Two full flights were sailed at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act Two on Thursday, on an afternoon when His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain sailed aboard Team Alinghi.
The weather conditions were good for racing, with a 10-knot gradient Northeasterly replaced by a light sea-breeze as the afternoon progressed. The wind became very light towards the end of the final races, making for some tough decisions by the tacticians.
Emirates Team New Zealand played the role of giant killers on this day, as they defeated Team Alinghi, the America's Cup Defender, and BMW ORACLE Racing, the top team from the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1. Both races were close, and in particular, the match against BMW ORACLE where the outcome was in doubt all the way around the race course.
In this Match of the Day, Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Dean BARKER made a strong recovery on the start, circling back around the Race Committee boat from the course side of the start line, crossing the line just moments after the gun fired. BMW ORACLE helmsman Gavin BRADY elected to simply dip below the line and also started strongly, the teams taking opposite sides of the race course for the first leg. Barker and his team used the power of the right to continually bounce BMW ORACLE to the left side of the course. This strategy didn't pay off until the end of the leg, when the Kiwis were able to sail the American boat past the layline and lead around the mark.
The new afterguard on NZL 81 made a brave decision to gybe around the mark and thus separate from BMW ORACLE, a tactic that appeared to put their lead in jeopardy. The teams chose opposite sides on the leeward gate and rounded within seconds of each other. BMW ORACLE, now on the right, didn't engage New Zealand on this leg and near the top mar k, Emirates Team New Zealand found the shift it needed to round with a 36-second lead. But on the final run, with the wind becoming very soft, each team appeared at different times to be making up time on its opponent. But in the end, this day belonged to Emirates Team New Zealand who knocked off BMW ORACLE in a thrilling match.
Earlier in the day Barker had won the starboard side of the course which proved valuable mid-way up the beat when a little right hand shift allowed his team to realise a handy gain. The Kiwis never looked back, and converted the win for their second consecutive victory over Team Alinghi, the team that they lost the America's Cup to in March, 2003.
The K-Challenge is winning a lot of moral victories at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act, but until the last match of the day has had little to show for it on the leader board. The French team had been gaining the respect of its peers with several strong performances in the Louis Vuitton Acts, but in the end, the top teams are proving too powerful for the new team with its 2000-generation boat.
On Thursday it was the Luna Rossa team that was forced to battle through the first leg with the stubborn K-Challenge before superior speed downwind allowed the Italians to put some distance between themselves and the French. Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill was never seriously threatened the rest of the way and his team earned its third win from four starts.
K-Challenge skipper Thierry PEPPONET didn't let the disappointment of that first session affect him in his second match on the day, as he dominated the start over Iain Percy on +39. K-Challenge converted that wonderful start into a solid victory to earn its second win from five starts.
Iain PERCY'S +39 crew had a better showing in its first match, with a strong race against Team Shosholoza. The boats split at the start with the South Africans taking what appeared to be the favoured right hand side of the course, but +39 was able to slowly creep ahead up the beat, rounding the top mark 30-seconds to the good. Shosholoza made a good effort on the run to gain some of that back, but a poor gybe and spinnaker drop at the leeward gate allowed the Italian team to open up again, and +39 went on to earn its first victory of the 32nd America's Cup.
The BMW ORACLE squad led by skipper Chris DICKSON, overpowered Philippe PRESTI'S LE DEFI team in their morning match. Presti then had the misfortune of meeting Alinghi in the afternoon session, and despite some strong moments early in the race, succumbed to the America's Cup holder.
Friday is an 'off day' at the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 2. Racing will continue on Saturday.
Louis Vuitton Act 2 - Results and Leaderboard
Match 1 ITA 74 beat FRA 57 delta 1:04
Match 2 NZL 81 beat SUI 64 delta 1:40
Match 3 ITA 59 beat RSA 48 delta 0:38
Match 4 USA 71 beat FRA 69 delta 1:11
Match 1 SUI 64 beat FRA 69 delta 2:27
Match 2 NZL 81 beat USA 71 delta 0:31
Match 3 ITA 74 beat RSA 48 delta 1:33
Match 4 FRA 57 beat ITA 59 delta 1:39
Team Name: (Points) Matches Won / Sailed
Emirates Team New Zealand (4) 4 5
Team Alinghi (4) 4 5
Luna Rossa (4) 4 5
BMW ORACLE Racing (3) 3 5
LE DEFI (2) 2 5
K-Challenge (2) 2 5
+39 (1) 1 5
Team Shosholoza (0) 0 5