Friday, January 30, 2009

Gusty, Shifty Conditions Test Crew Skills at LV Pacific Series

[Source: LV Pacific Series] The hint of upsets to come were in the air today off Auckland’s North Head as contestants in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series completed four races in building gusty, shifty conditions that tested the skills of crews.

The French team Pataugas K-Challenge won the opening match, defeating China Team by 1m 2s in a shifty and gusty 14-16 knot southwesterly breeze. Under gray skies K-Challenge made a strong start on port at the pin end of the line. China Team made a late start on starboard at the committee boat end but skipper Ian Williams made big gains up the first weather leg. A gybe early on the spinnaker run resulted in a broken spinnaker pole on the Chinese boat, a situation compounded by a penalty after a leeward mark incident. The Chinese did well to finish just over one minute astern after taking their penalty.

With the wind strength increasing, the new crew of the British TEAMORIGIN syndicate was in total control from the start of its encounter with Italian’s Luna Rossa. With two Olympic gold medallists in the afterguard - Ben Ainslie at the helm, and Iain Percy calling tactics - TEAMORIGIN won the start and after a spirited tacking duel up the middle of the course, established a 22s lead around the first mark. Despite efforts by Luna Rossa helmsman Peter Holmberg, the British team pulled away to win by 1m 11s.

Team Origin and Luna Rossa during their first race. Auckland, 30 January 2009. Photo copyright Paul Todd /

In the third race, sailing on home waters, Emirate Team New Zealand’s skipper/helmsman Dean Barker led from start to finish against Damiani Italia Challenge. Francesco Bruni on the helm of the Italian boat started in synch with the Kiwis with a safe leeward berth, only to see the home team boat inch slowly away. At the end the Kiwi margin was 19s.

In 18-20 knot gusts, Greek Challenge made their mark, literally, in their maiden appearance, racing against top seed Alinghi. Gavin Brady, the Kiwi skipper of the Greek boat, had no hesitation in testing his mettle against Ed Baird, Alinghi’s skipper in the pre-start. He paid a heavy penalty when he lost control momentarily and his bow hit the stern of Alinghi. It cost the feisty Brady one penalty point for “hard contact.” Unperturbed, Brady made a good recovery and led Baird out towards the port layline before the Swiss boat settled down and began to sail steadily away. The umpires awarded the requisite one point to Alinghi for their victory and docked the Greek Challenge one point, leaving them in negative territory. The margin was 2m 2s.

Greek Challenge and Alinghi during their first race. Auckland, 30 January 2009. Photo copyright Paul Todd /

At a press conférence on the Village plaza in front of the big screen, the teams racing tomorrow drew for the boats they’ll sail. The first race of the day, starting at 11 AM, will see BMW Oracle Racing aboard USA 98, racing against Emirates Team New Zealand in USA 87. The second race features Shosholoza aboard NZL 84 versus Greek Challenge in NZL 92. China Team on USA 87 meets Damiani Italia Challenge sailing USA 98 while Luna Rossa will race NZL 84 against Alinghi in NZL 92.

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