After two victories on Saturday, the Spanish challenge had a much more difficult day lined up for the royal visit. Desafío Español would face the Defender, Alinghi, in its first match and follow that up with a contest against the BMW ORACLE Racing powerhouse. The presence of Juan Carlos wasn't enough to help the Spanish crew though, as Desafío Español fell to both top teams over the course of the afternoon.
The end of the afternoon brought heartbreak for Team Shosholoza in flight eight when the team was passed just metres from the finish line by a surging United Internet Team Germany. The South Africans are still looking for their first win after a tough month in Valencia with boat problems.
The first flight of races was sent off in moderate 10-knot breezes with the matches on the South race courses enjoying slightly more breeze. A few matches stood out for their action and excitement.
On the North course, skipper Iain PERCY and his +39 Challenge crew sailed an outstanding match against the French K-Challenge. This race was decided at the first windward mark when +39 steamed in on the port tack layline with K-Challenge approaching with the right of way on starboard tack. When French skipper Thierry PEPONNET began to roll into a slow tack, hoping to grab the inside lane, Percy was able to use his momentum to simply sail over the top of the French boat. Peponnet tried to luff up to hold his position but +39 had too much momentum and raced around. The French were left with very little speed and needing to tack to get around the mark, while +39 rounded, hoisted its spinnaker and was away.
The other drama was in the Emirates Team New Zealand and Victory Challenge match. Despite a poor start, Magnus HOLMBERG and his men stayed close to the first place Kiwis and forced them into strength-sapping tacking duels up both windward legs. Emirates Team New Zealand won the race, but the Swedes earned respect and served notice that they're ready to knock on the door of the 'big four'.
The three matches on the South course featured stronger teams against weaker ones, but the pre-starts were exciting nonetheless. United Internet Team Germany skipper Jesper BANK was able to salvage what could have been a disastrous start when BMW ORACLE Racing pushed his boat to the course side of the line too early. But Bank calmly tacked around the Race Committee boat, dipped the line and started close behind USA 76. It wasn't enough however as the powerful American team converted the early advantage into a win.
In the later matches the wind reached its peak for the regatta, at times gusting above 15 knots on the Southern course. This was where Team Shosholoza had a dramatic match with United Internet Team Germany. South African helmsman Ian AINSLIE was aggressive on this start and it paid off, as he led his counterpart, Jesper BANK, across the line. The South Africans looked strong in this race nurturing a lead that at times extended to four boat lengths. But on the final run to the finish, a poor gybe on Shosholoza allowed Bank to close the gap right down. Now set up for the final sprint to the finish on the inside of the African boat, Bank was able to surge past Shosholoza, beating the African boat to the line by just six seconds.
On the North course the highlight of flight eight featured Victory Challenge who had looked good in losses to the top teams against K-Challenge, another team looking to move up a level into the top tier. K-Challenge looked to be in trouble with a penalty in the pre-start, but Victory Challenge was over the start line early, and by the time skipper Magnus HOLMBERG had started properly, the French team was off to a good lead. French skipper Thierry PEPONNET managed to extend far enough ahead to fulfil his penalty obligations before finishing, earning a valuable point in the process.
In the all-Italian affair, Luna Rossa Challenge bested +39, to stay tied for third position on the leaderboard.
The weather was ideal for racing today and the forecast is for more good conditions over the early part of the next week. Flights Nine and Ten are scheduled on Monday, with the last matches of the Louis Vuitton Act 4 to be sailed on Tuesday.