Probably the best and most spectacular flight so far with four very close races and an unusual sight at the finish line, with Alinghi, BMW Oracle, Shosholoza and Areva Challenge approaching at the same time.
Alinghi - BMW Oracle: 1 - 0
The day's most awaited and exciting race was also a true roller coaster. Alinghi won, as they did in Louis Vuitton Act 10, and in fact in 5 out the 6 races between the Defender and Challenger of Record in 2005 and 2006. More importantly it is the second consecutive victory of Alinghi over BMW Oracle with the Americans using their brand new USA-87.
Peter Holmberg at the helm of SUI-75 beat Chris Dickson in the pre-start and thw Swiss started with a slight advantage on the left side of the course. The two boats were neck and neck but Alinghi rounded the top mark 10 seconds ahead of the Americans. On the first downwind leg BMW Oracle took the advantage and reached the Swiss, rounding the leeward gate a scant 3 seconds ahead. Still, Peter Holmberg and his crew gained 11 seconds in the third leg and 12 in the final one and finished 20 seconds ahead of the Americans.
As we mentioned in our morning preview, this is probably the only race where one can doubt about what one sees. Could USA-87 have ran away in the third and fourth legs? Whatever the case, SUI-75, Alinghi's boat, proved to be still very trustworthy with good upwind and downwind speeds. As far as we are concerned, we look forward to the race between Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi in order to see whether NZL-84 could beat SUI-75.
Luna Rossa - Emirates Team New Zealand : 0 - 1
How do you feel when you throw a golden opportunity out of the window? You´d better ask the Luna Rossa crew that just blew their opportunity to score a very precious point against the New Zealanders. After an extraordinary pre-start procedure where James Spithil, the Australian helmsman of ITA-86, squeezed Dean Barker and the rest of the NZL-84 crew to cross the starting line with a 18-second advantage, Luna Rossa tumbled like a house of cards!! Despite their strong early advantage, the Italians could not really escape from the Kiwi boat and the first leg was very close. Right at the windward mark, an unforgiving error by the Italians allowed Dean Barker to squeeze in and round the mark with an 8-second advantage.
From there on, the New Zealanders managed to increase their lead by a couple of seconds in every leg and despite a final run of ITA-86 that managed to close down on the New Zealanders, NZL-84 proved too tough to beat, finishing 11 seconds ahead. Who is to blame for the Italian defeat? Probably the combination of a very fast NZL-84 and a great improvement in crew performance for Emirates Team New Zealand. It is no secret Grant Dalton, manager of the New Zealand challenger, was unsatisfied with the team's performance in last month's Louis Vuitton Acts and the whole crew went trough a tough training schedule that seems to bear fruit.
Team Shosholoza - Areva Challenge : 1 - 0
This race between was by far the most intriguing of the fifth flight. After an even start, Shosholoza went to the right and Areva to the left and both boats were neck and neck during the first flight, with the South Africans rounding the first mark just 9 seconds ahead of the French. They managed to increase the lead slightly downwind, rounding the leeward gate 20 seconds ahead of Areva. In the third leg, the French took advantage of the wind shift and got ahead of Shosholoza but Thierry Peponnet tacked too close to Tomasso Chieffi during one of the many crosses, and picked up a penalty.
After that point, Areva challenge played a game of hide and seek, going even hundreds of meters away from the mark, trying to have the South Africans get a penalty. Still, the French rounded the mark just 9 seconds ahead and on the final downwind leg tried to slow down and once again have the South Africans penalized but to no avail. Shosholoza picked up speed and by the time Areva Challenge unloaded their penalty they had a 54-second lead.
+39 - Mascalzone Latino : 0 - 1
This Italian derby did not turn out to be a simple walk for Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team. The final outcome did follow the unwritten rule so far that higher-ranked teams beat the lower-ranked ones, but Iain Percy, helmsman of +39, and the rest of the crew on old ITA-59 gave Flavio Favini a run for the money. Iain Percy got off to an early lead at the start but his slow boat could not hold on, although they were never more than 15 seconds behind Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team.