Tuesday, 24 November 2009

LVT: Strong breeze and close races highlight day at Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d'Azur

TeamOrigin and Azzurra are tied 1-1 while Emirates Team New Zealand and Synergy await the outcome of a protest

Azzurra and TeamOrigin head downwind. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Azzurra.

by Chloe Daycard

Emirates Team New Zealand has been the strongest team at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d’Azur. Synergy Russia Sailing Team has been the most surprising. Those forces collided today in the Semi Final Round of the regatta, and tonight the two teams are in the protest room trying to resolve an incident at the finish of their second race.

Team New Zealand won a thrilling first race by 20 seconds. The heat featured three lead changes and the Kiwis won after gaining control in a luffing match with the finish line about 10 lengths away.

“It was all on, a very close race,” said Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies. “It was pretty tense onboard. You have to expect close races in this round. We’re down to the best teams and you have to expect close, ding-dong races otherwise they wouldn’t be worth winning.”

In the second race Team New Zealand was penalised in the pre-start for gybing too close. The Kiwis controlled the race around the track, but couldn’t get enough separation to perform the 270-degree penalty turn and convert the win.

A collision occurred when the pair was outside the committee boat end of the finish line. According to Synergy skipper Karol Jablonski, Team New Zealand called for water to clear the boat end. Jablonski said he responded to the call, but the yachts were downspeed and he had little steerage. The two 24-tonne yachts collided beam-on-beam and suffered some damage.

Louis Vuitton Trophy, Nice, Semi-Finals, Day 2

Although Synergy won the match on the water to even the score at 1-1, the protest was still hanging in the balance. A ruling was expected later tonight.

This regatta has suffered through starts and stops the past two weeks due to light winds. But that was all in distant memory today as the conditions on the Baie des Anges kicked up and added a compelling measure to the racing. Five penalties were issued and two teams were OCS as the conditions put a premium on boathandling. After the morning offshore flow died, the wind shifted to the east and built to 15 knots, with gusts up to 18 knots. There was also a large seaway running as the winds offshore were blowing up to 25 knots.

Azzurra's kite is snaffled away. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Azzurra.

TeamOrigin of Great Britain evened its match with Azzurra of Italy at 1-1. British skipper Ben Ainslie gained two penalties on his Italian counterpart, Francesco Bruni, in the 5-minute pre-start sequence. Bruni then misjudged his time and distance to the start line. After re-starting Azzurra was well behind TeamOrigin, which won the race by 2 minutes, 29 seconds.

“It was great to finally race in some wind and waves,” said Ainslie. “It was a ‘must win’ race for us and the guys did a great job all the way around. We have a long way to go yet in this competition, being first on tomorrow.”

“For sure today was harder for the crew, for everybody,” said Bruni. “To go from 15 days of very, very light wind and flat water to these conditions, to switch is hardest for me. I wasn’t as ready as Ben. I think he did a good job.”

TeamOrigin to leeward of Azzurra. Image copyright Ian Roman/TeamOrigin.

In Knockout Round racing, the combined French/German team All4One placed fifth after winning two races. All4One earned a well-deserved win against Artemis by 27 seconds in its first race, and then met BMW Oracle Racing for 5th and 6th places. BMW Oracle had defeated TFS – PagesJaunes in its first race.

BMW Oracle controlled the match early, but made an unforced error at the windward mark. Approaching the first mark on starboard with All4One on its stern, BMW Oracle helmsman Gavin Brady tacked to port to round the mark. But All4One had to bear away to avoid hitting BMW Oracle, and the on-water umpires issued a red flag penalty.

BMW Oracle had to perform its penalty immediately on the run, and when it did so All4One sailed into a commanding lead. All4One won the match by 1 minute, 23 seconds to place 5th and drop BMW Oracle to 6th.

“This morning we had nothing to lose,” said All4One helmsman Sebastien Col. “We had the best conditions we could dream of for Nice. We were really waiting for these conditions because I think we have a strong team that can handle the boat well in a breeze. We started the regatta slowly and had some tough moments, but we are happy to finish well. It’s good for the team.”

Artemis of Sweden placed 7th on countback, and TFS – PagesJaunes finished 8th.

Racing is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning with a warning signal set for 0830 CET. The first race will be between TeamOrigin and Azzurra.

Azzurra. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Azzurra.

