Start line battles open the racing at Valencia
Start line battles open the racing at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 10
Valencia, 11 May, 2006 - The 2006 racing season for the 32nd America's Cup opened on Thursday in Valencia. The first race of the Louis Vuitton Act 10 started on time, with the Defender, Alinghi, lining up for battle against the home team challenger, Desafío Español 2007.
Before the action on the water, the Mayoress of Valencia, Rita Barberá visited the Port America's Cup, the new, purpose-built, home of the Cup. "They always used to say that Valencia had its back to the sea," the Mayoress said. "But now, as the host city of the America's Cup, Valencia has opened itself to the sea." She invited the entire city of Valencia to visit the Port, to enjoy what has been created here.
Out on the race course, light Easterly winds were the order of the day, but some hard fought action on the start line made for plenty of action.
Shosholoza gave BMW ORACLE an early scare up the first beat of their match today, when for a while it looked like the South Africans might get the better of the radical new American boat, USA 87. The two teams bounced tacks off each other in the light 7-knot south-easterly breeze, until Chris Dickson's team found a good shift on the right-hand side to surge to a four boatlength lead by the windward mark. Tommaso Chieffi, the Italian veteran at the helm of RSA-83, kept his team within 29 seconds at the leeward gate but Dickson looked comfortable enough for the rest of the race. In any case, the South Africans had picked up a pre-start penalty for gybing too close to their rivals, and were obliged to unload their penalty
The other new boats racing for the first time - Luna Rossa's ITA 86 and Emirates Team New Zealand's NZL 84 - looked comfortable enough in their opening matches. Luna Rossa beat the brilliant red and yellow dragon hull of China Team's CHN 79 by a safe margin, while the Kiwis sailed to a similarly straightforward win over United Internet Team Germany. Dean Barker's crew had a moment of crisis soon after hoisting the spinnaker for the first time, when the sail dropped dramatically to the water. But the New Zealand crew showed no signs of panic, merely recovering the sail and replacing it with another spinnaker without even breaking their stride.
While Desafío Español took an early lead over Alinghi when the wind favoured the left side of the course, it was a shortlived moment of glory for the Spanish team as the Defenders swapped sides of the course and also found some favourable breeze up the left. From there it was business as usual for Ed Baird and the team on SUI-75 as they sailed to the win.
Two of the potentially closest matches ended up going the way of last year's underperformers. Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team sailed to a surprisingly simple victory over fellow Italians +39, who were slow to accelerate off the start line and never showed the pace to match the narrower, more slippery red hull of the Mascalzone team. And after an even start between Areva Challenge and Victory Challenge, the Swedes showed superior boatspeed up the first beat to sail away untroubled by the newly-painted but ageing hull of FRA 60.
There was some aggressive manoeuvring during the pre-starts of Flight Two. Alinghi succeeded in herding China Team over the line early, forcing Pierre Mas to turn back to restart. In similarly assertive fashion, Emirates Team New Zealand pushed Shosholoza out to the right-hand side of the start box. Dean Barker tacked NZL 84 back towards the line at a time of his choosing, while Tommaso Chieffi was left with no option but to follow the Kiwis across the start line.
Most aggressive of all, however, was +39's closing out of Desafío Español. As the start gun fired, Iain Percy left a tantalising gap between his boat and the committee boat. Karol Jablonski took the bait and dived for the gap, only to find Percy luffing ITA 59 viciously into the wind and closing the door. Jablonski found himself sandwiched between the committee boat and his rivals, a cardinal sin for which the Umpires handed out a double penalty to the Spanish.
Jablonski took the first penalty turn immediately, as the rules require, by which time +39 had sailed off to a seemingly comfortable six-boatlength lead. But in the fickle 7-knot breeze, Percy seemed unwilling to place a hard cover on his rivals, perhaps revealing a lack of confidence in his boat, known to be painfully slow in light winds. By the windward mark the Spanish had closed right up to the Italian boat and Jablonski lured Percy into a luffing match. It proved to be a masterstroke by the Polish helmsman, who in less than a minute had converted the deficit to a 17-second lead around the windward mark. Once ahead, the Spanish pulled away comfortably and by the second windward mark had gained sufficient ground to be able to shake off their second penalty and still come home over a minute ahead.
There was never much daylight between Areva Challenge and United Internet Team Germany, but Thierry Peponnet fended off a late charge from Jesper Bank to bring Areva home just 18 seconds to the good. BMW ORACLE was always in control of the match against Victory Challenge, although a delta of less than one minute offered some encouragement to the Swedes.
The other matches were very clear cut. The Kiwis beat the South Africans by 1:44, Luna Rossa won its second Italian derby of the day against Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team by more than two minutes, and Alinghi led China Team by an enormous margin to the finish
All in all, it was a very good day for the new boats on the track. The big teams have got their new toys up to speed very quickly, but we will have to wait until later in the week to see if any of the new boats are a match for Alinghi's benchmark boat, SUI-75.
provisional Results and Points Leaderboard
1 Alinghi beat Desafío Español 2007 DELTA 01:52
2 Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team beat +39 Challenge DELTA 01:06
3 Luna Rossa beat China Team DELTA 02:52
4 Emirates Team New Zealand beat United Internet Team Germany DELTA 02:32
5 Victory Challenge beat Areva Challenge DELTA 01:01
6 BMW ORACLE Racing beat Shosholoza DELTA 01:16
1 Luna Rossa beat Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team DELTA 02:15
2 Alinghi beat China Team DELTA 06:05
3 Desafío Español 2007 beat +39 Challenge DELTA 01:14
4 Areva Challenge beat United Internet Team Germany DELTA 00:18
5 BMW ORACLE Racing beat Victory Challenge DELTA 00:59
6 Emirates Team New Zealand beat Team Shosholoza DELTA 01:44
Louis Vuitton Act 10 - Leaderboard
Position Matches sailed Won Points
1 Alinghi (SUI 75) 2 2 2
1 BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 87) 2 2 2
1 Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 86) 2 2 2
1 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 84) 2 2 2
5 Victory Challenge (SWE 63) 2 1 1
5 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) 2 1 1
5 Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 65) 2 1 1
5 Areva Challenge (FRA 60) 2 1 1
9 United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) 2 0 0
9 +39 Challenge (ITA 59) 2 0 0
9 Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) 2 0 0
9 China Team (CHN 79) 2 0 0