Monday, 9 February 2009

LVPS: TEAMORIGIN Score a Win Against Emirates Team New Zealand On Their Home Waters

Emirates Team New Zealand and TEAMORIGIN. Image copyright Ian Roman/TEAMORIGIN.

by Leslie Ryan

Day Four of Round Robin two proved to be a long day on the water but worth waiting for with the TEAMORIGIN boys taking a 7 second race win against the home team, Emirates Team New Zealand, and Ben Ainslie and his team showing form against his old team mate, Dean Barker.

Race one of the day saw Damiani Italia with Vasco Vascotto take a win over fellow Italian team, Luna Rossa, giving them their first point of this RR2 series of racing.

Race two was the much awaited Alinghi vs. BMW Oracle race, promising some interesting action between these two top teams. Unfortunately the wind died and only filled in around 3.30pm so the teams and the extensive spectator fleet faced a long delay on the water. The warning signal was eventually fired at 4.20pm in a nice steady 12-15 knot south westerly breeze.

Alinghi took the win by 32 seconds following a nail biting race that Ed Baird and his team lead from the start but Russell Coutts and BMW Oracle threw everything at it. Distances at mark roundings were as little as 12 seconds and even as late as the last downwind leg, the two teams were neck and neck with Russell keeping in close contact with the BMW Oracle team. This win gives Alinghi 3 points for this round and ensures them a place in the Challenger sail-off.

Race three finally got underway at 6.20pm in a beautiful Auckland evening and perfect 15 knot wind and it was time for TEAMORIGIN to take to the stage to race against the home team, Emirates Team New Zealand. As ETNZ are holders of the Louis Vuitton Trophy from June 2007, they have an automatic place in the finals of this event so races against them do not count for any points but TEAMORIGIN saw this race as a great opportunity to line up against this experienced team and continue their learning curve.

Following some initial dialling up, both teams lined up coming in towards the committee boat end of the start line with TEAMORIGIN holding the ETNZ boat up to weather and leading off the start line by a narrow 8m margin.

The first beat saw both boats heading upwind neck and neck but with TEAMORIGIN in a controlling position and Dean Barker pushing hard and throwing in multiple tacks which TEAMORIGIN matched tack for tack. The distance between the two teams varied from 20m to 90m with the wind shifting but Ben and the team doing an impressive job in keeping in the controlling position.

TEAMORIGIN led around the first windward mark by a narrow but important 12 seconds and the chase was on. Gybe for gybe the pair headed downwind, ETNZ appeared to be trying to draw TEAMORIGIN into a gybing duel perhaps hoping that they might be able to force some errors on this new team but it was not to be.

By the first leeward gate, TEAMORIGIN dropped their spinnaker first and headed for right hand gate and ETNZ followed in, with only a 10 second gap between them round the mark. Both tacked immediately on the mark and headed up the beat again tack for tack, with TEAMORIGIN holding the lead by around 60m.

TEAMORIGIN seemed to pull ahead following tacks by both teams and extended to 100m but with ETNZ not giving up easily. Remember that both Ainslie and Barker were tune up partners in the last America’s Cup and know each other’s moves inside out so this pair were watching each others moves intently.

With both teams playing the game up the middle of the pitch, ETNZ continued to try to reel them back in and TEAMORIGIN continued to hold a controlling and covering position – but still all to play for. Ben and his team did a really nice job staying strong and steady. The New Zealanders pushed hard and managed to close up again to a 30m distance. Both reached the left hand layline, and TEAMORIGIN pulled out again benefitting from a lift in the wind to stretch their lead to 86m, both heading in to the top mark for last time.

TEAMORIGIN led round the windward mark and held a distance of 80m safely around heading downwind for the last time, still not home and dry but as from the start in a controlling position. Both headed downwind pretty much straight down the line on the same tack, the lead stretching to over 90 metres. ETNZ threw in a gybe and TEAMORIGIN followed suit, matching the chasing team. An impressive job by the TEAMORIGIN boys in maintaining their lead over this hugely experienced home team.

ETNZ threw in another gybe and TEAMORIGIN followed again, these gybes absolutely critical to both teams as even a tiny error could cost everything. Two further gybes and TEAMORIGIN matching perfectly. Further gybing put them under pressure and the gap narrowed down slightly. ETNZ definitely pushing to try to get into an advantageous position given the experience they have, the margin narrowed down to 40m – guaranteeing another thrilling finish.

Closing to under 30m, really all still to play for. ETNZ gybed across and TEAMORIGIN carried on to the line, 23m between them. TEAMORIGIN take the win by a mere but impressive 7 seconds.

Mike Sanderson, Team Director, commented after this exciting race, “What a great race. It was a long day on the water and then we had to jump on board and get into it straight away. We had a really good race together as a team, still a long way to go but a nice feeling to get a win in this race. Although our score tally might imply that we have not had as good a week as Round Robin one, we are definitely sailing a lot better as a team and if we keep improving at this rate, we hope to be in this regatta for a while yet.”

TEAMORIGIN are certainly creating waves here in Auckland, having sailed 8 races they have only lost 2 and of the 2 they lost, they were in a leading position for most of those race so a really impressive performance by this exciting team after such little time together!!

Other results from day four of RR2:
Damiani Italia 1 : Luna Rossa 0
Alinghi 1 : BMW Oracle 0
TEAMORIGIN W : Emirates Team New Zealand L
(Races against ETNZ do not count for any points)


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