Sailing resumed on Thursday with the match-racing phase of the event. After a couple of short postponements due to the shifting wind, racing began in light to moderate 8 to 11 knot Southerly, ideal conditions for America's Cup Class match racing.
The Race Committee scheduled a two lap course, with two mile legs, ensuring short and sharp matches, with plenty of action.
The first Flight offered up two intriguing matches, as K-Challenge met Team Shosholoza and Emirates Team New Zealand faced BMW ORACLE Racing. The South Africans sailed a brilliant pre-start in their match to earn an early advantage over K-Challenge. With both teams needing to kill time on their approach to the start line, K-Challenge luffed Shosholoza and both boats stalled head to wind. But Geoff Meek, at the helm of RSA-48, was able to recover quickly, and sail away as the start gun fired, while the French boat remained completely stalled. By the time the crew o n K-Challenge got the 25-tonne machine moving again, Shosholoza was off to an eight-boatlength lead. After the first lap of the course, with K-Challenge closing fast, RSA-48 stalled out on their leeward mark rounding. K-Challenge passed through gate just behind, and made the pass on the upwind leg. The French team gained nearly 30-seconds on each leg of the course, en route to a 1:06 win.
In the third match of the first Flight, Team Alinghi sailed a safe, conservative race against LE DEFI, and was never threatened by the French team. The Defender of the America's Cup won convincingly by a 3:28 margin.
Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 - Match Race of the Day
BMW ORACLE Racing beat Emirates Team New Zealand, Delta - 0:42
For Emirates Team New Zealand, this was a much anticipated match. The Kiwis have only ever faced Team Alinghi in a match race, and were eager to see how they would match up to another prominent America's Cup team.
In the pre-start, BMW ORACLE helm Gavin BRADY, and Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Dean Barker engaged in a traditional dial-up, before the American team led out below the Committee Boat. As the teams lined up for their approach to the start line, NZL-82 took the right side of the course, with USA-76 on the left. The teams sailed out on a long drag race, nearly all the way to the port tack layline, a good opportunity for the Kiwis to test their speed against a top America's Cup boat. Neither team seemed to hold an advantage and at the top of the leg, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to defend the right hand side with a series of lee-bow tacks, and the Kiwis rounded the mark ahead by 19-seconds.
On the first run, BMW ORACLE Racing was able to separate to left hand side of the race course where the Americans made a big gain. The teams chose opposite sides of the leeward gate, with USA-76 keeping the left side of the course, and rounding just one second in arrears.
Near the top of the second beat, Emirates Team New Zealand looked strong, rolling in from the right hand side of the course. But USA-76 skipper Chris Dickson was able to tack to leeward of NZL-82 and luff the New Zealanders above the starboard tack layline, and past the mark. The boats sat head to wind, nearly four boatlengths to windward of the mark, before Brady broke away, diving downwind for the mark, and leading Barker around by 15-seconds. Emirates Team New Zealand couldn't make any headway on the final run, and NZL-82 remained winless in six matches dating back to the 31st America's Cup.
For the second Flight, the top three teams were paired against the bottom three teams on the points table, and while the results may have been predictable there were some interesting moments along the way. In its start against Emirates Team New Zealand, the South Africans were assessed a penalty for not keeping clear during the second dial-up. The K-Challenge team was again beaten on the start when Alinghi's Peter Holmberg threw a hard luff at the French team, and FRA-57 stalled head to wind for the second consecutive start while the Swiss roared across the line.
Perhaps the most surprising moments came in the final match of the day, as BMW ORACLE's afterguard member Bertrand PACÉ took the helm for the race against LE DEFI. In what had the potential to be a huge upset, LE DEFI sailed a strong pre-start, and used that lift to lead the Americans around the first lap of the course. But in the end, the speed and extended training time of Chris DICKSON'S squad took over, and BMW ORACLE recovered to win the race handily.
Racing continues in the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act on Friday, with two more flights of match races on the schedule.
FRA-57 beat RSA-48, delta 1:06
USA-76 beat NZL-82, delta 0:42
SUI-64 beat FRA-69, delta 3:28
NZL-82 beat RSA-48, delta 2:59
SUI-64 beat FRA-57, delt a 1:01
USA-76 beat FRA-69, delta 1:55
Marseille Louis Vuitton Act - Points Table
Team (Fleet Race Points) (Match Race Points) Total points
1. BMW ORACLE Racing Team (22) (12) 34 points
2. Team Alinghi (20) (12) 32 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (18) (6) 24 points
4. K-Challenge (11) (6) 17 points
5. Team Shosholoza (8) (0) 8 points
6. LE DEFI (5) (0) 5 points </ B>