Demolition Derby On The Gulf:
Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes delivered a stinging defeat to Paul Cayard's AmericaOne on a white-capped Hauraki Gulf today as one boat in each of four other matches retired with gear problems.
In a tense, action-packed match AmericaOne fought off Stars & Stripes until the third upwind leg when Ken Read steered Conner's boat into the lead. AmericaOne surfed back into contention on the final run. Cayard's team exploded a spinnaker and replaced it in just over a minute. It still caught Stars & Stripes only to earn a penalty when its new spinnaker touched the other boat's backstay.
In the most spectacular incident of a carnage-littered contest, the Hawaiian boat Abracadabra broke her boom at the weather mark as she chased desperately after the French challenger Le Défi. The boom snapped and folded just as Abracadabra surged around the mark in hot pursuit of the French boat.
Four boats were forced to withdraw from Race Nine, some before the race started and some while racing, as a spanking 20-knot Northeasterly and big, cresting seas delivered testing conditions on the Hauraki Gulf.
Young America was the first to call it quits, withdrawing from its race against Young Australia after the Race Committee denied a request for a postponement right at the five minute gun. The Race Committee indicated that the request came after the gun, but Young America flew a red flag, seeking redress and claiming that its request preceded the gun.
Today was only the fourth day of racing for Young America (USA-58) after her sister ship (USA-53) buckled and folded in similar winds and seas just over a week ago.
Today, the twin-appendage Swiss boat be Happy was the first challenger to signal problems on a perfect race day with the wind at 17 knots. The Race Committee gave it extra time to fix steering problems before its start with America True. Not long after, it withdrew with its aft fin keel cracked. The boat has withdrawn from its remaining two races in this round while the team investigates repair or replacement possibilities.
In the third retirement today, Bravo España withdrew on the second upwind leg after experiencing main halyard problems. The Spanish were trailing the Japanese challenger Asura at the time.
When the five matches in Race Nine started today, the wind was blowing 15-17 knots, and the seas had built to a one-metre swell. Wind and seas continued to build as the afternoon wore on.
STARS & STRIPES BEAT AMERICAONE - DELTA 02:46
This final delta in no way illustrates the most exciting race in this Louis Vuitton Cup. Syndicate head Dennis Conner wasn't aboard but his wife Daintry Conner was the 17th person and was in a unique position to provide a first-hand account of the victory to the Cup veteran.
The start was even, with Stars & Stripes (USA-55) to weather and AmericaOne (USA-49) two boat lengths to leeward. The pair sailed on starboard for five minutes with Paul Cayard on AmericaOne using his leeward position to keep the pressure on whilst sailing in the choppy water. Ken Read, steering Stars & Stripes, was forced to tack away but the pair remained close and in touch, tacking 11 times on the first beat. The last approach to the top mark saw Stars & Stripes ahead and to leeward and unable to tack until AmericaOne tacked on the layline. When they did, Stars & Stripes was on the outside on the simultaneous approach. On passing the buoy AmericaOne luffed head to wind, taking Stars & Stripes far beyond the mark. AmericaOne bore away safely with clear air, unaffected by the other boat's proximity.
On the first run AmericaOne proved a little faster, taking 15 seconds out of the veteran Stars & Stripes team. The second weather leg saw the game stay close with a further eight tacks Cayard swapping sides frequently. With the wind building, the seas got bigger too and the second run started to get exciting.
Cayard rounded the last bottom mark with just 14 seconds in hand. Both boats stood on starboard tack before Stars & Stripes made a break for the right. It appeared that AmericaOne had a non-overlapping genoa set whilst Stars & Stripes still had a Code Two maximum sail. Half way up the last weather leg, AmericaOne were forced to do a quick headsail change to a smaller sail (code six) as their previous sail (code five) had started to tear on a spreader. Stars & Stripes had the left and had managed to nibble back into contention. There was a slight bear-away from Stars & Stripes in anticipation of dipping behind at the next cross but Cayard had other ideas and tacked in front forcing Stars & Stripes away again. The pair was as good as level at this point and AmericaOne's tack to keep the right was a mistake. Stars & Stripes headed out a bit further and tacked back on a good shift to take the lead in to the last mark and round 17 seconds ahead.
