Sunday, May 20, 2007

Louis Vuitton Cup - Semifinals - Day 6: Preview - Match Point

Good morning from match-point Valencia. This cloudy Sunday could turn out to be the most important day in the 32nd America's Cup so far, with the two finalists of the Louis Vuitton Cup being towed back to Port America's Cup later this afternoon.

Both Luna Rossa and Emirates Team NZ are ahead of their respective rivals, BMW Oracle and Desafío Español, leading the semifinal series 4-1. The Kiwis have a much easier task if they want to finish the semifinals today. They have shown clear dominance on every aspect of the race and yesterday's win was another confirmation of their overall performance. They sacrificed the prestart in order to get the side they thought would have the advantage. They started later than the Spanish but quickly closed in on them, passed them and won the race by a huge lead.

As far as Luna Rossa is concerned, their amazing performance in their races against the Americans have been an incredible psychological boost. Still, they publicly play down their advantage and state they go out every day with just one goal, to win one more race. On the other hand, BMW Oracle try also to give a positive spin to their situation stating that we shouldn't count them out. Obviously, nobody does, but they do have their back on the wall.

There has been in the history of the America's Cup, in the 1992 Louis Vuitton Cup finals, one comeback from a 4-1 deficit. Paul Cayard, helmsman of Italian challenger Il Moro di Venezia V, climbed back from the abyss and despite trailing Team New Zealand 4-1 they won the finals with a 5-4 score. Nevertheless there is a big difference between that case and BMW Oracle's today.

According to Jacques Taglang, the world's most renowned America's Cup historian, Paul Cayard - now down by 4 to 1 (and only one more defeat away from elimination) - protested against his rivals on NZL-20 for the way they were using the bowsprit during certain spinnaker manoeuvres. He won the protest and the race was annulled.

The score was put back to 3-1 and the Italians won the next race. Cayard put in a new protest, again about the use of the bowsprit, a protest which put the Vuitton Cup committee's interpretation of the issue in direct contradiction to that one of America's Cup committee. To put an end to the debate, the New Zealanders decided to give up the controversial use of the bowsprit. They also took Rod Davis off the helm and replaced him with Russell Coutts, who had only helmed the tandem-keeled NZL-20 three times previously.

So nobody so far has been able to recover on the race course from a 4-1 series. One thing is for sure, each day we are more eager to go out and watch the races. The show is guaranteed.

Today, the order of the two matches rotates once again as do the entry sides in the prestart box. The first match, starting at 3pm, will be Emirates Team NZ against Desafío Español, while Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle will face each other 10 minutes later, at 3:10pm.

Weather forecast
According to the official forecast, we will have a good sea breeze day. They expect the early high cloud to clear in the afternoon. Event organizers expect an easterly gradient breeze, but strong thermals inland will build to produce a good sea breeze that compliments the gradient wind. Wind will start north easterly 8-10 knots and build to 12-14 knots. It will not be as warm as in the previous days and maximum temperature will reach 22 degrees.