Although American teams are outnumbered two to one by European entries in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the U.S. dominated the opening day of racing in Auckland today.
The British GBR Challenge, however, put up a battle royal against Team Dennis Conner - keeping the action close all the way round the track.
All three American teams, OneWorld Challenge, Oracle BMW Racing and Team Dennis Conner claimed victories over European crews. The Swiss Alinghi team recorded the only win for Europe.
All the months and years of preparation came to fruition in Auckland today as the most powerful fleet of challengers in the history of the America's Cup started their battle for the Louis Vuitton Cup.
In terms of pre-regatta rankings, the clash of the titans was between defending champions Prada (ITA-74) and software mogul Larry Ellison's highly fancied Oracle BMW Racing (USA-76) team.
Much attention was also focused on the duel between GBR Challenge's Wight Lightning (GBR-70) and Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes (USA-66). Here was history reliving itself as Britain, where the event began in 1851, went up against the entry from the New York Yacht Club, which held the famous trophy for 132 years - the longest winning streak in sport.
The weather on the course was overcast, with a 10-12 knot south-westerly breeze at the start. Conditions during racing were typical of the Hauraki Gulf with shifty conditions testing the tacticians.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP ROUND ROBIN ONE, RACE ONE
Alinghi (Sui-64) Beat Le Defi Areva (Fra-69) - Delta 4:48
After an exciting and close start, Alinghi representing the Societe Nautique de Genève, took an early lead over the French boat Le Défi and slowly extended throughout the entire race to win by a handsome margin. After only one minute with both boats lined up together on starboard tack, it became obvious that Alinghi steered by double America's Cup winning helm, Russell Coutts was faster and pressed that advantage to win by a handsome margin, without being really tested.
Usa-76 Beat Luna Rossa (Ita-74) - Delta 00:42
A featured match of the day pitted the Prada Challenge against Oracle BMW Racing, but after a lively pre-start the match quickly faded to Oracle's control. Rod Davis started Luna Rossa and Peter Holmberg USA-76. The pair split tacks off the line with Luna Rossa on port at the boat end and USA-76 on starboard at the pin end. USA-76 quickly tacked to port and a long drag race ensued up the beat. Francesco de Angelis took over the helm of Luna Rossa after the start, but USA-76, inside of the Italian yacht, seemed to be advantaged by a lifting breeze and within five minutes of the start had opened a slight lead over Luna Rossa. USA-76, with Holmberg helming his first race in the Louis Vuitton Cup, kept extending that lead up the 3.25-mile leg. USA-76 led by 15 seconds at the windward mark. Luna Rossa gained on all three downwind legs, but couldn't match the American yacht upwind.
Stars & Stripes (Usa-66) Beat Wight Lightning (Gbr-70)- Delta 00:20
A close match throughout, Team Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes claimed a well earned victory over the British boat, finishing a clear 20 seconds ahead. But life wasn't that simple for the Americans until the closing stages of the last leg. Entering the box from the port side, GBR Challenge managed to gain the advantage after the two boats turned into a conventional dial up and then fell away to starboard. A slow tack just before the start put GBR-70 at a disadvantage, leaving the Americans to head for the pin end at full speed. It was this small error that separated the two boats for virtually the entire race. Each team had its turn at pulling an advantage with Stars & Stripes recording a 17-second advantage at the second weather mark rounding and with the British reducing it to six seconds at the third weather mark rounding. But fighting hard on the final downwind leg, GBR Challenge had little choice but to split gybes. Nevertheless Stars & Stripes kept their cool, sailed their own race under pressure and managed to pull out their lead to 20 seconds by the finish.
Oneworld (Usa-67) Beat Mascalzone Latino (Ita-72) - Delta 05:43
The Seattle Yacht Club's OneWorld Challenge (USA-67) reaped the dividend of a strong training programme and looked very powerful in beating the Italian Mascalzone Latino (ITA-72) team. Sailing head Peter Gilmour handed the helm to James Spithill and he showed his prowess on the start, boxing Italian helmsman Paolo Cian out from the pin end of the line, before crossing well ahead of the 'Latin Rascals'. Early on the first weather leg it was apparent that OneWorld was the faster boat, as Spithill simply pointed higher and sailed faster than his Italian counterpart, eventually rounding the first windward mark with a 1:14 lead. That combination of speed and pointing ability proved hard to beat, and the Americans went on to win Race One with ease.