It was another spectacular afternoon on the waters of the Rade Sud off the French port of Marseille, as racing continued in the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 of the 32nd America's Cup.
The six strong fleet enjoyed another heavy load day with strong, gusty Southeasterlies of 14 - 24 knots; providing more thrilling America's Cup racing.
Racing started in a moderate 12 to 14 knot Southeasterly, but on the first run, the wind increased, and by the end of the first downwind leg, gusts up to 25 knots were screaming down the course, making for a second consecutive day of challenging conditions for the crews.
Unlike previous editions of the America's Cup, there is no hard wind limit for the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act, and complete discretion over whether to start racing resides with Principal Race Officer Peter 'Luigi' Reggio. With the wind continuing to increase after the first race, Reggio decided to send the fleet home, and to try for more racing on Tuesday.
"We were getting wind readings of 25-26 knots at surface level after the first race,"
Reggio explained. "But the masts on these boats are 30-metres high, and the teams that sailed upwind a bit after the first race told us they were seeing 28-30 knots. That's just too much for these boats. Even though there are no hard limits for the races here, these are old boats, designed with the wind limits of the last Cup in mind, so we have to have some respect for that."
Racing will continue in the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act with two fleet races scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, beginning at 12:40.
Skipper Chris DICKSON'S BMW ORACLE Racing squad answered any questions that may have been raised after the previous day's third place finish with a powerful performance in the first race of the day. After a premature start forced them to return and re-start, helmsman Gavin BRADY sailed USA-76 back into contention on the left side of the race course, closing a huge initial gap, and putting the team into the top three by the first windward mark. The American team continued to play the left side of the course on the second upwind leg, and by the time they reached the windward mark for the last time, Dickson was looking back at the rest of the fleet. Sunday's race winner, Team Alinghi, trailed close behind, while further back Emirates Team New Zealand and K-Challenge, which had sailed a strong first beat, were locked into third and fourth place.
While K-Challenge had to settle for a fourth place finish, the French based team sailed a fantastic race, getting a good start, and sailing a very strong first leg. K-Challenge helmsman Thierry Peponnet steered the boat up the favoured left side, and in a 2000-generation boat, with a crew that has spent less than a full week of training, was able to lead the big three (Team Alinghi, BMW ORACLE, and Emirates Team New Zealand) around the first top mark.
At the back of the fleet, Team Shosholoza continues to surprise many America's Cup observers. This fledgling team rallied from a foresail problem that saw them sail bareheaded for much of the first windward leg to make a spectacular pass of LE DEFI just metres from the finish line. The South African team earned the victory by just three seconds, helped in no small part by LE DEFI earlier having to return to re-start with BMW ORACLE at the beginning of the race.
Marseille Louis Vuitton Act - Points Table:
1. Team Alinghi (1, 2) 11 points
2. BMW ORACLE Racing Team (3,1) 10 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (2, 3) 9 points
4. K-Challenge (4, 4) 6 points
5. Team Shosholoza (5, 5) 4 points
6. LE DEFI (6, 6) 2 points