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Le Defi Areva Battle First Day Of Round Robin II

Press Release 30 - Wednesday 23 October, Auckland


After three legs of clear domination by the Swiss Alinghi Challenge, changeable wind conditions and some clever sail management meant that LE DEFI AREVA entered fully into their first match of the afternoon… just before it was cancelled due to lack of breeze. On the back of a good depart, the restart match at 4.30pm was happily uneventful by comparison, with even winds and smooth sailing for both teams out on the Hauraki Gulf.

After a slight delay to the start of racing for Round Robin II of the Louis Vuitton Cup, LE DEFI AREVA encountered for the second time the powerful Alinghi Challenge on Course Juliet this afternoon.

Conditions were light and shifty as LE DEFI AREVA made a difficult start and passed the committee boat a few seconds behind the Swiss boat. FRA 69 trailed SUI 64 for the first windward leg by up to ten boatlengths, and rounded the first mark with a 1.11 minute delay.

On the first downwind leg, recent technical modifications did not immediately pay off for the French team, who rounded the second mark 1.57 minutes behind their Swiss counterparts. Efficient sail handling and tactical development however sharpened the French team’s performance, with an expert spinnaker drop and improved boat handling.

Ever-softening conditions of well under 10 knots were less than ideal for the French team, whose preferred wind speed is between 12 – 15 knots. A decidedly shifty third leg, with winds dropping to a painful one or two knots, left LE DEFI AREVA trailing by an unenviable 5.34 minutes (albeit only 430m), with Alinghi passing the buoy just a few minutes before the 45 minute cancellation deadline.

However on the second leeward stretch, an increase to 8 – 9 knots was just enough for the Yaka Design team’s downwind modifications on FRA 69 to make a difference. Well behind at the third mark, LE DEFI AREVA’s work in the boatshed over the break between Round Robins began to show, as they overtook Alinghi on a light and shifty second leeward stretch and led at one stage by up to 100m. But, typically of the Hauraki Gulf, the breeze soon softened back to 1- 2 knots, meaning the leg look set to take around 90 minutes – twice the time allowed by the Race Committee.

At 3.10pm, the match was cancelled with the fourth leg not completed in the 45 minutes allowed. The Race Committee scheduled a restart for later in the afternoon which saw the competition relaunched just after 4.30pm.

The pair made a close start at the committee boat and headed out to the right side of course Juliet, LE DEFI AREVA soon tacking to take the left side of the course. The French team chased SUI 64 up the first windward leg in light breezes of around 8 knots, closing up to under half a boatlength before overtaking Alinghi and leading the second part of the course. Despite expert tactical manoeuvring, tricky conditions put FRA 69 1.02 minutes behind at the first mark – slightly ahead of where they were at at the same mark earlier in the afternoon.

"We are very happy with our depart this afternoon", says Sailing Manager, Pierre Mas. "The dial-up was very close and we approached the line assertively, giving us a slight advantage at the start. There was some very good teamwork on board FRA 69 today. We made fewer onboard errors and we are pleased with the improvements we have made."

The first downwind leg saw both boats following a similar line of attack, with the French rounding the second mark 1.13 minutes behind their fearsome Swiss opponent. The Swiss succeeded in opening up their lead to 1.31 minutes at the half way mark in winds of around 10 knots, however good boat management meant the French gained ground on the second leeward leg (1.23 minutes behind at the buoy).

However, things came unstuck for LE DEFI AREVA on the final round of the match. The afterguard took a tactical risk, deciding to take the left hand side of the course and were promptly proved wrong by yet another fickle Auckland wind gust. The breeze came in strongly from the right and allowed Alinghi to charge ahead, rounding the fifth mark 2.31 minutes ahead and the final mark, a full 5.56 minutes in front.

After what was a very long and mentally-exhausting day out on the Hauraki Gulf, this was a disappointing official result for LE DEFI AREVA, but the team is positive and looking forward to another day’s sailing tomorrow.


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