Alinghi - Always Looking Over Their Shoulders

Published: Sat 12 Oct 2002 11:57 PM
Alinghi comes under pressure from the Swedish Victory challenge, in a nail-biting finale for the Swiss in round robin 1.
AUCKLAND - OCTOBER 12, 2002 - The forecasted heavy airs didn't materialize during race nine of round robin one on course Romeo and shifty conditions were again the order of the day. Racing eventually got underway after the Swedes requested a 45minute delay for gear failure.
The Swedes, onboard Orn, lost their advantage early in the prestart. Both boats dialled up and it was Alinghi who broke off first. The Swedes followed but helmsman Russell Coutts was able to adeptly manoeuvre Alinghi in behind Orn to reverse the advantage. Coming back into the start, both boats jostled for the committee boat end of the line, and it was Orn who crossed marginally ahead and to windward of Alinghi. After an initial deficit in boat speed, Alinghi gained pace, lee-bowing Orn, and forcing them to tack off.
Alinghi's superior upwind boat speed opened the delta between the 2 boats to 30seconds at the first mark and a slick spinnaker set saw them comfortably ahead at the start of the first downwind leg. However, Orn picked up the breeze first on the run and gained considerably on the Swiss team before a huge 50degree right hand shift at the bottom mark saw the delta between the boats close even further to a nail-biting 9 seconds. Alinghi kept their cool and opted not to follow the Swedes over to the right hand side of the course, expecting for the wind to shift left. The level headedness and experience of the Alinghi afterguard paid off, and SUI 64 again pulled out into the lead up the second beat
From then on it was a game of cat and mouse, with the Swedes demonstrating again and again the advantage a trailing boat has downwind and making Alinghi work hard up every beat to maintain their lead. The final leg saw the Swedes close the gap to 2 boat lengths before a torn gennaker momentarily gave the Swiss room to breathe. Orn recovered well and it was a good tactical move on Alinghi's part sailing their opposition below the layline for the finish, and forcing them to drop their gennaker to make the line, that finally sealed their fate.
PIETER VAN NIEKERK, TRIMMER - " As a spinnaker trimmer, the pressure was really on during the race. The Swedes just seemed to keep coming back downwind. We saw the hole in their spinnaker and were aware it might tear, but they were still in good shape after hoisting the new one and the race really wasn't over until we crossed the finish line.
BRAD BUTTERWORTH, TACTICIAN - "Today was a really tough race, and we made some good tactical decisions and some bad ones. The breeze didn't do what we were expecting it to making planning which way to go difficult but we were able to keep an eye on the boats racing further up the course to monitor the shifts."
BERNARD LABRO, MID BOWMAN -"Today was a very stressful day. I had about 12 minutes upwind in which to band the spinnaker and get it on deck ready for the next hoist, so time was always tight. We also have to think about and prepare for each manoeuvre to avoid problems."
Today was the last race for Team Alinghi in round robin 1. With just over a week until the start of the next round, do the team hang up their soggy sailing gear and head for the beach? Unfortunately not! The time in between the rounds can be as busy as during racing for all the boats competing in the Louis Vuitton Cup. All the teams will be working hard, with the ultimate goal of squeezing a little more speed out of their boats and the sails. On board manouevres that are already slick will be further honed to try and gain every edge over the other competitors. And time for a beer to celebrate the end of round robin one? Well... maybe just one.
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