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Alinghi One Point Away From The America's Cup

Alinghi One Point Away From The America's Cup


It was a sobering day for the Defender Team New Zealand, who dismasted on the second upwind leg and retired from Race 4 of the America's Cup. NZL 82 was trailing Team Alinghi on the second upwind leg when her mast broke. Alinghi sailed the rest of the course alone and earned the point.

AUCKLAND - February 28, 2003 - After eight days of postponements due to heavy winds, Race 4 of the 31st America's Cup finally took place. The race committee's Principal Race Officer, Harold Bennett, started the race on time at 13:15, and winds gusted up to 26 knots at times. Dark rain clouds hung low over the racecourse and the sea state was rough with swells of 1.5 metres.

The teams battled through wet, rough and lumpy conditions, with sheets of rain pelting the sailors on the Hauraki Gulf. The rough weather challenged the sailors, and Alinghi's plan was to keep boat-to-boat tactics simple, tack when NZL 82 tacked and concentrate on sailing their own race. Alinghi stretched out in front of NZL 82 from the start, rounded the first two marks ahead, and the Defender's strategy was to keep it close to get into attacking position. It was a close and exciting yacht race, but in the choppy sea state, NZL 82 began to take on water over the sides and into the forward hatch, filling up the hull. On the second upwind leg, with the sails and rig under maximum load, NZL 82 plunged through one wave and crashed onto a second wave, which overloaded the boat. Under the increased pressure, Team New Zealand suffered a broken mast. The carbon fibre rig cracked just below the second spreader over the port side of the boat. NZL 82 stopped in her tracks while the team immediately launched into action to secure the mast, cut away the mainsail and rigging, and rendered the boat seaworthy. It was a sobering sight to see the sailors cleaning up the deck and pumping water out of the hull while sail debris floated in the Gulf.

In a situation where gear fails during the race, it is apparent that the important aspect of sailing in heavy weather conditions is to inspect every one of the boat's components in a highly detailed manner to ensure that all aspects are stable and strong. Team Alinghi double-checked the boat, going over SUI 64 with a fine-toothed comb the previous day, to assert that the boat was in optimal shape for today's conditions. Alinghi continued sailing around the course to set the score at 4-0 in this best of nine series, and the Swiss team now sits at match point for the America's Cup.



the "medium" mainsail for conditions between 15 and 16 knots. But conditions were well above this wind range at the start of the race. But this was only part of the game, the team had to be ready to sail in any conditions. All the credit for the point won today goes to Dirk Kramers, our chief engineer, and to the team who prepared the boat."

SIMON DAUBNEY, GENOA TRIMMER - "It's a shame that they lost their mast. Team New Zealand kept it close and it was a fun and exciting race. We were surfing down a few waves downwind. When their mast broke, we had stretched out a lead so we were comfortable, but it was still a good boat race. There were big waves and which really puts a lot of load on all the gear. It was really wet out there, a rough and lumpy sea state. Once NZL 82's mast was down, we backed off and sailed more conservatively so that we wouldn't get into trouble."

JOCHEN SCHUEMANN, STRATEGIST - "We are sorry for the sailors onboard NZL 82 today. A dismasting is certainly one of the worst things that can happen in a race. Team New Zealand has bet a lot on their technology and either they pushed this card too far, or they didn't have enough time to test their findings. The result of this competition rests on the strategic choices, the preparation time, and the maintenance of the organization."


For me the fourth race had two key moments - the start and the dismasting of Team New Zealand. During the five minute pre-start period, the two adversaries must enter the box each from their allotted side, just after the five minute gun. Not before. Alinghi entered the box just after the five minute gun was fired, Team New Zealand five or six seconds later. They were never able to catch up this tardiness. These precious seconds were lost by the Kiwis whilst they tried to decide which headsail to use, which resulted in them hoisting late, just before the five minute gun. Because of this "lead" we managed to do exactly what we wanted to do in the pre-start. In spite of their starboard entry advantage we managed to cross ahead of them and escape their clutches. We wanted the left hand side of the course. On the gun we were on the left and we crossed the start line four seconds ahead of the New Zealanders. Once again Alinghi mastered the match. The second key moment, was a nasty surprise. This morning, before the race, our weather team warned us that this would be boat breaking weather. We knewwe would have to pay attention. On the second weather leg, Alinghi was leading when NZL-82's mast went over the side. A boat that breaks down is dramatic. Always. Team New Zealand without a mast is a terrible site. The conditions were manageable as we were comfortable sailing downwind later with a spinnaker set. Team New Zealand lost its rig in 20 knots of wind and in 1.5 to 2 metre swells. For me, once again, this was nothing to do with luck. This was all about a lack of training, preparation and time on the water. Their boat spent too much time in the shed being fine tuned ashore. Last autumn, nearly a year ago, we wore woollen hats and went out sailing for 12 hours a day, we rarely saw them out there. We were ready for real street fights on the water. We are now leading 4-0 and we can't believe it.

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