Monday, 15 March 2010

LVT: Hungry pack fights for top place at Louis Vuitton Trophy

Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand went unbeaten, while Paul Cayard and Artemis lost a vital match on a penalty call in an action-packed day of racing during the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland

Approaching the weather mark, ALL4ONE leads Aleph. Image copyright Bob Grieser/ Vuitton Trophy Auckland.

by Keith Taylor

With just two days of racing remaining before the end of the round robin, a hungry pack of four teams is in equal second place, each with three points and fighting to catch the thus-far unbeatable Kiwis. They are All4One, representing Germany and France, Azzurra and Mascalzone Latino Audi Team from Italy and the British-based TEAMORIGIN.

Conditions were ideal for racing with almost flat water and a southerly breeze that ranged from 12 to 20 knots with some big shifts and puffs. Peter Reggio’s race committee from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron got off four races with time to spare even after pauses for boat repairs and commercial shipping.

Emirates got an extra share of the limelight today when it hosted All Black rugby football star Dan Carter as 18th man, and when it broke a spinnaker pole during a hoist, the third fracture in the regatta in as many days. The Kiwis shrugged it off, losing only a few seconds in their match against Azzurra and setting their spinnaker without a pole.

Spinnaker pole breaks on Emirates Team New Zealand - but they still win, again. Image copyright Bob Grieser/ Vuitton Trophy Auckland.

Carter put in a lot of extra time comparing rugby to sailing action for the media microphones and signing autographs for the crowd that gathered in the Louis Vuitton Village in Market Square when he came ashore. His verdict? He was impressed by the teamwork and amazed at the intensity of the sounds of a Cup boat complaining under full load.

Speaking of the penalty against Artemis, Gavin Brady, the Kiwi skipper of Mascalzone Latino Audi Team. “It (the penalty) was out there for the taking and it’s nice that it landed on our plate!”

Brady said that about 35 seconds was needed on the short courses of the Louis Vuitton Trophy for a team to exonerate itself with a penalty turn. The other boat had only to stay close to guarantee a win. After the start and while they were racing it was vital not to be lured into a penalty situation that would cancel the first.

“You’ve got to get on the right hand side of them and get starboard and it’s hard for the umpires to give you a penalty,” he said. “It was simple for us after that. We just had to watch for all the traps. I could see Terry and Paul looking back. They made it pretty clear when they were both looking back at me like hawks.”

Race One: All4One, def. ALEPH, 01:06 – The breeze was 14 knots from the south, sou-west as the all-French team of ALEPH met the German/French All4One. After an intense pre-start in which Bertrand Pacé at the wheel of ALEPH attempted to get a hook on his opponent, it was the combined team steered by Frenchman Sébastien Col that grabbed control of the right as the boats split at the start. On the first cross All4One led narrowly and ALEPH had to duck but that was as close as she got. Bolstered by the local knowledge of her Kiwi tactician John Cutler, All4One extended her control. “Our start strategy was to stay to the right of our opponent but the first thing we wanted was to be going full speed when the gun went,” Cutler said. “We started on port which was the lifted tack. That took a bit of pressure off us. We just had to wait for the next shift to come our way. When we crossed, Sébastien did a very nice job on a slam dunk on Bertrand Pacé and we were again on a very nice shift. The leader had the option to sail on the wind shifts and the trailing boat really didn’t have a lot of choice.” With yesterday’s Umpire decision, penalising them one point, ALEPH shares the bottom of the table with zero points.

Race Two: Emirates Team New Zealand def. Azzurra, 00:42 – This was the opportunity for Italy’s Azzurra team skippered by Francesco Bruni to level the points lead with Emirates Team New Zealand if they won. Dean Barker’s host team offered the Italians a slender opportunity when they broke their spinnaker pole at the first weather mark but it was still a one-sided match. Riding as 18th man on ETNZ, New Zealand rugby star player Dan Carter got a close up view of Barker’s surgical tactics before the start. Barker wanted the left and fought for it. The Kiwis got under the transom of the Italian boat to control them before the gun, then headed out to the left at speed while Bruni could only tack away and go right. They were 1,000 metres apart on the short harbour course before the Italians came back to trail by eight boat lengths at the first mark. The Kiwis showed a crack in their impeccable crew work as the spinnaker pole end dropped overboard at the hoist and broke as it wrapped around the shrouds. But the chute went up as planned and they sailed both runs with the spinnaker clipped to the bow. The finish delta was 42 seconds and the Azzurra team drowned their spinnaker, if not their disappointment, when they trawled it overboard while dropping after the finish.

Race Three: TEAMORIGIN def. Synergy Russian Sailing team, 01:18 – Karol Jablonski, Polish skipper of the Russian boat, has a reputation as a tenacious and sometimes unconventional starter, as Ben Ainslie and the British TEAMORIGIN crew were reminded today. Jablonski had the favoured starboard tack entry and after losing a preliminary pre-start skirmish he was able to grab control and start where he wanted on the left and force Ainslie away. The expected left shift never really materialized and the British boat led when they first closed tacks. Jablonski kept in touch around the first two legs and the Russians only trailed by four boat lengths at the end of the first run. Problems getting the spinnaker down cost them heavily and the British boat had a 400 metre margin at the finish.

Race Four: Mascalzone Latino Audi Def Artemis, 01:03 – The pre-start struggle saw Paul Cayard’s Artemis, steered by Terry Hutchinson, penalized for gybing too close. Cayard was blunt. “It was not, in my opinion, a foul!” Brady, steering ML Audi, saw it differently. “In this game the rules are pretty strict and we’ve got umpires watching us. He couldn’t quite get his boat onto starboard. He was desperately trying to but the rules of sailing say the sail has to be set and he couldn’t get his sail through (in time).” Artemis led off the line to control the first beat and was leading by less than a boat length at the top mark until a very untidy situation on ML Audi when the spinnaker flew loose from the tack. Brady’s boat lost five boat lengths but pulled it back on the subsequent legs to overtake Artemis on the last run, surviving an Artemis protest as they sailed through the Swedish boat’s lee. They came to the line together with ML Audi one length clear ahead. The finish delta after the Artemis penalty turn stretched out to 1:03.

Provisional leaderboard after Flight Five:

1. Emirates Team New Zealand, 5-0, 5 pts
=2. All4One, 3-2, 3 pts
=2. Azzurra, 3-2, 3 pts
=2. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, 3-2, 3 pts
=2. TEAMORIGIN, 3-2, 3 pts
6. Artemis, 2-3, 2 pts
7. ALEPH Sailing Team, 1-4, 0 pts *
8. Synergy Russian Sailing Team, 0-5, 0 pts

*Penalty point deducted

LIVE Sport Sailing 103.0 FM is featuring all-day live coverage of the Louis Vuitton Trophy. On television, during the seven days of the round robin, TVNZ is carrying nightly reports on its sports news. From March 16, during the elimination rounds, TVNZ will feature nightly half-hour reports. For the finals on 20th and 21st March there will be live coverage of the racing from noon to 4:00pm.

Louis Vuitton Trophy

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