Saturday, 30 June 2007

America's Cup Flight 6

It's now or never for the Kiwis as Alinghi beat Emirates Team New Zealand to take a 4-2 lead in the first to 5 series

Lightish winds set the conditions under which the 6th round of the 32nd America's Cup would be fought.

Team New Zealand took the advantage out of the start box and chose to allow Alinghi to set its own strategy; ultimately, this decision, taken within the final 5 minutes prior to the start, decided who would win out - Alinghi fought a strategically stronger race, and while Team New Zealand took chunks out of the Swiss in the race to the line, Alinghi's advantage proved too great for the challenger.

Time is running out for the Kiwis - one more win and Alinghi will have successfully defended the Cup, ensuring the 33rd America's Cup will again be fought in Europe. It may all be decided tomorrow, Sunday 1st July 2007.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Team New Zealand get seasick

America's Cup flight 5 is one Team New Zealand will probably care to forget.

Sometimes things are just all against you, and there's just nothing you can do to recover. It's not a state affairs unknown to this author, and so it was with great empathy that I followed today's race, as the word 'Spinnaker' became as unpopular on board the Kiwi vessel as a careless whistle.

Spinnaker one decided to tear. Spinnaker two was hoisted without being correctly fixed - ouch! The third twisted into an hourglass and failed to fill correctly, at least until the two other sails were cut free from the boat.

It was this event that led New Zealand to lose their lead to the first mark and allowed Alinghi past, and the Swiss were never going to relinquish their gifted advantage.

3-2 to the Swiss, but at least the Kiwis know they just need a change of luck and an absence of errors to address the issue.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Alinghi provides some answers

The Swiss draw even at 2-2

Race 4 of the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia, Spain, took place in light winds which had previously proved favourable to the New Zealand challengers. Would Alinghi suffer a hangover from yesterday's tightly fought defeat?

After a close exit from the start box, the race was cat and mouse from start to finish, with Alinghi leading all the way, though never by more than 5 or 6 boat lengths.

Following several America's Cup challenges which resulted in whitewash, the 2-2 standings are providing some much needed excitement to this year's event. The Swiss recovered well from the disappointment of yesterday's defeat, but Team New Zealand shouldn't feel too aggrieved as any mistake from Alinghi today would have seen them gain the upper hand. With a day off tomorrow, the teams will resume a best of 5 competition on Friday in what should be a highly competitive weekend.

An America's Cup classic...

In one of the greatest America's Cup clashes in recent memory, Team New Zealand staged an unbelievable comeback to pull ahead in the series, 2-1.

Weather conditions for the 3rd America's Cup race were not favourable. Shifty light winds and choppy seas forced a delay of several hours, and when racing did get underway, required great tactics and faultless operation. As it happened, both teams suffered from errors and the lead changed 3 times over the closely fought challenge. Alinghi took an 8 second advantage at the start, but Team New Zealand immediately got the advantage of shifting winds to pull ahead with a 1 minute 31 lead at the first mark. At the second Team New Zealand's race seemed all but over when a spinnaker change went disastrously wrong, and $40,000 of Nylon had to be cut with a knife. With only a 21 second deficit, Alinghi maintained speed and by the third mark they'd taken a 1 minute 17 lead and on past performance, looked set for the finish and a second win of the cup. Some poor decision making by the Swiss and a remarkable comeback by Team New Zealand saw them crossing the finish 25 seconds ahead of the defeated and deflated defenders of the cup. It might only have been a race victory, but it will be interesting to see what longer-lasting impact such a heavy defeat has on Alinghi's psyche.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The fight for the Auld Mug heats up...

The fight for the world's oldest sporting trophy, the 32nd America's Cup is well under way in Valencia, Spain.

Background: A competition between large yachts, it represents the Formula One of sailing. The competitive edge comes via technology (with boat design & equipment within highly-defined regulations playing a large part), skill, teamwork, strength, & - what makes it such a thrilling competition - tactics & cunning.

International teams capable of raising the £100-200 million required to finance a single competitive campaign cycle (so think large corporate sponsors) fight through a number of regattas for the right to be the sole challenger to the existing holder in the final (assuming they wish to defend their title). The competitive cycle runs every 2-4 years (as determined by the holder). The location of the racing is determined by the nationality of the current title holder; this time around, the title holder is Alinghi, a Swiss team, and as Switzerland is land-locked, they've chosen Spain as a near-by location.

The 32nd Competition:
The Louis Vuitton Cup to determine the challenger to the existing holder ran during May and June 2007; Last time's beaten finalist, Team New Zealand outclassed the field and set up an intriguing rematch in the America's Cup itself, against the Swiss holders, Alinghi. Last time, Alinghi beat New Zealand 5-0 in the best of 9 final; would New Zealand have learned anything over the last 4 years?

The first race was run on 23/6/07; Alinghi - racing for the first time in true America's Cup competition since 2003 - looked a class apart from their competitor as they easily beat Team New Zealand to take a 1-0 lead.

Race 2 (24/6/07) was a highly exciting tactical battle, with Team New Zealand winning out to even the score at 1-1, ensuring that the 32nd cup will be the first since the 28th that won't end as a whitewash.

Today is a rest day, with race 3 on 26/6, the 4th on 27/6, 5th on 29/6, 6th on 30/6, and if required, the 7th on 1/7, 8th on 3/7 and (perish the thought) a deciding 9th on 4/7.

There's added interest this time around, as the British concern TeamOrigin have announced their intention to compete against this year's winner for the 33rd campaign (and beyond).

It's a fringe sport, but as such it's a remarkable spectacle, and if you've never watched yachting like this before, you won't believe the work rate of the crews - it's well worth checking out. You can watch it live on Sky Sports in Europe, with further coverage on the UK's Channel 4. The official website here has live graphical and radio coverage, as well as a wealth of background information. Enjoy!