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Sobering debut to the Quarter Finals for LE DEFI


Sobering debut to the Quarter Finals for LE DEFI AREVA

The Quarter Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup started as unpredictably as the Round Robins, with Day One postponed due to high winds yesterday and racing today delayed by a lack of breeze. When racing did finally begin nearly two hours after the official start time, LE DEFI AREVA met the Swedish Victory Challenge for a difficult first of seven possible Quarter Final matches.

At 3.05pm on Course Juliet, FRA 69 made a solid, if hurried start against Orm (SWE 73), crossing the start line 1 second behind the Swedes and sailing the left hand side of the course. Winds finally stabilised between 14 – 18 knots. The French team tried to cover an unexpected shifty breeze from the south but finished by following Victory closely up the first windward leg.

Onboard electronics let LE DEFI AREVA down on the first leg, and the team was obliged to sail ‘blind’.

"The job of the helmsman and trimmers is hard enough when we DO have diagnostic equipment onboard, so to do what we did today without any additional information was a feat in itself", says navigator Philippe Mourniac.

With the Swedes sailing hard and tacking infrequently, they rounded the first mark with a delta of 23 seconds over the French.

On the first leeward leg, Victory jibed to the left while the French team struggled to set their asymmetrical gennaker. Orm SWE 73 maintained a solid lead on the downwind leg, gaining another 9 seconds at the second mark.

The second windward leg saw both boats head up the left hand side of the course, tacking starboard to optimise performance in breezes of 17 knots. The modifications made to FRA 69 were of little assistance in these conditions, with the French losing up to 226m and rounding the third mark 55 seconds behind their Swedish neighbours.

The French trailed the Swedes down to the fourth mark and rounded 51 seconds behind. SWE 73 succeeded in fully covering LE DEFI AREVA’s breeze up the final windward leg of the match, rounding the fifth mark with a fulsome delta of 1.39 minutes.

On the final windward leg, LE DEFI AREVA’s fate is sealed by a technical problem with the spinnaker. The halyard caught in the jumper at the top of the mast causing FRA 69 to lose even more ground, dropping right back and trailing SWE 73 by over 700m on the last leg. FRA 69 crossed the finish line an unimpressive 2.03 minutes behind SWE 73.

"The delta does not really reflect the tidy race we had out there today. We felt that results of modifications to the boat and the afterguard were in evidence but as suspected, the Swedes are a fearsome opponent and they were in top form. They made a slightly better start than us, took the advantage and sailed faultlessly – we couldn’t catch them up and their lead just got bigger and bigger," says navigator Philippe Mourniac.

Sailing Manager Pierre Mas agrees: "We still have progress to make – every match gives us the opportunity to do that and we are prepared to make improvements right up to the end of match three. The team is completely bonded and ready to win together and lose together – whatever it takes to get there!".

Other results from today’s close racing: GBR (GBR 70) beat Stars & Stripes (USA 77) by 1 minute; Alinghi (SUI 64) beat Prada (ITA 74) by 1.18 minutes and Oracle BMW Racing (USA 76) beat OneWorld (USA 65) by 12 seconds.

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