Monday, February 2, 2009

Dinghy Moves in 80-footers

Photo Gilles Martin-Raget / BMW ORACLE Racing
AUCKLAND, NZ – Competition in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series took on a new sense of urgency as dusk fell over the Hauraki Gulf this evening and South Africa’s Shosholoza and Italy’s Luna Rossa scrapped like tigers throughout a four-lap race. Think dinghy moves in 80-footers!

The victory honors went to Peter Holmberg skippering Luna Rossa but only after multiple lead changes and two penalties imposed on the South African boat. It was by far the closest race in the first four days of competition in the two-week long international match race for big boats sailed in Auckland’s harbour.

A long delay waiting for suitable wind forced a late start to racing and nightfall was near by the time the Italians and South Africans and had their chance to sail a race that was abandoned yesterday.

A tense pre-start battle led into a close weather leg featuring lead changes and some slow-speed jockeying for position at the weather mark. Cian was first around with an 18 second margin only to be penalized on the run as Holmberg drew level and tried to pass. At the leeward mark Holmberg scraped in by just five seconds ahead of the Italians.

At the second weather mark Cian had the upper hand again and executed a series of downspeed defensive tacks that had the boats crawling above the layline as the Italian skipper looked for an opportunity to land a penalty on Holmberg, a move that would cancel the penalty hanging over his head.

An already tactical race turned bizarre as the boats rounded and neither set spinnakers. Cian was still hunting for a penalty. Holmberg was content to lay back and avoid one. The top half of the last run was a series of jerky S-turns with the big mainsails slamming back and forwards as the skippers feinted and counterpunched. Finally Cian copped a second penalty which meant he had to take the requisite 360-turn to neutralize the first. Holmberg sailed away to win by 1min9sec.

In four other races today, China Team lost to Emirates Team New Zealand after blowing their race start, while Luna Rossa comfortably defeated the Greek Team. BMW Oracle Racing won by 54 seconds over Pataugas K-Challenge and TEAMORIGIN beat Shosholoza by 48 seconds.

With one day’s competition remaining in the first round robin, the scores are: Pool A – Emirates Team New Zealand, 3; Damiani Italia Challenge, 2; BMW Oracle Racing, 2; Pataugas K Challenge, 1; China Team, 0. Pool B – TEAMORIGIN, 3; Alinghi, 2; Luna Rossa, 2; Greek Challenge, 0, Team Shosholoza, 0.

The event web site went live this week in English French and Italian. Race reports, press reports, features and photographs are being updated daily. The site includes a link to live streaming radio commentary about the racing originating from Auckland’s radio BSport Sailing 103FM.