Italy's +39 Challenge sailed well on Saturday, beating the local Victory Challenge and homegrown rivals, Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team. The wins vault +39 up the points table to sit on equal fifth place, with five flights of races left to sail.
United Internet Team Germany didn't race on Saturday, citing technical problems. That handed a win to Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia in the first match and BMW ORACLE Racing in the second. There was some good news from the German team however as injured crew member Christian Buck was said to be conscious and in stable condition, after remaining under observation in hospital overnight on Friday.
There was a clash of the titans on Saturday afternoon in Sweden when the four unbeaten teams faced each other. The first pairing featured BMW ORACLE Racing against Alinghi, the latter not having lost a match race yet this season. There was some aggressive circling in the pre-start, and Alinghi set-up on the left hand side of the start line. The team was slightly late for the start, but had better speed, as BMW ORACLE Racing made two tacks just before the start gun. The American team looked strong early on the right hand side, but Alinghi picked up a left shift that allowed it to sneak ahead and the Swiss led around the first mark by 14 seconds. The Americans were able to hang close on the run, but on the second upwind a problem with their headsail allowed Alinghi to race way ahead, and the Swiss won their 16th consecutive match this year.
Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker and his team showed good control of their boat when they were able to squeeze up close to Luna Rossa after the start, forcing the Italians to tack to the right hand side. It proved to be a race winning move as a left shift gave the Kiwis the advantage they needed to lead around the race course.
Sweden's Victory Challenge lost this race early on the first beat when the two boats converged. Coming from the right hand side, +39 helmsman Iain PERCY was able to force the Swedes to tack. Skipper Magnus HOLMBERG tried to tack in a safe leeward position, but PERCY had enough speed to roll over the top of Victory Challenge, giving the Italians a very strong position. HOLMBERG'S team was able to close the gap on the first run, and threatened to pass on the final run to the finish, but +39 held firm to earn a big win.
After an historic first victory on Friday, Shosholoza had a tougher time on Saturday afternoon. The South African's picked up a penalty in an aggressive pre-start against K-Challenge, and the French team took full advantage, winning the race with the penalty to spare, while Spain's Desafío Español 2007 sailed a strong match and didn't appear to be threatened by China Team despite a good start by the Chinese.
Alinghi helmsman Jochen SCHUEMANN was bested by his counterpart Karol JABLONSKI on Desafío Español, who shut him out on the course side of the start line before leading the Swiss boat back to the start. But the Defender proved too strong for the Spanish, and by halfway up the leg, Alinghi was in control again, racing away to victory.
Similarly, Magnus HOLMBERG was in the uncomfortable position of having to recover from a poor start against China Team's Pierre MAS. But the Swedish team was determined to make amends and earn a win for the home crowd. HOLMBERG was able to squeeze ahead soon after the start and the Swedes extended the rest of the way.
A great start by K-Challenge and Thierry PEPONNET over Luna Rossa meant the French were leading the Italians most of the way around the first lap of the course. But nearing the leeward gate, with Italian helmsman James SPITHILL gaining quickly, PEPONNET was forced to luff hard to try and protect his position. The Italians were too fast however, rolling over the top of K-Challenge, and holding on to win a close match.
Vasco VASCOTTO on Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia used superior speed and a little right-hand shift to overcome a poor start against +39. It was a close first leg, with plenty of tacks, and VASCOTTO'S men were able to sneak ahead near the first mark and looked good extending away. But the team had problems with its spinnaker pole and on the drop the sail went into the water, nearly stopping the boat. +39 was then back in the lead, but its spinnaker sheet touched the mark at the gate, and the Umpires assessed a penalty. On the second upwind leg helmsman Iain PERCY was able to complete his turn, shedding the penalty, whilst still holding the lead at the top mark, and indeed down to the finish.
Racing continues on today with two full flights scheduled.