China Team earned its first win at the 32nd America's Cup, over Team Shosholoza, while the big four teams from the 2004 season continued to have their way at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 4 on Friday. Alinghi, BMW ORACLE Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa each earned two wins from two races.
All sit equal atop the leaderboard with perfect records and four points.
Conditions were very good for racing with eight to 11 knots of Easterly winds and many of the teams revelled in the slightly stronger conditions. It was a good day for China Team, Desafío Español, K-Challenge, and Victory Challenge who each split their matches, taking half the points available to them on the day.
South Africa's Shosholoza was fortunate to avoid a penalty in a difficult pre-start dominated by China Team and skipper Pierre Mas. The South Africans settled down quickly after the start, but had dug themselves too big a hole off the line, and despite some pressure from the men on the colourful RSA 83, the Chinese earned their first win at the 32nd America's Cup.
The action was closer in the middle of fleet where K-Challenge recovered from a very difficult loss on Thursday with a big win over Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team. The French led across the starting line and built a narrow lead on the first upwind leg that they held around the course. Thierry PEPONNET's team was more diligent in employing close coverage match race tactics in this race, determined not to let the lead slip away.
In other matches, Emirates Team New Zealand showed the local Desafío Español 2007 squad where the bar is set with a strong start and dominating race, leading the Spanish home by 1:10. Similarly, Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge sailed to a commanding 1:36 victory over United Internet Team Germany. Alinghi had a closer match against Sweden's Victory Challenge, but was never seriously threatened in winning its third match.
A good story line was developing in the second flight of racing on the day when Team Shosholoza surprised the mighty BMW ORACLE Racing team on the first windward leg. Shosholoza led most of the way up the beat before an aggressive luff allowed the Americans to pass. Then, a poor spinnaker hoist that tore the sail compounded their problems. But it was a glimmer of sunshine for the South Africans who have had a tough time in Valencia to this point.
Desafío Español 2007 and Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team had a hard-fought match, with the Spanish winning the start cleanly but then having to hold off the Italians through numerous tacking and gybing duels until a bad spinnaker wrap slowed the Latin Rascals down. Spain went on to win the match by one-minute.
With the exception of K-Challenge, who stayed reasonably close to Luna Rossa, each of the other matches in Flight Four was quite one-sided.
Racing at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts is scheduled to continue on Saturday, with two more flights of racing on the calendar. The first warning signal is scheduled to sound at 14:00. Big matches at the top of the leaderboard include Alinghi against BMW ORACLE Racing and Luna Rossa facing Emirates Team New Zealand.
The America's Cup Park has been open for two days now, with good crowds attracted by the spectacle and spirit of the 32nd America's Cup. The weekend is expected to be busy with a great weather forecast and the Port full of America's Cup action.