Team New Zealand loses first race, Victory and OneWorld still alive for the Finals. Racing started on time today in a 10 knot South-Easterly under a clear summer sky.
The race course situation, in the lee of Rangitoto Island, meant that the wind on the water was patchy with different amounts of breeze blowing just metres apart. The result of both races today was determined more by being in the right pressure at the right time than by having the fastest boat or the best tactics. During the first flight of the day the breeze dropped away to almost nothing and never really established itself again, meaning that the last flight of the second Round Robin will not be held until tomorrow, and the identity of the second finalist will have to wait.
OneWorld Challenge beat Team New Zealand by one minute and six seconds
Peter Gilmour, steering OneWorld Challenge, showed his great flair in the pre-start whilst tackling Dean Barker and Team New Zealand. The pair initially went deep into the box and didn't actually meet up until they had sailed out of the bottom of the box. During the return to the line, with both boats early and Team New Zealand to weather, Gilmour saw his chance, tacked to pass behind the Kiwis and tacked again to weather, all in the last minute. But Team New Zealand luffed to close the door against the committee boat and Gilmour found himself in an impossible situation and forced a passage, collecting a red flag penalty in the process. Although their was no collision the umpires felt the American boat had definitely gained by fouling, and so forced OneWorld Challenge to take their penalty immediately.
Whilst OneWorld exonerated themselves Team New Zealand was free to sail past and on up the course into a good lead. But the OneWorld Challenge recovered quickly and managed to stay in touch, reading the wind better than the Kiwis, closing the gap down again so that at the top mark they were just seven seconds behind. On the run the Kiwis gained and pulled out to round more than 30 seconds ahead, but on the second beat the pair split half-way up the leg. The New Zealanders had chosen the left, or rather to stay on the left, and OneWorld Challenge managed to find some more pressure where they were behind and to the right, sailing into a more favourable position. Team New Zealand, unable to react quickly to the situation on the right due to the now significant gap between the two, tacked onto port to watch the American boat cross ahead and round the top mark with a lead of over a minute. Gilmour and his team managed to keep this to the finish to break Team New Zealand's winning streak. Today was the first time that NZL-60 has ever lost a match race. Other than at the America's Cup Jubilee in Cowes last year, where they sailed NZL-32, this is the first time Team New Zealand has lost a match race since the Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup in 1995.
Victory Challenge beat GBR Challenge by four minutes and 38 seconds
In an aggressive pre-start GBR Challenge, steered by Andy Green today, managed to sting a penalty onto the black Swedish boat, as well as win the start and the right hand side of the course. On the first beat the British boat initially played the wind well and gained more distance on the Swedish boat but then suffered from the fickle wind near the top of the course which allowed the trailing boat to close down the gap. GBR Challenge eventually rounded the first mark with a lead of just 15 seconds. Feeling confident that the right hand side of the run was going to be the place to be, GBR Challenge executed a gybe-set and then watched as Victory Challenge bore away behind them, sailed off to the left of the run, more pressure and eventually into the lead.
GBR Challenge gybed back to attack and attempted to gybe again onto the Swedish boats wind, but Magnus Holmberg was fast enough to slip through the wind shadow. From here the Swedes controlled the British boat all the way to the bottom mark, taking them beyond the buoy so that their return required two gybes without spinnakers ensuring the Swedish boat led at the turn. The last beat saw the Swedish boat stay in phase in the now falling breeze, to pull out sufficient distance to execute its penalty turn and maintain the lead into the top mark with a one minute lead. Due to the drop in the windspeed this turned into more than four minutes at the finish, which keeps the Swedish team's chances alive for a place in the finals this weekend.
Racing for the rest of Round Robin Two will resume on Saturday. For live race commentary visit www.louisvuittoncup.com tomorrow.