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5 October 2005, 10:34 am
K-Challenge And BMW ORACLE Racing Slay Alinghi
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America's Cup 2007
Trapani, Italy

Tuesday was among the most exciting days in the long history of the America's Cup as racing concluded at the Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 8 in Italy with the end result a four-way tie on points for first place. It took a special day of racing to get to this point, with Swiss Defender Alinghi, undefeated on the season coming into the day, dropping two races on the final afternoon.
To break the tie, the records of these four teams against each other are isolated, and that breaks the teams into two divisions, with Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand each earning two points from their matches against the other three, and Luna Rossa (ITA) and BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) each having just one. Alinghi beat Emirates Team New Zealand in their match, so they win Louis Vuitton Act 8, with the Kiwis in second place. Luna Rossa beat BMW ORACLE Racing in their match so the Italians are third and the Americans come in fourth. The tie-breaking formula is given in the Racing Rules of Sailing (Appendix C-11).

K-Challenge (FRA), with a tremendous upset win over Alinghi in flight ten yesterday, sit alone in fifth place on the overall points table. It is a tremendous result for the French team who won seven matches. Their previous best result was in Malmö with just four wins.

It was a special day as well for the three Italian teams who won five of their six matches on the day. Both +39 Challenge and Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team each scaled the leaderboard with their two wins in front of thousands of Italian fans cheering from the spectator boats.

The sun returned to western Sicily on Tuesday, but it brought light and very shifty winds to the race areas for the Trapani Louis Vuitton Acts, making for extremely hazardous racing for the tacticians. Each of the matches on the south race course took place in light, but comparatively steady winds. On the north race course, the shifts and gusts made for numerous lead changes in all three matches.

In flight ten, K-Challenge had a good start over Alinghi, with the Swiss hitting the line half a boatlength late on the gun. The French did a fantastic job picking the windshifts up the first beat, taking a good lead over Alinghi, but the Swiss made a pass near the top mark, and extended away on the run. But on the second beat, K-Challenge got right back in this match, rounding the second windward mark within range to make a pass. Halfway down the run the French got a nice shift and a puff of wind and were able to roll over Alinghi taking the lead with just over one mile to go. K-Challenge slid across the line in front - the only team to defeat Alinghi in 2005. This historic win follows K-Challenge's victory over Emirates Team New Zealand earlier in the regatta.

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Tuesday was a terrific day
for K-Challenge
© Francesco Ferri/ACM 2005
Huge windshifts made the first beat a minefield for both teams in this contest. First Luna Rossa and then BMW ORACLE Racing took big theoretical leads each time the boats split apart. Finally, at the top mark, the Italians were able to squeeze in to the mark on starboard tack, sliding inside the American position and leading around the mark. Luna Rossa made great work on the run leading through the gate by 1:30. But the Italians chose the incorrect mark at the gate and the Americans stormed up the right hand side of the leg where they picked up the shift they needed to make the pass and lead around by 39 seconds. Luna Rossa sailed lower and quicker on the first half of the run, using a staysail and driving below BMW ORACLE Racing. When the boats gybed, the Italians found themselves inside and ever so slightly ahead. The Americans gybed away again, and came back on the layline to the finish, but found themselves behind Luna Rossa. Helmsman and new ISAF World Match Racing World Champion James SPITHILL (AUS) led his team across the finish line to beat Chris DICKSON's (NZL) American squad.

Victory Challenge (SWE) was late entering the start box as a last-minute problem with their mainsheet prevented them from entering on time. United Internet Team Germany's Jesper BANK (DEN) could not take full advantage, with his port tack entry he had to cross to the other side of the box before he had rights to push the Swedish team. By that time, Magnus HOLMBERG's (SWE) men had recovered and showed good speed up the first beat, building a lead they would extend on each leg through the finish.

Emirates Team New Zealand appeared to win its start over Desafío Español, who were forced to tack away immediately after starting. However that split paid for the Spanish who gained better pressure and jumped out to an early lead. The teams tacked simultaneously near the starboard tack layline and the Spanish roared away in better pressure and with a better angle to the mark. Emirates skipper Dean BARKER (NZL) and his afterguard worked feverishly to get back into this race, eventually making a pass on the second beat when they gained two minutes on the Spanish. The Kiwis extended on the run, winning by a big margin.

Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team led their match from the start and sailed a strong race over China Team. The Chinese made an effort on the first run, cutting into a big Italian lead, but Mascalzone Latino skipper Vasco VASCOTTO (ITA) was not going to let his second win slip through his hand and they extended away the rest of the race.

