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Swiss storm out to an early lead in fleet races

Swiss storm out to an early lead in the fleet races

Valencia, 19 May, 2006 - It was a very tricky day out on the waters off Valencia with light, shifty conditions, along with a left-over swell from earlier wind making life hard for the sailors. The contrast in results over the two races sailed was certainly indicative of a difficult day, with top three finishers in one race finding themselves well down the table in the other.

The Swedes on Victory Challenge stormed out to a massive lead in the first race, perhaps inspired by the presence of track and field legend Baron Sebastian Coe, who sailed as 18th man on the black boat of the Swedes.

In the second contest of the day, it was the Defender, Alinghi, who dashed off the start line with the winning strategy, building a nice lead on the first leg and extending the rest of the way for a smart looking win. Combined with a sixth place finish in the first race, that was enough to give the Swiss pole position on the first day leaderboard of Louis Vuitton Act 11.

When racing started after a short postponement, it was Luna Rossa with its bow forward on the starting line, helmsman James Spithill making an excellent start. The Germans were shut out of the start line initially and were late starting.

Taking the right-hand side up the first leg Victory Challenge, with Baron Sebastian Coe aboard as 18th man, came into a good shift and with clear wind was able to extend in front of the fleet. The Italians aboard Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia weren't far behind them and came out of the first part of the race in a very strong position behind the Swedes.

Emirates Team New Zealand did well up the middle of the race course, along with Shosholoza, while BMW ORACLE Racing and Alinghi just managed to hang on to the leaders.

At the first mark, the Swedes were well ahead. Mid-fleet, Luna Rossa found it had tacked too early, and had to try and 'shoot' the mark, by altering course to sneak around the buoy. As the Italian boat nearly stopped in the manoeuvre, four boats rolled over them, and to add insult to injury, the Umpires judged ITA 86 had tacked in the process and interfered with one of its opponents, and assessed them a penalty turn, driving the Italians further back in the fleet.

The Kiwis moved up a few places on the first run, while +39, who had rounded in third place held on to their position by staying on the left hand side of the course.

The Swedes and Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team extended away the rest of the race to take the first two places, and then, at the finish line, Iain Percy's +39 Challenge stole a position from the Kiwis by sailing high and fast behind Emirates Team New Zealand before diving down for the finish line, and using their momentum to squeeze across three seconds ahead.

Shosholoza eased in ahead of the Defender, Alinghi, while Thierry Peponnet's Areva Challenge sailed a great second lap of the course, making up four places to finish in seventh place. The home side Desafìo Español squeezed ahead of the American winners of Act 10, BMW ORACLE Racing, while Luna Rossa, United Internet Team Germany and China Team rounded out the fleet.

It was a dramatic start to the second race when two boats were judged over the line. Emirates Team New Zealand and Team Shosholoza dived back to restart, and were forced out to the right-hand side of the course to look for clear air. Desafìo Español was lucky not to break the line early as the Spanish charged towards the pin end of the line with nowhere left to go. With China Team driving up from underneath, Karol Jablonski was forced to turn the wheel at the last moment, but they got away with it, crossing the start just as the gun fired.

Out of the middle of the line, a couple of the big players, Alinghi and Luna Rossa made good starts with good speed. But for the second race in a row, BMW ORACLE Racing made a terrible start as Chris Dickson struggled to find clear air in the first few minutes.

After their poor start, a right-hand windshift brought the Kiwis back into the game very quickly as they charged out to the right. +39 Challenge and BMW ORACLE also went out to the right, but when the breeze shifted back to the left, the advantage went back towards Luna Rossa, China Team and Alinghi. SUI-75 looked in good form, and Ed Baird steered Alinghi to a small but useful lead up the top of the first beat, with Luna Rossa not far behind. Desafìo Español 2007 had to squeeze up to make it cleanly around the first mark, the Spanish just managing to do so and rounding third in front of the French team Areva Challenge.

One of the biggest surprises was to see China Team rounding in 5th place, a well deserved position after making a risky but well executed start. Just behind them were the Kiwis, also showing good form after that early start. But where was the winner of Louis Vuitton Act 10, BMW ORACLE Racing? The Americans rounded second last, with just +39 Challenge behind.

Chris Dickson was first to gybe on the downwind leg, a classic attacking move when you're at the back of the fleet. It proved to be a good strategy, as when the fleet converged on a congested leeward gate USA-87 was right back in the hunt. Alinghi meanwhile continued to extend, but the clear winner of race one - Victory Challenge - was struggling this time. Consistency in such a competitive fleet is proving hard to find.

Down the final run, the leading few had such a gap that positions were unthreatened, but in the middle of the pack it was a scramble for the line as boats gybed on each other, looking to steal precious air from their rivals' sails. Alinghi crossed the line well ahead of Luna Rossa, while BMW ORACLE had climbed to 6th place, just ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand. Two of the high-performing teams of the first contest - Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia and +39 on this occasion brought up the rear.

Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 11 - Provisional Results and Leaderboard
(finishing position / points scored)

Position 1 2 3 4 5 Total
1 Alinghi (SUI 75) 6/7 1/12 19
2 Victory Challenge (SWE 63) 1/12 8/5 17
3 Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) 5/8 5/8 16
4 Desafìo Español 2007 (ESP 65) 8/5 3/10 15
5 Areva Challenge (FRA 60) 7/6 4/9 15
6 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 84) 4/9 7/6 15
7 Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 86) 10/3 2/11 14
8 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team (ITA 77) 2/11 10/3 14
9 +39 Challenge (ITA 59) 3/10 12/1 11
10 BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 87) 9/4 6/7 11
11 China Team (CHN 79) 12/1 9/4 5
12 United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) 11/2 11/2 4


Note to editors:

Since 1851, the America's Cup has transcended the sport of sailing to become a symbol of the pursuit of excellence.

The official partners LOUIS VUITTON, ENDESA, SANTANDER, ALCATEL and the America's Cup share a heritage rich in passion, innovation and extraordinary human achievement.

The 32nd America's Cup enjoys the support of Nespresso, Adecco, Ford, El Corte Inglés, Estrella Damm, Grupo Leche Pascual and Coca-Cola; our Supporters, and valuable contributors to the America's Cup.

Racing for the 32nd America's Cup - Valencia began with a series of Louis Vuitton Acts in 2004 and 2005. The competition continues in 2006, with three more Louis Vuitton Acts in Valencia, the Host City of the 32nd America's Cup.

Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 10 - Match Racing - 11 to 18 May 2006
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 11 - Fleet Racing - 19 to 21 May 2006
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 12 - Match Racing - 22 June to 2 July 2006

In 2007, a fleet race event - Louis Vuitton Act 13 - will precede the Louis Vuitton Cup, the winner of which will then race the Defender, Team Alinghi, in the America's Cup Match in Valencia



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