Several hundred spectator boats took in some great fleet racing action on Saturday at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 5. It was a hot day on the waters off Valencia and for the big spectator fleet, the light conditions meant patience would likely be a virtue.
In a repeat of Friday, a general recall was sounded immediately after the start, and the recall was replaced by a postponement when the wind shifted. After a short delay, the Race Committee re-aligned the course and with the conditions more stable, racing started at 14:45 when a seven-knot Easterly breeze filled in.
Victory Challenge was strong on the water in both races, and left the race course leading the overall points table. However a protest by the Race Committee against the Swedes for a possible measurement infringement, and a protest by Victory Challenge against the Race Committee for the scoring in the first race of the day means the results are very provisional.
In a dramatic start Emirates Team New Zealand took the pin end of the line and speed off to the left-hand side of the course with BMW ORACLE Racing in hot pursuit.
The Race Committee end of the line saw much more congestion with Desafío Español 2007 and China Team locked out but with Jesper BANK's United Internet Team Germany shaving just inside the Committee boat to lead the pack. In the middle of the line Victory Challenge was forced to carry out a penalty turn for an infringement.
The left side paid handsomely for both the Kiwi and US teams. BMW ORACLE was the first to tack back to the centre and briefly edged ahead. Meanwhile hoping to repeat their performance in race two yesterday, Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team moved up to third place also benefiting from more wind on the left. At the first mark rounding Emirates TNZ led the Americans by 19-seconds.
The impressive sight of 12 America's Cup Class boats under spinnaker heading down the run saw Alinghi fighting hard. Eventually the Swiss team was able to roll Mascalzone Latino to take third place. Meanwhile Emirates TNZ extended her lead rounding the left gate (looking upwind) while BMW ORACLE Racing continued to the right, the two boats starting the second beat on split tacks.
With the breeze building to double figures, Emirates TNZ and BMW Oracle defended the centre of the beat while Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team pulled a flier out to the far right. This didn't seem to pay and by the second weather mark rounding the front three had 59 seconds of separation from a tightly packed group led by the Italians, but with K-Challenge, Luna Rossa and Victory Challenge hot on their heels.
On to the final run, Alinghi gybed early and a while after Emirates Team New Zealand covered to protect their lead, leaving a situation where BMW Oracle was taking the right side of the run, Alinghi the left and the Kiwis looking anxiously in both directions between the two.
Approaching the finish line Emirates TNZ was able to maintain its lead and while Alinghi, coming across on starboard forced BMW ORACLE Racing to duck its transom. The American team cut this too close forcing them to blow off their gennaker and carry out the tightest of penalty turns, ultimately costing them second place, when Alinghi finished 23-seconds astern of a jubilant Emirates Team New Zealand. A further reversal of fortunes saw fourth place taken by K-Challenge over Mascalzone-Latino Capitalia Team, while Victory Challenge took fifth and Luna Rossa finished extremely close for sixth place. The Race Committee gave the nod to the Italians, but after racing, Victory Challenge lodged a protest with the Jury.
The Swedish team, led by helmsman/skipper Magnus HOLMBERG, didn't let their close finish in the first race distract them, as a dominating performance in the second scene on Saturday saw the Swedes as clear victors. They now hold the overall lead but only by a point over Alinghi, going into tomorrow's race of Act 5.
The breeze was marginally up for the start of today's second race with +39, Luna Rossa and Alinghi taking the pin end. From the mid-left of the first beat Victory Challenge pulled ahead from Luna Rossa, but it was close and the two boats were jockeying for pole position.
Generally up the first beat teams seemed to take every available option with United Internet Team Germany, K-Challenge and Mascalzone Latino -Team Capitalia far right, while Emirates TNZ went far left. Despite the variation in tactics across the race course, the result was much more even than it had been in today's first race creating a tense scenario at the weather mark. Here Victory Challenge led Luna Rossa around by 16 seconds but in one of the most hair-raising few seconds we have seen to date in Valencia, Emirates TNZ approached on port tack and barged in front of Alinghi.
The fleet came within a whisker of a multiple pile-up just before the weather mark. Tacking hard to port, the transom of the Kiwi boat nearly collided with Alinghi's SUI 75; as the Swiss boat rounded up, its transom in turn nearly collided with the bow of the Defasio Espanol 2007, with the same result on fifth placed K-Challenge. Fortunately there were no collisions, but the Kiwis were penalised for their actions and forced to carry out a penalty turn.
One the run, Victory Challenge was able to maintain its lead over Luna Rossa, rounding the leeward gate just 11 seconds ahead. Up the beat again there seemed to be no side clearly paying with the Swedes hitting the centre-right side of the course. But through this approach and sailing in clear air they were able to extend their lead to 45 seconds at the top mark, a margin they also managed to hold on the final run to the finish line.
The Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts conclude today with one last Fleet Race on the schedule and the leaderboard open for several teams to win Act 5.
|Team||Race 1||Race 2||Race 3||Race 4||Points|
|Luna Rossa Challenge||2||6||6||2||36|
|Emirates Team New Zealand||1||9||1||6||35|
|BMW ORACLE Racing||5||5||3||4||35|
|Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team||12||1||5||8||26|
|Desafío Español 2007||8||8||9||9||18|