Saturday, 13 February 2010

America's Cup: BMW ORACLE Racing Take First Match Race

by SailRaceWin

Racing finally got under way off Valencia Friday afternoon - leading to a race one victory for USA. Further postponements on the water followed the initial two-hour delay signalled onshore, but this was just for the breeze to settle. It's extremely tricky to set a fair 20nm beat course, and Harold Bennett and his team did a super job in the light winds (less than 10 knots), which varied in direction, but settled as roughly southerly, before the start.

The start commenced (and finished) with a classic match-race dial-up between the two boats. USA entered on starboard, coming in on a 2-sail reach at speed around the bow of the committee boat, flying two hulls. Alinghi 5 had a slower entry from the offset at the port end of the line. Spithill initially headed down below the line and then up a bit, pointing directly at Alinghi 5 and holding his course. Alinghi 5 didn't take avoiding action soon enough, so USA had to do so to avoid a collision, turning into the dial-up. When USA flagged, the umpires penalised Alinghi 5.

Subsequent to this, USA remained head to wind above the line, and took her headsail down. Meanwhile Alinghi 5 circled around to port and came up beneath the pin to start on time, with USA still stalled above the line. As Alinghi 5 passed beneath USA and carried on out to the right, USA turned back to the starting line and crossed the starting line about 1 minute 45 seconds late, giving Alinghi 5 a head start of about 660 metres. Distances are, however, of a very different order when vessels are as nippy as these two!

About 12-15 minutes later, USA, sailing higher and a bit faster (both boats are in the high teens in knots, speed-wise), had made up all the initial deficit on Alinghi 5. USA then overtook Alinghi 5, took her headsail down, pointed yet higher with just the wing, and continued to out-pace Alinghi 5 too, while taking care to stay between a beaten boat and the mark. By the windward mark the deficit was some 3 and a third minutes.

Downwind - and as these boats sail in apparent wind, the actual angle isn't that different from upwind - USA sailed faster and deeper than Alinghi 5, reaching speeds of up to 25 knots. As the speed went up, the apparent wind took the headed forward, making it easier to put the bow down. On this leg USA extended to lead by over 2km. Alinghi 5 shed water ballast downwind, but could not make inroads on USA.

After USA crossed the finishing line, Alinghi 5 sailed to the line and then went into a long sequence to take the outstanding penalty, ending with not finishing correctly and having to sail back to the line to re-cross it, so extending the winning delta of USA by more than 5 minutes to 15 minutes and 28 seconds.

P.S. BMW ORACLE Racing's crew was the same as listed for Monday, 8th February. Others accompanied the crew to the boat on her mooring, including one person who had distinct resemblance to the Michelin Man, given the number of layers he was wearing to offset the cold: the CEO, Russell Coutts.

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