It was an excellent day for racing in the waters off Newport, with bright sunshine, and a solid eight to 10 knot breeze, powering Alinghi and BMW ORACLE through three races Thursday afternoon.
In the first match, the BMW ORACLE team made a thrilling pass on the final run of the race, to snatch a victory from Team Alinghi, and extend its lead in the Pro-Driver series.
Alinghi's fortunes didn't improve when the Owner-Drivers took the helm for two races to conclude the day. In the first race, Larry Ellison, helming BMW ORACLE shut out his counterpart, Ernesto Bertarelli (Team Alinghi) from the start line, en route to a convincing victory.
The second start had even more action, as BMW ORACLE was penalised for a collision moments before the start. But Alinghi was too early on the start line, and had to re-start, handing Ellison an early lead. BMW ORACLE completed its penalty turn safely later in the race, and swept the day.
Veteran America's Cup sailor and local legend Ken READ was on board as a special guest with Team Alinghi today, adding his local knowledge of the area to the Alinghi afterguard.
UBS TROPHY - Pro-Driver Series - Race Nine of 12
BMW ORACLE RACING beat ALINGHI - Delta 0:26
BMW ORACLE RACING LEADS THE PRO-DRIVER SERIES 9 POINTS TO 4
Team Alinghi appeared to be in control of this race, but on the second lap of the course, BMW ORACLE made an inspired comeback, and rallied to earn another win in the Pro-Driver series.
Team Alinghi's Peter HOLMBERG came off the starting line with good speed on the right hand side of the race course as BMW ORACLE threw in two quick tacks, and slowed down significantly at the start gun. Alinghi protected the right hand side of the race course pushing BMW ORACLE into the shoreline with each tack, and was able to carry a 13-second lead around the top mark.
Alinghi stretched out a little on the first run but on the second windward leg, BMW ORACLE picked up some favourable shifts near the top mark, and closed up again to get in a position to threaten Alinghi.
On the final run, BMW ORACLE gained some separation with a couple of quick gybes, and then was able to close up to leeward to Alinghi, and get in a position where Holmberg couldn't gybe and safely cross in front of the starboard gybe BMW ORACLE boat. Brady continued to prevent Holmberg from gybing, and sailed him out to the layline where both boats gybed simultaneously.
The BMW ORACLE crew executed a flawless gybe, while the Alinghi spinnaker nearly collapsed. With the extra horsepower, BMW ORACLE, now to windward, accelerated away, breaking the overlap to get clear ahead, and approach the leeward mark unencumbered. Brady rounded ahead, and covered closely on the short beat to the finish, to solidify his team's lead in the Pro-Driver series.
UBS TROPHY - Owner-Driver Series - Race One of Four
BMW ORACLE RACING beats ALINGHI - Delta 1:24
BMW ORACLE RACING LEADS THE OWNER-DRIVER SERIES 1 POINT TO 0
Larry ELLISON sailed an excellent start in this race, controlling Ernesto BERTARELLI throughout the five-minute pre-start before shutting him out from the start line, forcing Alinghi to circle around and start with a 26-second deficit.
There was an aggressive dial-up in this pre-start, which Ellison broke off, reaching away on port tack while Alinghi struggled to get moving. Ellison kept circling back at Bertarelli, aggressively using his starboard tack advantage on each approach, and keeping Alinghi on the back foot.
When the boats finally broke for the start line, Alinghi was vulnerable, approaching with no room, and to windward of the layline for the Race Committee boat. BMW ORACLE, strongly positioned to leeward, moved for the kill, luffing Alinghi towards the Race Committee boat, and ensuring that there was no space for Bertarelli to cross the start line. Alinghi was forced to tack and circle back for the start line, while Ellison powered away at the start gun.
Although Alinghi fought gamely to try and get back into the race, the lead at the start was too big, and BMW ORACLE sailed on to take the lead in the Owner-Driver series.
UBS TROPHY - Owner-Driver Series - Race Two of Four
BMW ORACLE RACING beat Alinghi - Delta 0:41
BMW ORACLE RACING LEADS THE OWNER-DRIVER SERIES 2 POINTS TO 0
There was plenty happening in the pre-start of this race, with both owners sailing aggressively. There was no dial-up, and Alinghi allowed BMW ORACLE to lead out on port tack downwind of the Race Committee boat. The boats circled several times before Bertarelli led Alinghi back towards the line on starboard tack, with BMW ORACLE chasing.
Ellison kept pushing Alinghi, at one point hooking in to leeward, and as the boats neared the line, both tacked, still needing time to kill. Now on port tack, and sailing slowly near the start line, Ellison tacked away moments before the gun, but the back end of BMW ORACLE swung quickly towards the Alinghi transom, making contact, and damaging the Swiss boat. The Umpires assessed Ellison a penalty, and Bertarelli appeared to have the advantage. But as the start gun fired, the bow of Alinghi had already crossed the start line, and Bertarelli had to return and restart, as Ellison sailed away down a penalty, but up by 24-seconds across the line.
From that point on, this race was about whether BMW ORACLE could extend away far enough to complete its penalty turn. Ellison carried a 22-second advantage around the top mark, and then BMW ORACLE made a massive gain on the run, to lead by 54-seconds around the leeward mark. Early on the next leg, Ellison completed his penalty turn safely and threw a loose cover on Alinghi the rest of the way to earn his second win in the Owner-Driver series.