Saturday, 14 November 2009
TeamOrigin leads Emirates Team New Zealand downwind. Image copyright Ian Roman/TeamOrigin.
by Leslie Ryan
TEAMORIGIN beat Emirates Team New Zealand in a classic match race, ending the Kiwis’ unbeaten record at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice regatta.
It was always going to be a good match and half way through it almost didn’t matter who won because it had already been a great match. The opponent, Emirates Team New Zealand, is a team that two members of the British afterguard, navigator Ian Moore and skipper Ben Ainslie, know well. The pair had been members of the Kiwi training team afterguard for three years in the lead up to the 32nd America’s Cup, where the New Zealand team eventually became the Challenger and gave the Cup Defenders the hardest defence match in recent times.
It was a tight pre-start, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker, entering from the starboard end and winning the left of the course, lead for the first part of the beat. The right started to show some favour allowing the British team to move into the advantage as the pair approached the top mark. It was really close the Kiwis approaching the top mark on the port tack layline TEAMORIGIN, on starboard tack dialled-down forcing the Kiwis to bear away significantly making them unable to lay the weather mark once the British boat had crossed and tacked.
A slow, long luff followed with the British boat to weather needing to keep clear. The result saw both boats head to wind and almost stopped. Boat handling, slow speed trimming and timing, skill sets the Kiwis have in heaps were going to be required to get the advantage. The British crew chose their moment and managed to accelerate the boat on starboard tack sufficiently to move clear ahead of their stalled opponent, tack in front and round the first mark with a 22 second lead, controlling the match from then on.
TeamOrigin leads Emirates Team New Zealand into the windward mark. Image copyright Ian Roman/TeamOrigin.
TEAMORIGIN Team Principal Sir Keith Mills was on board as 18th man for the match. Minutes after the race ended he had this to say: “We were well matched, there was nothing between us up the first beat. We could see the situation developing.
It was really close. Ben brillliantly shut them out. The luff, the slow speed sailing, the escape, that was classic Ben Ainslie. The team were faultless, text book good. It has to be text book good against the New Zealanders. They are the reference.”
The second race of the day and the last of Round Robin One for TEAMORIGIN was the match against the Italian team Azzurra. The Italians had the same score line as TEAMORIGIN up to this point and winning the match would take TEAMORIGIN into the lead of the regatta.
The British team started at the left end of the line and sailed in the light winds upwind, in touch but not in control of the race. Two thirds of the way up the beat skipper Ben Ainslie team tacked over towards the centre of the course, the Italians crossed ahead and tacked to cover. The pair was now overlapped and a luff by TEAMORIGIN and a lack of sufficient response from Azzurra saw the Italian team collect a red-flag penalty, a 360 degree turn, that needed to be taken straight away.
This gave TEAMORIGIN the lead. But with the dying Northerly wind and a split on the course on the first run, the role of ‘leader of the match’ swapped again and Azzurra rounded the gate with a significant lead. The British team, smarting from losing the lead, battled on around the course and in spite of big distance gains on the last leg the finish line came before the passing move was possible.
Team Director Mike Sanderson commented on the second race against Azzurra: “We did a nice job to get back into them on the first beat, got the red flag penalty on them which maybe should have been a double penalty. That was a slick move from Ben. We led around the top mark and the wind got pretty light. We had to pick a side and it went the wrong way for us. But if we’d had to chose which race we wanted to win today we’d definitely be happy with this morning’s one against Emirates Team New Zealand.”
Ben Ainslie explains what hindsight says they should have done on the first run against the Italian Azzurra team: “We should have matched them right at the beginning of the run and gybed over. But we didn’t and the opportunity never arose after that to come back. We knew we were in trouble quite soon after they gybed away but there wasn’t a lot we could do about it.
When you make those decisions you have to stick with them but as a team we are making more right decisions than wrong , and we’ve just got to keep working at it.”
Ben Ainslie summarised the first Round Robin of the Louis Vuitton Trophy thus: “The team work is good, everyone is getting on well. We just need to eliminate a few small mistakes and keep working at it. We’ve had a good round, we’ve had some good races, we’ve improved a lot through the round which is really important with these boats and when moving forwards from here. We’re looking forward to the next round and trying to maintain that top four position so as to qualify for the semis.”
Mike Sanderson smiles for the camera at the back of the boat on TeamOrigin. Image copyright Ian Roman/TeamOrigin.
Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Cote d’Azur
Round Robin One - Current Standings
Competing teams - Country - Skipper - Record (W-L)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) - Dean Barker, 6-1
Azzurra (ITA) - Francesco Bruni, 6-1
TEAMORIGIN (GBR) - Ben Ainslie, 5-2
Artemis (SWE) - Paul Cayard, 3-4
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) - Gavin Brady, 3-3
ALL4ONE (FRA/GER) - Jochen Schuemann, 2-5
Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS) - Karol Jablonski, 2-4
Team French Spirit (FRA) - Bertrand Pacé, 0-7
Louis Vuitton Trophy