In a tense, close race where the lead changed three times and spinnakers shredded and flogged out of control, the Italian boat Luna Rossa beat the American boat AmericaOne today in the Louis Vuitton Cup first Round Robin.
Lively sea conditions and brisk breezes from 16-20 knots, reminiscent of the 1986-87 Louis Vuitton Cup, greeted the two undefeated boats as they met today on the Hauraki Gulf. Francesco de Angelis was at the helm of Luna Rossa (ITA-45) while Paul Cayard was steering AmericaOne (USA-49).
As so often happens when the wind gets up on America's Cup Class boats, the heavyweight duel turned into a war of attrition. Both boats suffered equipment failures handing the advantage to the other.
First shots in the battle came from de Angelis who pushed Cayard outside the committee boat with seconds counting down to the gun. The Italian peeled off to start the first leg pointing high and moving fast. Cayard could only follow.
Cayard was still attacking half way down the first spinnaker run when a snap shackle opened on Luna Rossa's spinnaker sheet. The sail flogged violently before the crew could lower it. Cayard closed the gap. Minutes later after a new spinnaker went up, the Italian boat suffered the same fate again. This time Cayard overtook.
It was the American's race until the second and last spinnaker run when their brand new spinnaker exploded into shreds as the Italians pressed hard for an advantage. The hapless Americans could only watch their competition sail by, and take the winning gun.
"We were pretty happy with the day," Cayard said. "All of us were happy. We made some mistakes for sure. I felt pretty bad about the start...I'm not on top of my game yet. They had some bad luck...we had a little bad luck...I'm happy with the accounting to be that way, for the time being!"
Italian navigator, Matteo Plazzi, described the race as a good one.
"The second leg was a little exciting," he said. "We had the sheet open twice, the first time we lost the spinnaker and we had to drop and change to the back-up...later on, the same clip opened again and we decided not to change the sail, because we were so close to the leeward mark. AmericaOne rounded in front."
For his part, Plazzi didn't seem too concerned about the equipment failure. "Probably, we have been lucky. It's the same kind of shackle that opened on the Japanese boat the other day, and their bowman went to the hospital. It hasn't happened to us in two years of training."
The end result leaves the Prada team still at the top of standings, with the Young America syndicate the only other team unbeaten. That will change tomorrow, when the two face off in a morning match-up that will probably determine the winner of Round-Robin One.
– Peter Rusch & Keith Taylor
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
Friday, 21 October 1999
PEDRO CAMPOS, SKIPPER OF BRAVO ESPAÑA ON THEIR MATCH AGAINST YOUNG AUSTRALIA: "In the last downwind we seemed faster than Young Australia."
MATTEO PLAZZI, NAVIGATOR OF THE PRADA CHALLENGE, ABOUT THE BATTLE AGAINST AMERICAONE: "In the first run we had a little excitement, the spinnaker sheet opened twice. The first time we changed spinnakers and were still ahead. Again it happened, but we did not change. AmericaOne rounded in front. In the second beat it was important to stay in the race. We sailed very even and managed to round behind them at the same distance. On the run we pushed to the favoured side where we wanted to be and cut some distance. Then the bad luck went on AmericaOne."
MATTEO PLAZZI, NAVIGATOR OF THE PRADA CHALLENGE, ABOUT BOATSPEED: "Today it was very difficult to say anything about boatspeed".
PAUL CAYARD, SKIPPER OF AMERICAONE ON BOATSPEED: "Yes of course we had some straight stretches (to make comparisons). We have a pretty good read on that."
PAUL CAYARD, SKIPPER OF AMERICAONE ON THE OUTCOME AGAINST PRADA: "We made some mistakes for sure. I felt pretty bad about the start. I am not exactly right on the top of my game yet. Up the second beat we did not cover them. They went away to the right. If we had to do that again, we would have played that a little differently.
"But the upshot was they deserved to win the race. They had bad luck on the first run or else they would have stayed ahead the whole race. Then we had a little bad luck to give it back. I think that is appropriate and I am happy with the accounting for the time being.
"It is going to be great. You have a few boats that are initially fighting for two spots in January and eventually one spot. Personally I am thankful that it looks like we can be one of those boats. We are still on a very steep part of our learning curve. That is another part that makes me feel good. Our new boat is yet to arrive."