+39 skipper Iain PERCY (GBR) sailed a strong race over Shosholoza (RSA), with the South Africans gaining on the second beat, to make the final run closer. But the Italians held their nerve, earning the first of three Italian victories in this flight.

In flight eleven, Shosholoza won the start on their match and sailed out to the right hand side allowing China Team to split away to the left. By the windward mark the South Africans had extended away and led by 400 metres down the first run, extending to over 600 metres by the gate. The only mistake the South Africans made was a poor spinnaker drop on the first run when the sail tore as it was coming down. Ian AINSLIE's (RSA) men were not threatened after that, and won their third match earning their best record to date in the Louis Vuitton Acts.

In the match between United Internet Team Germany and +39, BANK picked up a penalty as he tried to establish a leeward hook, for not giving +39 skipper PERCY enough room to keep clear on the initial luff. But after the start, the Germans were on fire, racing up the right hand side of the course and leading around the first mark. PERCY made his move on the first run, passing the Germans and holding on to take the win.

Victory Challenge tacked right at the start gun in their match with Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team, their transom avoiding the Italian bow by just inches on the tack. The tack to the right did not pay for the Swedish team however as Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team streaked up the left side of the course. VASCOTTO 's team sailed a very strong race, beating Victory Challenge soundly.

K-Challenge had perhaps the best start seen at the Louis Vuitton Acts this year against Desafío Español in terms of being on the line at the gun, the bow of the French boat right on the line at the pin, sailing at full speed. This early advantage over Desafío Español allowed K-Challenge to build a handy lead, crossing ahead of the Spanish quite comfortably. By the first mark the French were well ahead. However the Spanish closed the gap down the first run and made further inroads into the lead up the second beat. For a while Desafío Español skipper Karol JABLONSKI (POL) drew his green boat even, but Thierry PEPONNET (FRA) protected the left and hooked into a massive shift that launched the French into a big lead again. The Spanish started breathing down their necks on the final run, but K-Challenge held their nerve to win the race and finish fifth overall.

Luna Rossa took up an early lead over Emirates Team New Zealand, and seemed to have the speed to match the Kiwis. At the top mark, however, BARKER pulled off a masterstroke, using the right-of-way rules to prevent SPITHILL tacking. Luna Rossa was forced to allow the Kiwis to slip through into a 15 second lead down the first run. Just minutes later SPITHILL regained the advantage, with Luna Rossa managing to roll over the top of the Kiwis and force them to gybe away. BARKER almost managed to pull the same trick on SPITHILL, but the Italians led the Kiwis around the right-hand leeward mark by a boatlength. When BARKER put in an immediate tack, the Italians let them go, allowing huge separation to develop as the boats gambled on opposite sides of the course. The afterguard of Luna Rossa must have rued the moment they decided to let Emirates go, because by the time they tacked to re-engage some minutes later, the wind was shifting to the left, and in Kiwi favour. New Zealand rounded the final mark 42 seconds ahead, by no means a certain lead in these breezes - until Luna Rossa's spinnaker tore just moments after it had been hoisted. The Kiwis restored some damaged pride to win the match and prevent Luna Rossa from taking a famous victory before the home crowd.

BMW ORACLE and Alinghi made perfect starts at opposite ends of the line with the teams hoping the first shift would go their way. And that first shift went to Alinghi. But the gentle puffs and shifts of breeze continued to shift the balance of power from one team to the other. After bouncing away from each other several times, DICKSON managed to win the first cross to lead around the first mark by 26 seconds. For a while, Ed BAIRD (USA) brought Alinghi back on even terms with the Americans, forcing the black and white boat to gybe away to the left. As it turned out, the breeze was more favoured on the left and BMW stepped up to a six-boatlength lead. BMW opted for the left-hand mark while Alinghi took the right, hoping to use the shifts to break away into the lead. It was not to be however, with DICKSON's choice of the left proving to be the winning move, and by a big margin.

Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 8 Final Standings

1. Alinghi (SUI), 9-2
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 9-2
3. Luna Rossa (ITA), 9-2
4. BMW ORACLE Racing (USA), 9-2
5. K-Challenge (FRA), 7-4
6. Victory Challenge (SWE), 6-5
7. +39 Challenge (ITA), 4-7
8. Desafío Español (ESP), 4-7
9. Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA), 3-8
10. Team Shosholoza (RSA), 3-8
11. United Internet Team Germany (GER), 2-9
12. China Team (CHN), 1-10

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, BMW ORACLE on their way to defeating Alinghi:© Gilles Martin-Raget
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