On Saturday, with the wind blowing 14 knots from the north-west, the Race Committee was able to start the first race bang on time at 12:40 hours.
While BMW ORACLE Racing and Alinghi sailed their own private races at the front of the fleet in both contests, the story of the day belonged to Shosholoza. The South Africans sailed extremely well on Friday, earning two fifth place finishes to begin the weekend in fourth place on the points table. On Saturday Captain Salvatore SARNO'S men raced to a podium finish in the first race, and followed that up with a seventh place to solidify their position in fourth on the leaderboard.
Fleet Race Three
Many boats were gunning for the favoured pin end of the starting line. For a while it looked like Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team might win the pin, but BMW ORACLE Racing accelerated over them and Chris DICKSON launched off the line at top speed.
With the wind blowing 14 knots, the American boat surged into an early lead, clearly wanting the left-hand side of the course. Some of the boats that had started less well were forced out to the right, and for a moment it looked as though they might do well out there. +39 Challenge held a four-boatlength lead on the far right, but then the wind went left again. This is what BMW ORACLE had been looking for, although by this time Alinghi had used superior boatspeed to sail over the top of the black and white boat.
Rounding the first mark, Alinghi had a slender lead over BMW ORACLE. In third was Emirates Team New Zealand, and just behind was the surprise team of the day in Shosholoza. These positions stayed the same down the first run, but the softening breeze opened up opportunities for some snakes and ladders up the final beat. Around the leeward gate, Alinghi and BMW were still comfortably ahead of the pack, and these two engaged in a personal match race up the next leg, the Swiss never allowing the Americans too much room to breathe.
Shosholoza broke right up the next beat, and the Kiwis to the left. The boats that did best, however, were those that came up from middle-left, such as Desafío Español. The South Africans held on to a slim lead over the pack, and managed to get over to the left-hand side before the left-hand shift worked against them. The Kiwis, however, had slipped badly on this leg, down from third to sixth at the final mark.
Around the last mark, Alinghi held a commanding lead over BMW ORACLE. Next around was Shosholoza, only just ahead of the fast-improving Spanish. The Kiwis rounded behind Luna Rossa. With the wind down to 8 knots for the final run to the finish, Alinghi maintained its position at the front to beat the Americans across the line. Shosholoza sailed home in third, a fantastic result for this team, no longer the also-rans of this fleet but firmly established as real players in this tough game.
Fleet Race Four
It was another tight start, with the teams jostling each other for the best position. Hardly a race passes without someone breaking the line a fraction too early, and this time it was Luna Rossa's turn to go back and restart. At the favoured pin end of the line, +39 Challenge claimed pole position but Emirates Team New Zealand found the best acceleration to take an early lead in the 8-knot north-westerly breeze.
Cloud cover down the middle of the course saw the fleet split either side to find the best breeze around the cloud's edge. Desafío Español led the charge to the left, while Alinghi showed the way on the right. In the end, the right side paid, and the Swiss found themselves leading around the first mark, again from BMW ORACLE Racing. And once again it was Shosholoza holding third place around the mark, just ahead of Victory Challenge, the Swedes looking to make amends for a poor series so far.
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team tacked underneath the Kiwis to squeeze their way past the windward mark, with the Umpires ruling there was no foul. Luna Rossa made a great recovery from their restart to round in seventh ahead of China Team.
With the wind remaining soft down the first run, the Swiss and American race leaders held their positions, but the South Africans slipped badly down the rankings after gybing out to the right of the course. They rounded in sixth, dropping three places, while the Kiwis had moved up to third by the leeward gate.
With Alinghi and BMW ORACLE breaking clear of the fleet for the second time today, the two leaders engaged in a gentle match race up the next beat, although the Swiss were never really troubled. With the wind swinging hard to the right up this leg, Mascalzone gained an extra place, rounding the final mark in fourth behind New Zealand. Victory had dropped to fifth, while Luna Rossa leapfrogged the South Africans to move up to sixth.
The next three crossed the line in a photo finish, with Spain just taking eighth from China Team and K-Challenge. +39 Challenge remained 11th while United Internet Team Germany compounded the pain of finishing last with an exploding spinnaker just seconds before they crossed the line.
Racing for Act 9 and for the 2005 season concludes on Sunday, with Alinghi and BMW ORACLE Racing fighting for first place, and the surprising Shosholoza looking to score its best Act result to date.
Provisional results and leaderboard
** scoring is a high point system, with the winning team earning 12 points, second place - 11 points and so on.
|2||BMW ORACLE Racing||1||2||2||2||45|
|3||Emirates Team New Zealand||2||3||5||3||39|
|6||Luna Rossa Challenge||11||4||6||6||25|
|7||United Internet Team Germany||4||7||11||12||18|
|10||Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team||12||10||9||4||17|