The art of duel in Class America

09/2004 –

The result of Louis Vuitton Act I held in Marseilles proves to be in conformity with the forecasts: BMW Oracle Racing justified its place of favourite by gaining the first pre-regatta of this 32nd America’s Cup new formula.

The magic of the sail and of these boats – of which design is a true concentrate of technology – operated on the public in Marseilles throughout the second session devoted to the duels. With the difference of the fleet regattas of the beginning of session, the match racing competition relates to only two sailing ships and shows some specificities.The starting procedure is crucial here, as well as the tactics; it is important to be well positioned on the favourable part of the navigation area and to prevent the challenger from reaching it first. The crews must thus show dexterity and reactivity at the time of the operations and sometimes “muscular” contacts. For this reason, the 6 syndicates did not have the same chances. Some profited from high level experiment and human skills whereas others were testing for the first time at this singular fight.

The results of the first duels of September 9th thus have surprised nobody. Under ideal conditions of navigation with a wind ranging between 10 and 15 knots, the large teams were pitiless towards the featherweights of the competition. As of this day, BMW Oracle and Alinghi consolidated their supremacy on the general classification. The French K-Challenge nearly compromised their chances in front of Shosholoza by missing their starting but the South-Africans let go their spi to water at the passage of a buoy before being inclined. The match of the day relative to the first confrontation between BMW Oracle and TEAM New Zealand gave beautiful series of duels. While asserting itself on semi-course, the American crew gained a race with a spectacular final. The good surprise came from the Défi, the departure of which has surprised Bertrand Pacé before the logic was respected.

September 10th was marked by the revenge of the 2003 edition between Emirates TEAM New Zealand and Alinghi. By this victory, the New Zealanders have token off chances of final triumph in Marseilles to the defender. Thanks to a judicious tactic and a beautiful speed, TEAM New Zealand well managed the genoa problem of the Swiss team at the beginning of the race and won a particularly powerful boat. During this time, BMW Oracle did a perfect race and secured the first place of the classification even before the duel with Alinghi took place. Bertrand Pacé, second man at the wheel of Oracle and previously member of the TEAM New Zealand, concluded in race end: “I need to thank my former team-members”.

The match race serie finished on a last charismatic victory of Alinghi over the American boat. The Swiss challenge, competitive at the beginning of this Act I, certainly showed its limits in front of the over-trained crew of Oracle, but made a point of honour to ensure the spectacle on the last day. It appeared indeed essential to beat the favourite after the failure face to TEAM New Zealand like the winchor Nicolas Texier confirmed: “Psychologically it was very important to gain this last regatta”.

The final classification of the Act I of the America’s Cup confirms the quality of work of the BMW Oracle syndicate. Alinghi, defended its position until the end and inherited the second place. The reorganization of TEAM New Zealand by Grant Dalton seems to have been profitable, in spite of a third place, the syndicate found the rhythm of a winning challenger. Behind these three big ones only separated by some points, the Défi won two duels with a boat unutilised for two years and a new team spirit. After the repeated damages that occurred during the fleet regattas, hope reappeared for a crew eager to testify to his competitiveness in front of the investors. Equal in points with the Défi, K-Challenge began its training and left a beautiful impression after its last duel with TEAM New Zealand. For their entry in the circuit, the men of Shosholoza captivated by their enthusiasm; a beautiful elbow-room is offered to them.

The appointment is now fixed to Valencia next October the 5th. However, the violent storm that felt down on Marseilles Sunday morning seriously damaged Class America Oracle, Alinghi and TEAM New Zealand. While falling of its cradle, the New Zealand boat bored its hull and could withdraw from the regattas of Act II.

– AM –

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