Sunday, 8 February 2009
TEAMORIGIN and Luna Rossa Challenge circle in the pre-start. Image copyright Ian Roman/TEAMORIGIN.
by Leslie Ryan
In what was surely the most exciting race of the series so far, TEAMORIGIN claimed victory over Luna Rossa by 4 seconds demonstrating some world class moves by Skipper Ben Ainslie and this exciting new team.
Day three of Round Robin two looked ominous from the outset regarding weather forecast with a light wind threatened to upset the early race schedules of the day. After an initial delay, the first two races were completed and BMW Oracle took race victory over Damiani Italia by 27 seconds and, in the silver fleet, the Greek challenge won from Shosholoza by 1 minute 26 seconds.
TEAMORIGIN were next up against Luna Rossa in what was to prove to be the first of two starts for this race. Luna Rossa initially led off the line but TEAMORIGIN quickly picked up speed and headed out to the left side. Ben and the team moved into ‘fast forward’ mode and quickly moved into the lead. TEAMORIGIN made impressive gains in the decreasing wind and were leading Luna Rossa into the first windward by a healthy 365m. The wind then died to less that 5 knots and both teams unfortunately failed to reach to top mark in the allotted 20 minute time limit and so the race was abandoned.
The following race between K-Challenge and China Team did also get underway but suffered the same issue and their race was also abandoned.
The wind then finally cranked in up to about 18-20 knots and racing action resumed at 4.30pm. A pretty even start saw Luna Rossa head for the right and TEAMORIGIN the left side of the beat. TEAMORIGIN had a 20m lead off the start line and appeared to be headed to the favoured side. Both tacked across and Luna Rossa moved just into the lead on the Virtual Eye but it really was neck and neck, bow to bow stuff. There then appeared to be a significant shift, possibly the effect of North Head on the race track, and Luna Rossa gained an advantage from that shift and led round the windward mark by the narrowest of margins, 3 seconds.
Both boats had to gybe set given the wind shift and TEAMORIGIN had a faster hoist and seemed to soak down inside. The wind shift meant that there were fewer opportunities to gybe as it was almost a fetch to the leeward gate. Ben and the boys were always ready to pounce casting dirty air on Luna Rossa the whole way down.
Both boats dropped spinnakers unusually early, Luna Rossa headed for the left hand gate and TEAMORIGIN for the right, aiming to gain the wind shift advantage that Luna Rossa had gained on the first beat. The two teams headed for opposite sides of the track with almost 300m separation.
Ben Ainslie and the team were not going to give this race up without a fight and you could see their determination to push all the way. Peter Holmberg and his experienced Luna Rossa team were keeping a close cover on the TEAMORIGIN guys. Having initially lost some distance TEAMORIGIN came back fighting and closed right up on Luna Rossa in the approach to the 2nd windward mark. Peter Holmberg and his team managed to hold TEAMORIGIN past the windward mark and then tack back to it with Ben hot on their heels. The two teams were totally locked together and there was nothing in it.
Both teams headed downwind and TEAMORIGIN gybed across to gain the inside track. Suddenly the lead changed and TEAMORIGIN pulled ahead and quickly stretched out to 54m. Ben Ainslie and his team seemed to literally sail around Peter Holmberg and head towards the finish line.
Luna Rossa gybed back and closed the gap yet again making a final charge for the line and last ditch attempt to regain the lead. TEAMORIGIN gybed back and held the lead and took the win after an awesome race by a mere 4 seconds!
Other results from day three of RR2:
BMW Oracle 1 : Damiani Italia 0
Greek Challenge 1 : Shosholoza 0
TEAMORIGIN 1 : Luna Rossa 0
China Team 1 : Pataugas K Challenge 0
Emirates TNZ W : Alinghi L
(Alinghi did not sail this race and so ETNZ started and were awarded the win but no points are awarded for this race)