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Alinghi Darts Around Course

Alinghi Darts Around Course

Team Alinghi proved good boat speed both upwind and downwind. The Swiss team took an early advantage in Race 1 of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals and defeated Oracle BMW Racing to win the first point in the best-of-nine series.

AUCKLAND - January 12, 2003 - Hundreds of spectator boats dotted the Hauraki Gulf on a sunny morning to watch Alinghi and Oracle BMW Racing do battle. After the race between the two formidable teams was postponed the previous day due to strong winds, take-two for Race 1 of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals unfolded on schedule at 13:15 (local time) in perfect conditions of north-easterly winds of 9-15 knots.

For the first time in this edition of the Cup, Alinghi began the series entering the start box on port side. Peter Holmberg, at the helm of USA 76 for the start, turned the wheel over to Chris Dickson the long-time rival of Russell Coutts.

The first decisive moment occurred after the start when Alinghi split tacks. The left hand side was favored, and USA 76 won the pin end of line. Shortly after the start, Alinghi tacked over and split from Oracle BMW Racing to protect the right. The Swiss gained speed from a puff of breeze, and anticipating the left hand wind shift left, quickly tacked back to control the Americans on the first beat. The second decisive moment occurred on the first downwind run. Alinghi was first into the fresh left hand breeze, they extended their lead, and opened a 150-meter separation to roll over USA-76. For the first time in the history of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the challengers were racing with onboard judges positioned in the stern of the ACC yachts. It was an uneventful day for these men who are responsible for closely observing overlaps or penalties, of which there were none for Race 1. The Americans gained some seconds on the second downwind run, but it was not enough to catch the S! wiss team, who defeated Oracle BMW Racing by 1:24.

The first team to win five points in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final series will advance to the America's Cup and take on the defender Team New Zealand.


SIMON DAUBNEY, GENOA TRIMMER - "Before the start, plan "A" was to get the left side of the line, but we knew if we didn't, it wasn't a big deal because we had plan "B" and we stuck to it. If we didn't get the left, we wanted to protect the right, and then tack back early to cover them. This was one of the more relaxed races we've had so far, in previous races we've won we always had our hearts in our mouths. Today's win means we can be happy with our boat speed, and we get a bit of momentum for the rest of the racing."

CURTIS BLEWETT, FOREDECK - "It looks like Oracle haven't done anything to their boat that makes us non-competitive. You get three weeks between rounds and someone can make great developments, so it's always a worry that they're going to be faster. Oracle is really solid, but they won't steam-roll us. We made good gains on the first beat and then a decent wind shift came in on the run. The decisive moment was getting the break on the first run when Oracle made a mistake. There was a decent wind shift, we gybed pretty tight on the lay line, and they sailed too far over the line, which added to our lead. From then on, they couldn't challenge us. We still have work in front of us, and we're here to win every race."


Until now, all judging during racing has been carried out from on the water umpire boats but today the Louis Vuitton Cup witnessed the introduction of using onboard observers.

Despite the fact that the umpire boats follow the yachts very closely, there are limitations to how close they can get during racing. When the AC boats are changing positions quickly, it can be difficult to judge overlaps, contact with marks, and collisions precisely. The solution is to install a judge on board the racing boats. "Our primary function is to assess when an overlap is established and to relay this information to the two skippers via radio," explains Bryan Willis, Chairman of the International Jury, "and secondly to relay information such as when a tack is completed from the umpires to the afterguard." The judges on board SUI-64 and USA-76 won't be making penalty decisions but will be a source of information for the umpires in the jury boat to help them make vital calls.

Both Alinghi and Oracle BMW racing see onboard observers as a very positive move. However not all the challengers were in favor of the idea which is why it hasn't been implemented before in this Louis Vuitton Cup.

Special bars have been fitted to both SUI-64 and USA-76 to help the umpires hang on at the stern section of an America's Cup boat. Another change made was an amendment to Sailing Instruction 19.1, which states that the umpires will wear either a yellow or a blue jacket, instead of using the blue and yellow flags to signify whether the boat enters the starting box from the port and starboard end.

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