Team New Zealand, 2; Damiani Italia Challenge, 2; Pataugas K Challenge, 1; BMW Oracle Racing, 1; China Team, 0. Pool B – TEAMORIGIN, 2; Alinghi, 2; Greek Challenge, 0, Team Shosholoza, 0, Luna Rossa, 0.