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GBR Challenge Defeats Oracle

GBR Challenge defeats Oracle

12th October 2002. GBR Challenge recorded a fantastic victory today, defeating the highly fancied Oracle BMW team owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison. Having established the lead up the first beat after a split tack start, Harrison’s team defended successfully until the leeward mark.

The American’s retook the lead on the second upwind leg, but GBR Challenge then overtook on the downwind leg to earn a lead that they fought hard to protect to the end. GBR Challenge’s 25 second victory was the first by one of the smaller teams over one of the three favourite big budget syndicates and gives the British team three points with only the Mascalzone Latino team left to race in Round Robin One.

The forecast 25 knots didn’t materialise as the teams headed out to the Hauraki Gulf in 8-10 knots breeze from 300 degrees. After the first pre-start between Oracle BMW and GBR Challenge was abandoned due to a 45 minute postponement request from the Swedish Victory Challenge (racing Alinghi in the second start), racing got underway at 12.50.

GBR Challenge helmed by Andy Beadsworth for the pre-start, entered the start box from the unfavoured port end and sailed straight along the line towards Oracle before dialling up. The British team bore away to the left and then came back round into another dial-up above the line and to the right of the course. After a third dial-up, both boats bore away downwind and rounded up at the committee boat end. Oracle headed towards the pin whilst GBR tacked to cross the start line on port and head to the right hand side.

Although the British team had been slightly slower off the line, the greater pressure on the favoured right hand side of the course saw Wight Lightning pull out an early lead. As the boats converged, GBR Challenge held the starboard advantage and tacked on top of Oracle four times to protect their lead and the right hand side. With Walker on the helm, GBR 70 took USA 76 above the layline and then rounded with a 13 second lead.

Harrison’s men covered down the run and extended by a further three seconds at the leeward mark. Coming back up the course, Oracle tacked to the right hand side whilst GBR Challenge continued to the left and initially found better pressure to extend to a 35 second lead. Then a 40 degree windshift to the right turned the race on its head, giving the American team the lead that they then protected. Having sailed GBR Challenge above the layline, Oracle recorded a 27 second lead at the second windward mark.

The second run was the turning point of the race, as GBR Challenge sailed lower and faster than Oracle, and picked the shifts superbly to cross ahead on the run into the bottom mark. As they rounded ahead, the British team had taken 41 seconds out of the Americans to lead by 14 seconds.

Wight Lightning continued to cover USA 76, protecting the right handside. Halfway up the beat tactician Ado Stead made the call to go to the right whilst Oracle sailed to the left hand side. The move paid handsomely as GBR Challenge found better pressure and extended their lead. Down the final run, the Americans threatened GBR 70 but the British held on to win a famous victory.

Crew list - Wight Lightning (GBR-70)
Bow Matt Cornwell
Mid Bow Mark Sheffield
Mast George Skuodas
Pit James Stagg
Pit Runner Ben Morrison-Jack
Trim upwind Mal Parker
Trim downwind Simon Fry
Grinder Starboard Guy Reid
Grinder Port Ian Weighell
Mid Grinder Jim Turner
Main Trimmer Chris Mason
Navigator Jules Salter
Aft Grinder Chris Main
Strategist Andy Beadsworth
Skipper Ian Walker
Tactician Adrian Stead
17th Man Peter Harrison


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