Semi Final standings
M1: Emirates Team New Zealand 1, Synergy Russia Sailing Team 1 (protest pending)
M2: Azzurra 1, TeamOrigin 1

Knockout Round standings
5th: All4One
6th: BMW Oracle Racing
7th: Artemis
8th: TFS – PagesJaunes

Day 2 Semi Final and Knockout rounds recaps

Three matches and three exciting finishes for Synergy and Emirates Team New Zealand as the Russians even the match at 1-1

Semi Final Pair A R1: Emirates Team New Zealand d. Synergy Russia Sailing Team – Delta: 20 seconds

Emirates Team New Zealand downwind. Image copyright Bob Grieser/OutsideImages.co.nz

Emirates Team New Zealand has been the strongest team at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d’Azur. Synergy Russia Sailing Team has been the most surprising. Those forces collided in the best match of the regatta, with Team New Zealand winning a hard fought match that was much closer than the delta indicates.

This match featured three lead changes and the Kiwis won it by getting the lead in the last quarter of the run to the finish. Synergy led at the first windward mark and leeward gate. Team New Zealand overtook on the second upwind leg by being to the left in a left-hand shift. Synergy was 15 seconds behind at the second windward mark when it gybe-set to starboard. Team New Zealand covered but Synergy was in a heading puff and rolled over the top and back into the lead.

The Kiwis gybed away to port and when the two boats converged again in a port-starboard situation, Synergy had to gybe to port to avoid fouling the Kiwis. The Synergy crew couldn’t quite pull off a clean gybe, and Team New Zealand luffed. Synergy had to press up hard on starboard to keep clear as windward yacht, and Team New Zealand bore away to a controlling leeward position. The crews had one last gybe to port, but Team New Zealand had control and scored the win.

Team New Zealand leads the best-of-three match 1-0.

R2: Synergy Russia Sailing Team d. Emirates Team New Zealand – Delta: 50 seconds

Synergy's kite blows back into the rig at the leeward turn. Image copyright Bob Grieser/OutsideImages.co.nz

While it may not seem it on paper, this pair is incredibly even on the water. They’ve now completed three races and all have been decided within sight of the finish line. Synergy evened the match at 1-1 with a win on the finish line while Team New Zealand was stuck trying to complete a penalty turn.

Team New Zealand was penalised in the pre-start for jibing too close. The Kiwis led this match around the course, but couldn’t pull far enough ahead to complete the 270-degree penalty turn and clear the finish line in the lead. The two crews raised their genoas and lowered the spinnakers as they got into the final quarter of the run to the finish. The pair wound up outside the committee boat end and to leeward as Team New Zealand was looking for an opportunity to complete its penalty or offset it on the Russian crew. But Synergy stayed clear through all the manoeuvring. In fact, Team New Zealand was assessed a second penalty for causing a collision.

TeamOrigin heads upwind leading Azzurra. Image copyright Ian Roman/TeamOrigin.

Semi Final Match B

R2: TeamOrigin d. Azzurra – Delta: 2:29

TeamOrigin evened its semi final match against Azzurra at 1-1 with a dominating performance. British skipper Ben Ainslie cleaned out Azzurra at the start, pushing the Italians over the line early at the boat end and gaining two penalties on them. Azzurra had to circle around the committee boat end to re-start and then had to perform one 270-degree penalty turn after entering the racecourse. By that time TeamOrigin was upwards of 10 boatlengths ahead. TeamOrigin led by 59 seconds at the first mark and never was threatened the rest of the way.

Azzurra. Image copyright Frank Socha.

Knockout Pair A

BMW Oracle Racing d. TFS – PagesJaunes – Delta: 1:06

BMW Oracle Racing won this match in the pre-start. Entering on the favoured starboard tack, helmsman Gavin Brady dialled-up his counterpart on TFS – PagesJaunes, Bertrand Pace, and held him head-to-win for nearly the entire 5-minute period. With about 30 seconds to go and both boats well over the start line, Brady was able to spin his bow behind TFS and head back to the line. Brady got below the start line before the gun and had a clean start while Pace was left one length to windward of the line. It was a full 30 seconds before Pace was able to get behind the line and start properly.

BMW Oracle Racing led by 55 seconds at the first windward mark and was never really threatened. BMW Oracle Racing advances to the match for 5th and 6th place against either the winner of Knockout Pair B, Artemis or All4One. TFS – PagesJaunes moves onto the match for 7th and 8th versus the loser of the pair B match.

Knockout Pair B

All4One d. Artemis – Delta: 27 seconds

All4One, the host team at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d’Azur, has advanced to the match for 5th and 6th place against BMW Oracle Racing after beating Artemis in their one race sail-off. All4One started on port tack at the boat end of the start line and took the right side of the racecourse. The two yachts slammed through the big seaway as they beat upwind on starboard tack, separated by a few lengths. All4One was to windward, however, and led by 7 seconds at the first mark. The combined French/German team extended that lead to 30 seconds at the leeward gate and then applied covering tactics on the rough conditions for the well-earned win.

Louis Vuitton Trophy

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