The Swiss Alinghi team put on a clinical display of match racing skill to sweep to 2-0 over the US Oracle BMW Race team in the Louis Vuitton Cup final on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf today.
In contrast, a botched spinnaker drop at the end of the first downwind leg cost Oracle BMW Racing dearly. Having closed up to within two boatlengths on the run, the San Francisco-based team blew their chances when the spinnaker was allowed to trawl in the water, hauling the boat to a standstill and breaking the spinnaker pole in the process.
Despite the costly mistake, Oracle BMW Racing managed to keep the action fairly close, although Alinghi's lead was never threatened for the remainder of the race.
Racing took place in 14-16 knot easterlies, with a slight chop still left on the course following nearly a week of easterly-quadrant winds over Auckland.
After a relatively quiet start, with the yachts keeping well clear of each other for most of the final three minutes, Alinghi, skippered by Russell Coutts, hit the line on starboard tack, to leeward of Oracle BMW Racing, skippered by Chris Dickson. USA-76 tacked away immediately and on each successive tack of the first beat Alinghi made gains.
Throughout the race, the Swiss crew functioned with precision, making just one mistake in their final gybe when the spinnaker guy went under the bow. With a comfortable lead, there was no panic as the problem was sorted and SUI-64 swept across the finish line to capture their second win of the finals.
Their pattern throughout the regatta has been to capture the lead and then sail conservatively for the rest of the race and today was no different. It is a formula that has seen them lose only two races in the regatta so far and worked again today to give them a 2-0 lead.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP FINAL
ALINGHI (SUI-64) BEAT USA-76 - DELTA 00:40
Alinghi leads best-of-nine finals over Oracle BMW Racing by 2-0
The call onboard Oracle BMW was for starting helmsman Peter Holmberg to win the right hand side in the pre-start. He duly did so close to the committee vessel, but had to contend with Russell Coutts' Alinghi just to leeward. Both boats crossed the line together, but the Swiss boat started with slightly better speed and accelerated away a little quicker.
Holmberg held onto the helm until the completion of the first tack 40 seconds after the gun and handed over to skipper Chris Dickson. The problem for Dickson was that Alinghi seemed to be sailing slightly higher and faster. When the boats got into an early tacking duel, Alinghi also seemed to be able to accelerate out of the tacks slightly faster. Only seconds separated the boats up the first beat, with Alinghi holding the initiative and herding the American boat over the starboard lay line. Dickson trailed round the first mark by 26 seconds.
Oracle BMW Racing closed up on the run and came within two boatlengths of Alinghi at the leeward mark, but disaster struck Dickson's team after their spinnaker went 'trawling' in the water. Problems were compounded as the boat sailed over the spinnaker and broke the spinnaker pole. USA-76 was slow rounding the mark and lost about five boat lengths in the manoeuvre. For the third time in the regatta so far, the Oracle foredeck team did a splendid job in repairing the pole with a splint.
Alinghi were able to protect a comfortable lead of about seven boat lengths and recovered well from a poor gybe in the final two minutes of the race to win by 40 seconds.