It is a fact well learnt by previous Americas Cup challengers: never under-estimate Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes team.
Italy's leading Americas Cup challenger yacht Luna Rossa was beaten for the first time in the Louis Vuitton Cup match racing series today. Mr Americas Cup, Dennis Conner's team Stars & Stripes knocked the Italian team off its unbeaten run by one minute 51 seconds.
Luna Rossa skipper, Francesco de Angelis, had taken the Prada team to an unbeaten lead on 22 points. Stars & Stripes however has shown mixed form and was seventh in the race rankings.
But with the wind forecast to gust up to 35 knots the match was always going to prove testing.
The race proved a speed game. Prada can out-perform on pure speed. But in the high winds, and wind shifts favouring the American yacht, Stars & Stripes proved superior.
Early on in the race, it looked like a Stars & Stripes victory. Prada began the 3rd windward leg more than one minute behind. Race course officials were forced to change marks due to huge wind-shifts and at times this left the Italians battling heavy seas back to its mark lay-line. Stars & Stripes was calm out in the lead. The team's cool headed approach, and steady she goes when ahead tactic, proved a winner.
Louis Vuitton Cup official commentators called the race an upset. The wind-shifts too fickle for boat or seamanship to have played a major part in the outcome.
"The last beat was not a real beat. The top win mark was
way off to the right.
Prada had no options but to sail the same course and follow the leader... It has never been a real race as the race committee was strugling to keep up to date with all the windshifts."
But a lesson was
evident: Never under estimate Dennis Conner. Or his team.