Kiwis rally for thriller finish to Americas Cup rally
27 June 2007, VALENCIA - In a classic duel on high seas, the challenger from New Zealand prevailed in a race with eight lead changes to beat defending champion Alinghi and pull ahead 2-1 in the America's Cup.
27 June 2007
VALENCIA - In a classic duel on high seas, the challenger from New Zealand prevailed in a race with eight lead changes to beat defending champion Alinghi and pull ahead 2-1 in the America's Cup.
Emirates Team New Zealand, which nearly had a crew member fall overboard, won a bow-to-bow battle to the finish for a 25-second win in the best-of-nine series.
After the race was delayed for nearly two hours because of the shifting winds, Alinghi owner and afterguard member Ernesto Bertarelli said organizers should have postponed it until Wednesday.
"I don't think the wind should decide the regatta, the competitors should decide the race on their ability," Bertarelli said after the defeat. "I think we raced really well, we were just a bit unlucky."
New Zealand conceded the early lead to guard its right hand advantage in the blistery conditions. The move paid off as the Kiwis took a 300-meter lead up the first upwind lap. But a poor spinnaker set around the second marker almost threw bowman Richard Meacham over the side and allowed the Swiss back into the race up the third leg.
Alinghi's faster boat gained on the Kiwis to round the final marker by a boat-length. But the Kiwis split to the left behind a stronger breeze, and the lead changed three times over the final run before the NZL-92 boat earned a hard-fought victory that handed Alinghi its first deficit in America's Cup racing.
The fourth race for the Auld Mug, international sport's oldest trophy, is scheduled for Wednesday.
Wind blew in all directions across the course, generating large swells and testing both teams' decision-making.
"It was a little bit like Las Vegas and that is why the race shouldn't have happened," Bertarelli said. "Now the result's here and we take it. Now we're looking forward to tomorrow."
Kiwi strategist Ray Davies also used a gambling analogy to describe it.
"When the breeze starts dropping and those big waves come in all around, it's difficult to start attacking. It's certainly like dice rolling," Davies said.
After its quick start, the Swiss team sped out on the left but came back too late to keep the Kiwis from getting away. The SUI-100 yacht crashed through the whitecaps _ even dipping under them _ while the Kiwis bobbed up the right, easily slicing through the rising swell with enough pace to make the first cross.
The Kiwis raced around the first marker and past its opponent _ who were still going the other way _ with a lead of 1 minute, 23 seconds.
Alinghi sent 49-year-old Murray Jones up the rig to scope out the weather ahead, just as the Kiwis had traveler Adam Beashel up his own mast for most of the two downwind laps.
The increased pressure showed as Meacham clung to the ropes to keep from falling off the bow as the NZL-92 rounded the second marker. That distracted the crew and caused the sloppy jib takedown as a sudden gust came in, and the Kiwis' kite was soon tangled up.
As New Zealand struggled to wind the sheet in, Alinghi moved within three boat-lengths before eventually moving higher on the left and in the lead further up. Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker steered his boat straight at Alinghi counterpart Ed Baird but Alinghi was ahead by 15 seconds around the final marker.
Hoping to use its superior boat speed to hold on to the lead, Alinghi went right and tried to avoid any unnecessary gybes, but the yacht was late in coming back. When it did, an untidy gybe cost the Swiss, which have now matched its loss tally from the whole of the last America's Cup challengers series.
"The breeze was shifting a bit for us but nothing like it was for New Zealand," Alinghi runner Rodney Ardern said. "We were looking for a place to go back but it just didn't come for us."
[Copyright AP with Expatica]
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