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8 September 2004, 09:24 am
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© Gilles Martin-Raget

America's Cup - Act One

Marseille is proving to be an excellent venue for the opening Act America's Cup. Strong winds, a spectacular backdrop, and close action on the Rade Sud is showing that America's Cup racing in Europe is every bit as exciting as one could have hoped for.
Heavy conditions were the order of the day again on Tuesday, with the first race starting in a building 12-14 knot Southeasterly. But the wind increased as the race went on, and for the second contest, the crews were confronted once again with strong winds, with gusts approaching 30-knots.

The cream of the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act fleet is rising to the top, with the BMW ORACLE Racing team stretching away to a solid lead over the other two boats that make up the 'big three' here. Two wins on Tuesday, making for three victories in a row, means the American team will have won the fleet race portion of the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act.

There is no racing scheduled for Wednesday, and when competition resumes on Thursday, it will be for the Match Racing section of the event. Each team is scheduled to race each other team once, in a complete Round Robin format. The wins accumulated from this section, each one worth six points, will be added to the fleet racing points to determine the winner of the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act.


The BMW ORACLE Racing team has rebounded from a third place finish in the opening race to earn two solid victories on Tuesday over the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act One fleet, and has now jumped to the top of the points table. On Tuesday afternoon, it fought a close battle with Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand for line honours in the first race. The fleet leapt off the starting line, with the American team at the pin end, and this proved to be the right place to be as a left shift allowed skipper Chris Dickson to lead the flee t up the favoured left side of the race course.

BMW ORACLE rounded the first windward mark seven seconds to the good over Alinghi, with Emirates Team New Zealand close behind. Alinghi made a pass near the bottom leeward mark when, along with the Kiwis, it opted for the right hand side of the gate, with BMW ORACLE taking the left. When the leaders converged halfway up the second beat, Alinghi held the starboard tack advantage, and as BMW ORACLE helmsman Gavin BRADY altered course to slip behind the Swiss boat, Alinghi tacked. But the Umpires felt Alinghi helm Peter HOLMBERG had tacked too close, and assessed the Swiss a penalty, allowing BMW ORACLE to take the lead for good, and Emirates Team New Zealand to slip past as well. Nothing changed at the front of the fleet before the finish.

Further back, the South Africans aboard Team Shosholoza continue to impress. In the first race of the day, skipper Geoff MEEK battled with K-Challenge for fourth place up and down the length of the course. On the final run as the French team tried to pass, Meek luffed up to protect his lead. K-Challenge lost control of its spinnaker, and Shosholoza went on to finish in fourth place; its best result this week. It continues to be a difficult week for LE DEFI. The team exploded another spinnaker in this race, as the condition of its equipment is making it difficult for this motivated French team to compete.


While the BMW ORACLE Racing team won this match, perhaps the biggest victory went to the LE DEFI squad. The French team, which has struggled this week, sailed a strong race, with a good start, and a solid upwind leg. Although the team blew out yet another spinnaker, it managed to finish ahead of Team Shosholoza, the first race in which LE DEFI has finished with a team behind it.

But at the front of the pack, the fight was again between the big three, with each team appearing capable of snatching the lead. At the first windward mark Alinghi led Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW ORACLE Racing. But the American team found some good pressure on the right hand side of the course of the first run, and managed to squeak ahead - a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Near the top of the second beat, the three boats engaged in a fierce three-way tacking match near the port tack layline. This allowed Chris DICKSON'S BMW ORACLE team to extend its lead, and finish unthreatened. Team Alinghi fought off Emirates Team New Zealand for second place, while K-Challenge sailed another strong race to finish in fourth postition.

Marseille Louis Vuitton Act - Points Table

Team (Finishing Positions) Total points

1. BMW ORACLE Racing Team (3, 1, 1, 1) 22 points
2. Team Alinghi (1, 2, 3, 2) 20 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (2, 3, 2, 3) 18 points
4. K-Challenge (4, 4, 5, 4) 11 points
5. Team Sh osholoza (5, 5, 4, 6) 8 points
6. LE DEFI (6, 6, 6, 5) 5 points
AC Media (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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