Alinghi Strong In Tacking Duels
Alinghi Strong In Tacking Duels
Alinghi was on the pace today, and picked the right shifts. Oracle BMW Racing proved to be a tough competitor but the Swiss team showed cool professionalism, even when they were behind, all the way to the finish.
AUCKLAND - January 17, 2003 - Race 5 of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals started in 12 knots of southerly breeze at 13:30 (local time). Sunny summer skies, flat sea, and light weather conditions indicated the race between Oracle BMW Racing and Team Alinghi would be very close. After Oracle's win yesterday, the Swiss team knew they could not make an error.
For the fifth time in as many races in the Finals, Alinghi crossed ahead of Oracle, switching sides of the course. The teams were very evenly matched with the boats trading places on the advantage line. Oracle BMW Racing rounded the first mark ahead in front, but Alinghi stayed cool under pressure as they followed the Americans downwind. USA 76 executed precise match racing tactics, doggedly covering their opponent to preserve their lead. But Team Alinghi also demonstrated skilled crew work on a fast and flawless second mark rounding. And that's when the action really heated up. Alinghi pulled out the stops on the second beat. This was a crucial point in the race, as the Swiss team attacked in a classic tacking duel. The crew work was seamless and efficient during each tack and they gained without fail from every maneuver. In a come-from-behind performance, the Swiss carved a significant chunk out of the USA 76 lead. Alinghi's strength was obvious as they tightly rounded the!
upwind mark just 10-seconds behind USA-76 and they were back in the game for the second downwind leg. Gradually but persistently, the Swiss rolled down over the American boat. On the final beat, Alinghi opened up a 500 meter separation to the right of USA-76, a risky situation in such light and shifty conditions, but the afterguard on the Swiss boat remained confident. Alinghi was pleased with the result of this race, finishing with 13 seconds ahead of Oracle BMW Racing. Alinghi must win one more point in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals in order to qualify for the America's Cup.
QUOTES FROM THE BOAT
JOSH BELSKY, PITMAN - “On the first beat the breeze was failing and it was going right, but the boat to the left was gaining. Oracle was gaining bearing all the time. The leadership on the boat gives us a feeling of confidence in those situations, because their message is to never get upset and to never quit. On the run, we caught up a little bit, and gained 2 boat lengths there. We got into a duel on the next beat, and closed the gap by sticking to our plan to stay in the middle. We took advantage of the small shifts and tried to catch them out.”
DEAN PHIPPS, FOREDECK - “Coming into the bottom mark the second time we had a nice drop going into the mark. We had good speed into the mark, a nice turn up into the wind and a good exit. That fast mark rounding set us up well to initiate a tacking duel. We knew if we stayed close and got them out of phase, we could get ahead so we tried to play the best wind shifts. This win is great for the team. It's a long way back from 4-1, but a team like Oracle is quite capable of coming back.”
HIGHLIGHT - ATTACKING DOWNWIND
Over the last couple of days we have seen several lead changes on the downwind legs, and today Alinghi ‘rolled' Oracle on the second run of the race and went on to win the race. There are several considerations and rules that boats must adhere to when fighting for pole position downwind. The trailing boat can usually make big gains down the run if they are positioned close enough, for two main reasons. Firstly, a boat is able to block the rival's wind and therefore slow them down. Secondly, if the team is able to get into position on the aft ‘hip' of the boat in front she can further increase her relative speed by surfing down the wake of the opponent. This is similar to cyclists in the Tour de France closely following behind and ‘drafting' the leader. As soon as the trailing boat begins an overtaking move and becomes overlapped to windward of the leading boat the rules say she has to keep clear, and the leading boat will ‘luff' up to try to block the overtaking lane. Although the leading boat can push the opposition up towards the wind, she has to give them a chance to keep clear. As soon as the overlap is broken and the overtaking boat has managed to get clear ahead, she has the right to sail a ‘proper course.' The onboard umpires play a crucial role at this point of the match by giving impartial judgment on whether the overlap exists or not.