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Alinghi Wins An Epic Struggle

Alinghi Wins An Epic Struggle

Alinghi performed a remarkable eleventh hour come back in Race 2 of America's Cup, rolling over Team New Zealand on the last leg to cross the finish line seconds ahead of the Kiwis bringing the score to 2-0. It was an incredible match, as the two competitors battled to the end pick the right wind shifts.

AUCKLAND - February 16, 2003 - America's Cup sailors waited in the hot summer sun until late in the afternoon for the sea breeze to fill in on the Hauraki Gulf and the spectator fleet cleared off the course. After a prolonged delay, the start gun fired for Race 1 at 15:50 local time once the Northeasterly breeze was established. It was a fabulous win for Team Alinghi today, who came from behind and snatched victory from Team New Zealand. The light breeze and flat sea conditions were poles apart from the previous day's heavy weather and it was a tactical race of managing the changeable winds. The Kiwis showed strong boat speed, but Alinghi's iron determination to win prevailed. Team New Zealand sunk their teeth into a lead on the second leg and tenaciously fought to keep it, but the crew onboard Alinghi never gave up to work together and create an offensive opportunity.

Alinghi showed good boat speed on the first upwind beat and rounded the mark 12 seconds ahead of the opposition. But on the downwind run, the wind angle and pressure on the left part of the course favored Team New Zealand, who capitalized on the opportunity towards the end of the leg. NZL 82 managed the wind shifts skillfully to lead around the course in a race dominated by wind and tactics. But the Alinghi sailors were unflappable, concentrated on race and out sailed the Kiwis at the end. The climax of the match came on the run to the finish, when Alinghi found the power to roll over the top of Team New Zealand. But Alinghi had set up the passing opportunity earlier at the windward mark rounding after the fifth leg. NZL 82 rounded 26 seconds ahead, but Alinghi was simultaneously arriving at the mark on starboard, and the Kiwis could not execute a gybe set with SUI 64 in the way. Alinghi seized the opportunity to gybe set to gain a strong offensive position. The boats sailed!
on a long starboard tack out to the lay line, and Alinghi squeezed the New Zealanders out. Although they rolled NZL 82, the Swiss were still in the outside position of the course. Team New Zealand gybed on the layline, and SUI 64 accelerated to cross behind the black boat and gain the advantageous inside spot. The key moment of the race was clinched when the Swiss nailed a more powerful position and consequently the true lead of a boat length. They rolled Team New Zealand again on port tack, gybed in front of them and defended their lead to the finish. The finishing delta was 7 seconds.


JOHN BARNITT, GRINDER - "It was a great race. We thought we would gain more on the tacks, but they met us tack for tack. The guys on the other boat sailed really well. There were so many tacks on the second beat, we wanted each tack to be perfect and made subtle adjustments. On the final run, we knew we had to out-gybe Team New Zealand. We worked together and kept it simple and calm."

JOSH BELSKY, PITMAN - "On the mark rounding after the fifth leg, we set
up to do a bear-away but were prepared to change to a gybe set, which is a maneuver we've practiced. On the downwind leg to the finish we both sailed out to the lay line and they gybed. We gybed after they did, and we knew we had to come out hot to accelerate over them. It was one of those classic match-racing maneuvers. It was hard to contain the excitement, but we knew we had to keep our heads down 'til the end. It was great to be part of that race."


This was a match of a very high standard, the kind of thing that should be expected at the America's Cup. We have been training for two years for this kind of a fight. For me this race had three crucial points. The first was at the first leeward mark, Team New Zealand succeeded in rounding the mark having done just one gybe. We however had to do three to get past the buoy. The wind had gone light at the bottom of the course and the Kiwis did a better job than Alinghi. Following that Team New Zealand defended well for the following three legs. They protected the left hand side of the course, the favoured side. On the second weather leg as well as the second run and the third upwind leg, we could never get close. They sailed really well! Finally however, Brad Butterworth, approaching the last weather mark on starboard tack, forced Team New Zealand into doing a bare-away set instead of a gybe-set. This meant that the Kiwis found themselves on the right hand side of the course,!
on port tack. We managed to execute a gybe-set and position ourselves on the favoured left hand side of the course, the side that had been protected by the Kiwis until this point. We got to this side of the course before they did and we protected it. Thanks to this gybe-set we prevented them from going for the better breeze. By arriving on starboard at the last weather mark we set off a whole chain of events that set ourselves up for seizing the opportunity. Once again by taking the initiative the opportunist was rewarded.

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