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Le Defi Areva Lives To See Another Day

Press Release 44 - Saturday 16 November, Auckland


The French marked their first point of the Quarter Finals against Victory Challenge today, after a dramatic turnaround which saw LE DEFI AREVA take the lead from the Swedes, rounding the final mark in front and finishing what seemed to be the longest downwind leg in the history of the world with 34 seconds up their sleeves.

Strong and shifty winds on the Hauraki Gulf today did not stop racing from going ahead. The two boats entered into a dial-up and made another aggressive start, FRA 69 pushing SWE 73 towards the pin end of the line and crossing 2 seconds ahead of the Swedes.

The French took the lead for the first few metres, but Victory were on their tails and soon the race to the first mark was neck and neck. The Swedes however overtook LE DEFI AREVA approaching the mark, and rounded with an 18 second lead.

The first downwind beat saw Örm increase her lead to 150m, but the French team kept battling, closing it down to an average of 80m and a delta of 17 seconds at the second mark.

A windshift on the second beat to windward brought FRA 69 to within two boatlengths of the Swedish serpent, both boats tacking back up to the top mark in an effort to optimise the breeze. 24 seconds at the third mark and 31 seconds at the fourth mark saw the French team looking defeated. But on the third upwind leg, things began to unravel for the Swedes.

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Leading by a comfortable margin, SWE 73 failed to cover and allowed the French to make the most of a right hand windshift which brought the boats into contact. The French afterguard saw a big left shift coming and used their starboard tack advantage to maximum effect.

Chased by the French, the Swedes tacked away sharply to cross behind the French boat. The Swedes were in a strong leebow position (which would normally have forced a tack), but the lefthand shift that the French afterguard had rightly anticipated allowed FRA 69 to stay in control.

Late and radical manoeuvring by the Swedish Skipper Magnus Holmberg was not enough and the French overtook the Swedes to round the fifth mark with a 17 second advantage.

>From that point on, it was plain sailing for LE DEFI AREVA – if not for Victory Challenge. Their spinnaker got caught during the final spinnaker set, allowing FRA 69 to increase it’s lead to eight boat lengths. The French team sailed home with a 33 second lead and their first, well-deserved win in the Quarter Final series.

"That was good teamwork out there this afternoon", says skipper-helmsman Philippe Presti. "We didn’t let go – not even for an instant. We always thought that we could win. We made a few little mistakes today but we were able to correct ourselves and come back strong. That’s something to be proud of. At the end, we were all a bit emotional – success at last! It’s my first win in the Louis Vuitton Cup and I would like to dedicate it to all 90 team members who work night and day to make this boat sail. That goes for everyone who has helped and supported us since the beginning."

Pierre Mas, Sailing Manager for LE DEFI AREVA has some explanations for today’s performance: "We made some minor adjustments to the winglets overnight and it is this culmination of modifications that has lent us a little extra speed downwind. We saw that today. And we are also just starting to see the boat performing as it should upwind, thanks to some of the speed tests we have be doing with FRA 79.

"This win is very welcome – the first point that we have been waiting for. We are happy tonight but we are already focussing on the match we face tomorrow."

Other results from today’s racing: Stars & Stripes (USA 77) beat GBR (GBR 70) by 1.17 minutes; Oracle BMW Racing (USA 76) beat OneWorld (USA 65) by 0.33 seconds. Alinghi (SUI 64) and Prada (ITA 74) did not race today, after Prada withdrew from the Quarter Finals last night, conceding the final point to Alinghi and precipitating the advent of their official change-period.

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