Evolution launched off the pin end of the start line, hooked into a 10-degree left-hand shift in the building southerly breeze, and rounded the windward mark in first along with Morning Glory.
As the wind built rapidly from 13 knots at the start to 26 knots an hour later by the finish, Evolution turned on the afterburners and shot away to a 30-second victory over fellow Australian boat Team Shockwave, which in turn was 47 seconds ahead of Morning Glory. The two Australian boats looked very solid in the high winds and the steep waves, which reared up quickly from a previously flat sea.
Behind the well-handled leading boats, the fleet was enduring wipe-outs, broaches and blown-out spinnakers. Principal Race Officer Peter REGGIO was left with little choice but to abandon racing for the day. Even today's winner agreed it had been the right decision.
'The breeze was getting into the 30 knot range and these boats are a serious handful over 25,' said PERINI. He was exhilarated but also relieved to have come through the race unscathed. 'It's a real buzz sailing downwind in that stuff. Getting the boats up and sizzling in those waves is really good. But the gybes are a bit scary - I'm sure every owner would say the same thing.'
'We were pretty happy with our day. Hamish PEPPER (NZL), the tactician] did a terrific job of picking the correct side of the course. The breeze shifted left 10 degrees after the start. We stayed to the left and that was the sensible thing to do.'
Some boats had terrible starts and yet salvaged a great result from the day. Grant SIMMER (AUS) is tactician aboard John CALVERT-JONES' (AUS) Southern Star. 'The planets were aligned for us today. We got a lousy start and did alright up the first beat, probably passed five or six boats. We were in the late teens and we gybed at the top mark straight away. We thought there was adverse current on the left and more favourable on the right, so we wanted to go there. But when we got over there we found really good pressure. We must have picked up ten places.'
By this time Southern Star had climbed to sixth place and she took one more boat down the run. And then, just boat lengths from the line, Southern Star's spinnaker vaporized. If ever there was a time for a spinnaker to explode, that was it, as the 2000 World Champion scraped across the line just two seconds in front of fellow Australian Emotional Hooligan.
In similar fashion, Eivind ASTRUP's (NOR) Norwegian Steam bounced back from a recalled start to battle her way into the top places. Just metres from the finish line the boat broached and lay on her side, tantalizingly close to getting a finish position. She drifted across the line in seventh place, just one second in front of the rapidly closing Kokomo and TWT.
Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA), owner of Mascalzone Latino, described today as 'the best race of the year', after recovering from a restart to score fourth, just nine seconds behind Morning Glory. Six boats were called over early at the start, but two of those proved to have been falsely recalled. Both Erik MARIS' (FRA) French team, Twins 2, and HRH CROWN PRINCE FREDERIK's (DEN) Danish team on Nanoq sought redress from the race committee.
Head of the international jury, Tom EHMAN, decided to add up the finishing scores of all six recalled boats, and divide the total by six, to produce an average of 15 points for both wronged boats. So Nanoq was promoted one place from his finishing position of 16th on the water and Twins 2 was promoted five places from his placing of 20. A protest by Venom against Ichi Ban was dismissed by the jury, so Matt ALLEN's (AUS) boat retained a 14th place to add to her two victories from yesterday. Ichi Ban now holds second place overall with 16 points.
Despite the high winds, this really was a race that demanded both brawn and brains. There were plenty of passing opportunities, and plenty of good decisions to be made - as well as the fundamental need to keep the mast pointing towards the sky, and the keel beneath the waves. One of the most extreme decisions was from Morning Glory, with owner Hasso PLATTNER (GER) and Russell COUTTS (NZL) getting a good start off the pin end and sailing far out to the left-hand layline. They must have been confident in their decision as they split from the fleet and it paid off as it saw them round joint-first with Evolution and hold on to a respectable third place, putting them in third overall.
Barking Mad, on the other hand, began well but could not maintain her position. Tactician Terry HUTCHINSON (USA) said: 'We had a good start and did what we wanted to do, but the first run was our big downfall.' While the defending champions set their spinnaker on starboard and continued out to the seaward side of the run, boats behind opted for an early gybe towards the shore. 'A lot of the guys beat us to the gybe, and they found four or five knots more nearer the shore. Then we wiped out, and spent quite a bit of time on our side. We lost seven or eight boats there.' As usual, Jim RICHARDSON's (USA) crew showed great ability to recover through the fleet, but a 13th place puts them in 14th overall, exactly half way through the fleet and not at all where they would expect to be.
'It's hard to see a silver lining in the whole thing,' HUTCHINSON admitted, 'but it's important to keep some perspective on it and take our results at face value and not panic. The worst thing we can do is deviate from the plan. We're still in this regatta, absolutely we are. It may not feel like it sitting in 14th place, 25 points from the lead. But let's get through tomorrow and see where we are. We're not even a third of the way through.'
Provisional Top Ten After Three Races
|Pos||Name||Nation||Owner||Race 1||Race 2||Race 3||Points|
|2||Ichi Ban||AUS||Matt ALLEN||1||1||14||16|
|3||Morning Glory||GER||Hasso PLATTNER||9||6||3||18|
|4||Mascalzone Latino||ITA||Vincenzo ONORATO||6||11||4||21|
|5||Team Shockwave||AUS||Neville CRICHTON||4||17||2||23|
|8||Emotional Hooligan||AUS||Marcus BLACKMORE||17||4||6||27|
|9||Southern Star||AUS||John CALVERT-JONES||13||10||5||28|
|11||Norwegian Steam||NOR||Elvind ASTRUP||18||5||7||30|