The wind was up near 22 knots at this stage and the boats were hurtling downwind in two to three metre seas. Cayard must have had memories of the last Whitbread race as he managed to get up onto a surf and cut Ken Read's lead down to just a length. But as the surf ended and the load increased on everything, another gust came through, Cayard's fluorescent green spinnaker blew out, and Stars & Stripes blew up its boom vang. The blue boat sailed away to what seemed like a comfortable lead. But no! Cayard's crew had a new spinnaker set in just over 60 seconds and started to pick up the waves again. Minutes later the gunmetal grey boat was again all over Stars & Stripes and its broken boom vang as both boats surfed down the waves.
It was a couple of difficult gybes later when Cayard picked up a big wave and was almost alongside Stars & Stripes and on its wind. Read gybed away but Cayard couldn't decide which side of Stars & Stripes he wanted to put his bow. At the last minute he decided to go to the right, his bow missed the stern of Stars & Stripes by feet, but the spinnaker touched the leading boat's runners, and Cayard collected a penalty.
Worse, Cayard's crew lost control of the spinnaker in this wild manoeuvre and Stars & Stripes on port gybe was safe to proceed to the line and take the gun. Cayard finished without a spinnaker and executed a penalty turn to artificially increase the final delta.
AMERICA TRUE WON, BE HAPPY DID NOT START
John Cutler sailed America True (USA-51) around the course for four points after be hAPpy (SUI-59) steered by Jochen Schümann withdrew before the ten minute gun with a jammed rudder.
YOUNG AUSTRALIA WON, YOUNG AMERICA DID NOT START
Ed Baird at the helm of Young America (USA-53) requested a postponement for gear problems at the five minute gun in its match against Young Australia 2000 (AUS-29). The Race Committee denied the request and Young America withdrew, flying a red flag, signalling that it intended to seek redress from the International Jury.
ASURA WON, BRAVO ESPAÑA DID NOT FINISH
During the pre-start Spain was not really challenged by the Japanese boat Peter Gilmour on Asura (JPN-44) had an even start with Pedro Campos sailing Bravo España (ESP-47). Spain did not have the same pointing ability as the Japanese and Nippon took the lead. When Bravo España tacked to port it could not cross ahead of Asura and Gilmour bounced the Spanish back to the left. After that Gilmour gained inch by inch, sailing higher. Near the top mark the Japanese were reading the shifts well and got lifted just enough to slip around the mark 27 seconds ahead. On the run Nippon successfully defended its lead. The delta at the bottom mark was 28 seconds. The wind increased to 18 knots halfway up the beat when Bravo España's mainsail came down and the Spanish retired.
LE DÉFI WON, ABRACADABRA DID NOT FINISH
This was shaping up to be a great race, the boats close and switching the lead, when Abracadabra (USA-54) was forced to retire at the second weather mark. The Americans broke their boom as they bore off to round the mark just 11 seconds behind Le Défi (FRA-46). In the pre-start, Bertrand Pacé steering the French boat, and Chris Larson on Abracadabra, worked hard, circling each other four times, each trying to gain control. This was the second race at the helm for Larson on Abracadabra and the switch paid dividends as the Americans crossed the line upwind, ahead, and with speed. Abracadabra pushed Le Défi to the left, resisting over 20 attempts by Pacé to break cover. The French finally passed the Americans downwind and turned the tables. On the second upwind, Pacé protected the right. Although Larson closed, Le Défi enjoyed a two-boat length lead at the top mark when the Abracadabra boom blew up. The French finished the race alone to collect four points.
Race Report provided by... Louis Vuitton Cup.com