'I think anytime you can score fourth or above you've got a good chance of being in position to win it on the last day,' said tactician Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL) after scoring a third and a first place finish on the first day of racing. 'And that's about all you can ask.'
But it was a win by the slimmest of margins. BMW ORACLE Racing went into the last race needing not just to beat Alinghi, but to put a boat between them and the Swiss as well. Had the American's advanced just one more metre on Desafío Español on that final run, it would have been the American team skippered by Chris DICKSON (NZL) who would be holding the trophy.
'We are very pleased with our performance here,' DICKSON said after the race. 'We have finished the last three regattas tied at the top of the leaderboard with Alinghi. We have closed the gap. We are closer to them now than we were two and a half years ago. Next year, we will be closer again and that sets it up nicely for a Challenger to win the America's Cup in 2007.'
Emirates Team New Zealand sailed an indifferent regatta by its high standards, but still finished third on the points table, and the Spanish, with their win in the last race vaulted up to fourth place.
But the highlight of the regatta, and indeed of the season, may just be the performance of Team Shosholoza (RSA), who finished fifth. The South Africans had never previously finished higher than tenth place in an Act, and started the year in June by finishing dead last in both Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts in Spain.
The team has been steadily improving since its inauguration in 2004, but even its most optimistic supporters surely would not have foreseen this. The result was no fluke; the South Africans sailed a strong series, always finishing between third and eighth and often mixing it up among the leaders in each contest.
Luna Rossa (ITA) finished in sixth place, the top Italian team on the table, a sub-par performance from one of the 'big four'. It was followed by +39 Challenge, the team from Sicily, who made a good showing sailing on their home waters. The third Italian challenger, Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team was disappointed with its tenth place on the table.
The results of Act 9 affirm Alinghi as winner of the 2005 America's Cup Class Season Championship, the Swiss finishing ten points clear of Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW ORACLE Racing.
On the challenger-only Louis Vuitton Ranking Table, it is the American BMW ORACLE Racing who hold a slim two-point lead over Emirates Team New Zealand, with Luna Rossa close behind. The Louis Vuitton Ranking is the basis for awarding 'bonus points' to the challengers heading into the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007. No bonus points are awarded directly each year, but at the conclusion of all of the Louis Vuitton Acts on the basis of ranking. The three Louis Vuitton Acts in 2006 are weighted more heavily on the Louis Vuitton Ranking Table than the ones this year, as is the fleet race that opens the season in 2007. So while it is still very early, BMW ORACLE Racing enjoys a slim head start on the basis of its performance this year.
As has been seen for the past two weeks, Trapani has been extremely supportive of the America's Cup. In fact, by the end of racing on Sunday, cumulative attendance in the America's Cup Park for the Trapani events closed on the 500,000 mark. On Saturday, the Park welcomed visitor number 1,000,000 to the America's Cup, dating back to Act 1 in Marseille, France.
'Here in Italy, on a Sunday, we're having more people (come see us) than for football,' said Ernesto BERTARELLI, the head of the Defender and as such the man responsible for the new era of the America's Cup in Europe. 'I think the format where we go to different locations is great. Different atmospheres, different conditions, but at the same time we can show people up close what the America's Cup is about.'
The photo finish to end Act 9 also marked the conclusion of the 2005 racing season. Earlier in the week, the organizers of the America's Cup released provisional dates and format for 2006. All racing will take place in Valencia next year, opening with a double Louis Vuitton Act of match and fleet racing (the same format as 2005) from 11-21 May. The season concludes with an extended Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 12, a match racing event featuring a round robin, semi final and final, scheduled from 22 June-3 July.