Wednesday, 11 February 2009

LVPS: British and Italian Teams Earn Quarter Final Berths

Luna Rossa Challenge and China Team upwind against the backdrop of Auckland. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Luna Rossa Challenge.

by Keith Taylor

Pre-race favourite teams battled ferociously in the Rangitoto Channel today to secure their places in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series quarter finals to be sailed tomorrow.

Italy’s Luna Rossa skippered by Peter Holmberg pulled out a heart-stopping one-second win over the China Team while Britain’s TEAMORIGIN was under the gun until skipper Ben Ainslie scored a penalty against France’s Pataugas K-Challenge in a spinnaker luffing confrontation that took them far above their proper course.

With just four days of competition remaining, TEAMORIGIN will race tomorrow against Damiani Italy Challenge in one quarter final match. The other quarter final will be America’s BMW Oracle Racing against Luna Rossa. Weather permitting, the semi finalists will race tomorrow to determine who will race the top seed Swiss boat Alinghi in the Challenger Final. The winning challenger will meet Emirates Team New Zealand in a seven-race match on Friday and Saturday.

Peter Holmberg’s victory came as Luna Rossa completed a penalty turn on the finish line. British match race champion Ian Williams steering China Team had laid the penalty on the Italians 30 seconds before the start as they fought for the right hand position on the line.

With the penalty hanging over him Holmberg enjoyed a small lead at the start and ever so gradually eked it out to a 150 metre lead at the finish. He jammed his boat around in a tight turn bringing it almost to a halt as it spun around. Williams carried fresh breeze down to the line and crossed at speed but not before Holmberg crawled across to take the gun.

“I’ve done a lot of penalty turns in my career,” Holmberg said afterwards, “but it’s tough making 24 tonnes go 360 degrees and keep it moving!”

A penalty featured in the other match too as TEAMORIGIN fought a drama-filled skirmish with the charged-up French K-Challenge to stay in the regatta. Ainslie did an outstanding job to start on port tack right next to the committee, forcing K-Challenge helmsman Sebastian Col to tack away. The British boat protected the right up the beat, but the French instigated a tacking duel that evened up the game.

With the top mark in sight, TEAMORIGIN dialed down and tacked just in front of K-Challenge, holding them out by nine seconds at the top mark. However the British spinnaker set was slow and K-Challenge rolled them. In the ensuing drama, Ainslie luffed the French boat up twice. The French were penalized for failing to keep clear and lost time recovering their spinnaker, which sagged off to leeward after the halyard let go. Ainslie led the rest of the way, secure in the knowledge that the French still had to complete their penalty turn.

The breeze died after the completion of two races this morning. A long and fruitless wait for wind in warm, damp and humid conditions ended at 1600 hours.

Louis Vuitton Pacific Series

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