Sunday, May 20, 2007

Louis Vuitton Semi Final - Match 5

Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Luna Rossa Challenge have today gone 4-1 up in the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Luna Rossa provided the most exciting prestart performance of the challenger elimination to date. BMW Oracle entered from the pin end and tried to dig deep but were unable to therefore going into the dial up with Luna Rossa. Luna Rossa did a great job controlling their boat to maintain a nice separation in the dial up and prevent BMW Oracle from getting to the safer right hand side of the starting box. Oracle were left with no option but to do a high build and try and tack around the bow of Luna Rossa but this also failed. By this stage the boats were on the pin and BMW oracle tried to gybe around it but Luna Rossa were able to hunt them down. It was like BMW Oracle could not believe it they just kept going on port gybe even bringing the bow up to swing the stern out of the way, Luna Rossa display the "Y" flag and James Spithill screaming at the judges for two penalties to be given to BMW Oracle. The judges gave one but another soon after when BMW luffed Luna Rossa then swung their stern into the Italian boat. The judges actually also displayed the red flag requiring BMW Oracle to do the penalty immediately. From then on Luna Rossa did a good job staying between the opposition and the next mark, never giving BMW Oracle a passing lane.

In the second match of the day, the Spainish once again did a great job in the prestart forcing ETNZ to start slow at the boat. Unfortunately for Spain the right hand side paid and ETNZ lead around all marks, securing an important fourth win in the series.

So, Sunday could see another two teams going home. Going on the form to date and the fact that Luna Rossa have lead around all marks in the series, I think we will be saying bye bye to BMW Oracle and of course Spain who have performed above expectations and reached their goal.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Louis Vuitton Semi Final - Match 4

Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) have each scored another win today in their semi final matches.

In ETNZ's match against Desafío Español, the kiwis managed to get the hook on the Spanish with just 40seconds before the start forcing them to luff head to wind, slow down and eventually head to the committiee boat end of the start line. Meanwhile ETNZ built speed and hit the line running. Both boats then took a long port tack out to the right hand side before Spanish started to come back towards ETNZ. But ETNZ never let the Spanish cross to the left and the starboard layline came too quickly for the Spanish, both boats overlaying and ETNZ with the advantage. Then Barker and his team kept a close cover never allowing Desafío Español any passing lanes to win by 42 seconds.

In Luna Rossa's match against BMW Oracle, the Italians managed to start in the middle left of the line and BMW Oracle the right. In the prestart BMW Oracle broke there starboard flipper, which was no doubt a hinderence to their performance. Once again the starboard layline came too quickly for BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa lead around the top mark by 13 seconds. Luna Rossa held the lead down the run where the boats chose different marks at the gate. Luna Rossa the right and Oracle the left. But now Luna Rossa took a huge risk and sailed away from their opposition. For 8minutes the boats sailed away from each other before BMW Oracle on the left tack over to port. But fortunatley for Luna Rossa the breeze shifted 3 or 4 degrees to the right and they made a gain. Luna Rossa then change tactics and kept a close cover on BMW Oracle to secure the win by 23seconds.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Louis Vuitton Semi-Final - Match 3

