Wednesday, 4 February 2009
BMW ORACLE Racing leads Damiani Italia Challenge. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.
by Jane Eagleson
Race fans were treated to a classic match between BMW ORACLE Racing and the Damiani Italia team on a sparkling day in Auckland, New Zealand. As Round Robin 1 of the Louis Vuitton Pacific series drew to a close, Russell Coutts and the BMW ORACLE Racing crew added a valuable third point to their score with a 52 second victory .
The two teams came into this match level-pegging on two points each, so the tie was broken and BMW ORACLE Racing completed the round in second place behind Emirates Team New Zealand and guaranteed a place in the Gold Fleet for the second round.
"That was a tough one," said BMW ORACLE Racing tactician Hamish Pepper after the race. "The wind was really shifty. We had shifts of up to 28 degrees at times and also big changes in pressure. Everything was changing so quickly. It was pretty tough to get it right. We were nervous at times. It was unpredictable and you could certainly never be sure of the outcome."
Racing in a northeasterly breeze of 10-15 knots, the contest was close for most of the match. At the start, BMW ORACLE Racing claimed the advantage of the right hand side and led off the line at the Committee Boat end on port tack. Damiani Italia was on split tacks, heading away from the pin end on starboard. Shortly after the start, however, these positions reversed as the yachts tacked. BMW ORACLE Racing on starboard crossed ahead of Damiani Italia on port and both continued to split apart on opposite tacks.
With the yachts separated by more than 200m, BMW ORACLE Racing tacked back onto port, setting up well to the left of Damiani Italia, also on port. At this stage both yachts were in contention, with BMW ORACLE Racing holding a lead of one to two boatlengths. But, the American team steadily made gains on the left, so that when Vasco Vascotto brought his crew back into the action on starboard tack, BMW ORACLE Racing was able to cross ahead on port.
BMW ORACLE Racing immediately followed the classic match racing move of imposing a tight cover and led up to the first windward mark with the Italian team tucked away to leeward. The lead around the windward mark was 20 seconds, but that closed down to just 8 seconds at the leeward mark with the yachts choosing to round opposite ends of the gate. BMW ORACLE Racing rounded the left hand side of the gate and tacked onto port to parallel the Italian crew also heading out to the right on port.
When the Italians tacked back to engage, BMW ORACLE Racing was able to cross ahead on port once more and immediately tacked to cover. For most of the second windward leg there was only one or two boatlengths between the yachts, but in the closing stages BMW ORACLE Racing made a significant gain when Damiani Italia was forced to make two extra tacks to clear their air.
"Russell and the crew did a really good job of moding the boat to the different conditions all the way round the track," commented Pepper. "We certainly capitalised on that."
After rounding the final mark with a 32 second lead, BMW ORACLE Racing extended downwind and crossed the finish line to take the victory gun by 52 seconds.
BMW ORACLE Racing