Sunday, 23 May 2010

LVT: Surprises in light conditions at Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena

The savage gusts and roiling waves of last week's mistral were a distant memory today as just two races were sailed in light and benign conditions at the opening day of the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena

An Italian derby: Azzurra vs. Mascalzone Latino Audi team. Image copyright Bob Grieser/ Vuitton Trophy.

by Peter Rusch

Unforced errors bedevilled both races. Spinnaker problems aboard Great Britain’s TEAMORIGIN led to a victory for France’s ALEPH Sailing Team, while Italy’s Mascalzone Latino Audi won after Italy’s Azzurra never recovered from a penalty awarded for early entry into the starting box.

Conditions were promising as the boats docked out from the Porto Arsenale this morning under cloudless skies. The forecast called for the light northerly to build to seven to ten knots. There were plans for three flights with two races in each flight, and provision for a fourth flight if everything went to schedule. However the wind was slow to arrive and racing was delayed for 75 minutes.

Race One: ALEPH Sailing Team def TEAMORIGIN, 01:06

Britain’s TEAMORIGIN exploited their right-hand entry in a light northerly and the French boat ALEPH split off to the left at the gun. Bertrand Pacé at the wheel of ALEPH had a meager lead the first two times they met but Ben Ainslie had the starboard advantage and forced the French away. TEAMORIGIN’S lead was 14 seconds at the top mark. Halfway down the run, a disastrous gybe in light airs wrapped the British kite in a baulky figure-eight that led to a very untidy firedrill. Ainslie revealed later that the fault lay in errors hooking up the sheets. ALEPH enjoyed a five boat-length lead at the leeward mark. The race was theirs, although tempered by some anxious moments closing the finish as they sailed into light air and conceded some ground.

"It might not be a symbolic victory, but it is a valuable point! We are happy to take it,” said Pacé. “TEAMORIGIN made a better choice on the start. We wanted the left and we had it; they wanted the right and they also had it. Then at the first crossing we were lacking ten meters to cross in front of them. We were still behind at the upwind mark. Luckily for us, they made a big mistake when gybing and we took over the lead rather easily.”

Ainslie said: “It was pretty frustrating, we were in a nice little spot. But one of those classics: one little mistake which led to a couple more mistakes which led to a race-losing mistake. We had an issue with the spinnaker sheets being led outside when - with it being very light - they should have been led inside. It was a mistake of how it was set up.”

Race Two: Mascalzone Latino Audi def Azzurra, 2:27

Mascalzone Latino Audi team vs. Azzurra. Image copyright Bob Grieser/ Vuitton Trophy.

It was billed as a top race of the day between rival Italian teams with strong ties to the region. Mascalzone Latino, the host team, in a duel with Azzurra, racing under the colors of Sardinia’s Yacht Club Costa Smerelda. Expectations of a battle royale dimmed at the five-minute gun when Azzurra was penalized for early entry to the start box. Azzurra’s Francesco Bruni kept the pressure on, gaining on some shifts and losing in others but then faced the ignominy of a slow finish. His boat remained stuck in a windless patch as Mascalzone Latino’s Gavin Brady sailed away to a 2:27 lead. Azzurra never completed her penalty turn.

Bruni said: “We were relying too much on the instruments as we approached the start box and so we paid the price for believing in electronics rather than ourselves. So we were given a penalty. After that my mind went blank for the next five minutes, and we should have got a much better start than we did. For that, I have to take all the blame. However at one point we believed we scored a penalty against Mascalzone Latino, but unfortunately the umpire did not agree. So no penalty!”

Brady said: “Azzurra is a very dangerous team to sail against in light air. They proved that in Nice last year. They are very good in those conditions. What I liked about today was that our team kept their composure when things were really tricky and we had to make some big decisions.”

Racing on day one off La Maddalena. Image copyright Bob Grieser/ Vuitton Trophy.

The two flights not raced today will be pushed back to allow tomorrow’s matches to remain on the original schedule. They are:

Flight 4
All4One v Azzurra
Aleph v BMW Oracle Racing

Flight 5
Luna Rossa v Mascalzone Latino Audi Team
Team Origin v Artemis

Flight 6
Emirates Team New Zealand v Aleph
Azzurra v Synergy

Live streaming web coverage of the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena is available on the event website,

Louis Vuitton Trophy