In semi final A Desafio Espanol had a magnificent start against ETNZ. ETNZ entered from the committee boat end and both boats immediately went into a short dial up. They then peeled away on opposite tacks before coming back again into a dial up, ETNZ displaying the “Y” flag against the Spanish claiming they did not do enough to keep clear. A green flag by the umpires and ETNZ was forced to tack away onto port and were slow after such a sharp turn. The Spanish took advantage of this and went into a gybe immediately to be right on the New Zealanders stern, both boats heading toward the right hand side of the starting box. ETNZ then had a brain failure in the back of the boat and made a desperate attempt to gybe across the bow of the Spanish who immediately displayed the “Y” flag and a penalty to ETNZ was awarded by the on water umpires. ETNZ looked shaken up and Spain managed to gain the right hand end of the line at the gun and head out to the right hand side of the course with ETNZ following a few boat lengths astern and to windward. Once on the right hand side of the course, the Spanish received a nice little righty and made a gain over ETNZ rounding the top mark 14 seconds ahead. From then on the Spanish did a wonderful job to stay between their opposition and the next mark, achieving a well earned win. The final delta was of course large due to ETNZ having to complete their penalty before finishing. The series is now 2-1 in favour of ETNZ. In semi final B, the prestart was relatively subdued and each boat looked to have a different strategy for the first beat, USA starting at the pin and heading left, Luna Rossa starting at the boat and heading right. Of course the outcome was the same as in the first match of the day and Luna Rossa lead at the top mark by 29 seconds. Torben Grael had obviously learned from the previous days mistake and stayed between BMW Oracle and the next mark never really straying far away from the opposition and guess what… it worked. BMW Oracle could never find a passing lane and finished 31 seconds behind Luna Rossa. The series is now 2-1 in favour of Luna Rossa.

All four teams have a rest day on Thursday before racing again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

ITA-94 Luna Rossa cross the finish line to win match 3

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Louis Vuitton Semi Final - Match 2

BMW Oracle comeback (yet again!) to beat Luna Rossa in the second match of the semi finals. Luna Rossa's helmsman James Spithill tied BMW Oracle in knots during the prestart, so much so that Oracle was forced to do 4 down speed tacks after crossing the line before being able to split away from Luna Rossa. Both boats then took a long port tack out to the right side of the course before getting in a right hand shift. Luna Rossa lead at the top mark by 58seconds. However, BMW Oracle sailed the shifty breeze to perfection and rounded the leeward gate only 20seconds behind. On the second beat they closed so much so that they had to duck Luna Rossa two thirds up the beat. Luna Rossa immediately tried to tack onto port to cover but Oracle luffed head to wind. The two boats sat for a while before Luna Rossa was able to pull away on port over the top of Oracle to lead again at the top mark by 13 seconds. But Oracle basically sailed around Luna Rossa on the run to win by 13 seconds.

In the match between ETNZ and the Spanish, Team New Zealand were able to fend off an aggressive start by the Spanish to lead all the way. The Spanish did however keep the pressure on but the Kiwi's did a good job of staying in between their opposition and the mark. ETNZ won by 40 seconds

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Louis Vuitton Semi Final - Match 1

The first races of the semi finals were completed today in a shifty westerly breese 10-15knots. In semi-final B Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle took the prestart into the spectator fleet which limited the engagement. When they came back out into the starting box Luna Rossa was to leeward and the two boats crossed the start line about even and set off on a long starboard tack. Luna Rossa was the first to tack onto port with BMW Oracle tacking to leeward, but almost immediately Luna Rossa picked up a left hand shift and increased their gauge on BMW Oracle. Torben Grael tactician on Luna Rossa then showed the balls to tack away from his opposition into a bigger left hand shift to round the first windward mark 52 seconds ahead of BMW Oracle. To indicate how shifty it was out there the boats split on the run and by the leeward mark the boats were bow to bow with BMW Oracle gaining the starboard hand advantage and forced a brief luffing match just before the leeward gate. Luna Rossa rounded the left hand mark and BMW Oracle the right, But the left paid and Luna Rossa opened up an even bigger lead to round the second top mark 1:21 ahead of BMW Oracle. It wasn't over yet! With just 500m to go the breese started to shift sharply to the east. BMW Oracle desperately tried to get the advantage by going out to meet the new wind but only found themselves in a big hole. Luna Rossa won by 2:19, a delta not really indicating how close the match really was.

In semi final A the Spanish were aggressive in the prestart against ETNZ and it looked like Barker was on the verge of choking! But ETNZ were able to secure the right hand side at the start with precision timing. Spain managed to bounce ETNZ to the right after a few minutes, unfortunately straight into a nice right hand shift and that was basically the end of the race for the Spanish. ETNZ kept a close cover on each leg of the course always staying between the next mark and their opposition. The Spanish will no doubt throw everything at ETNZ again tomorrow.

ETNZ lead Spain