Thursday, August 5, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing upholds tradition around Isle of Wight

In a race today marked with penalties, blown sails and broken equipment, BMW ORACLE Racing defeated TEAMORIGIN around the Isle of Wight by 1 minute and 55 seconds to win the Trafalgar Cup.

The race re-enacted the famous race of 1851 that gave rise to the legend of the America’s Cup. Instead of a wooden schooner from America racing 14 British yachts, two America’s Cup Class sloops constructed of carbon-fiber sailed the 53-nautical-mile course. But the outcome was similar: an American yacht won.

“It was a fantastic day to go around the island. It was a lot more exciting than I thought it would be,” said James Spithill, skipper of BMW ORACLE Racing. “Thanks to TEAMORIGIN. They put up a good battle on the water and we enjoyed every minute of it.”

TEAMORIGIN skipper Ben Ainslie said, “We started battling about 10 minutes before the start gun and then were overlapped for about an hour and a half. They sailed a great race, congratulations.”

With the wind blowing from the northwest, the two crews were set up for an off-the-wind start on the clockwise course around the island. But in pre-start maneuvers TEAMORIGIN was penalized for being a port tack yacht and not keeping clear.

With the race underway, the two yachts were tight reaching with giant asymmetric spinnakers, heeling at great angles in the waters churned frothy by a large spectator fleet trying to keep pace at 10 to 12 knots.

About 25 minutes into the race the two crews were off Ryde and on starboard jibe, with TEAMORIGIN only slightly ahead of BMW ORACLE Racing. Then the real fun started.

Spithill jibed away to port and Ainslie followed. With the wind now coming over the left side of the yachts, BMW ORACLE Racing was leading when TEAMORIGIN got a slight overlap to leeward. The rules for the race allowed for quick luffs in such a scenario, and Ainslie took advantage.

TEAMORIGIN luffed BMW ORACLE Racing but took the American yacht too far into the wind, for which it earned a second penalty. TEAMORIGIN had to immediately perform one if its 270-degree penalty turns and that allowed BMW ORACLE Racing to regain the lead.

TEAMORIGIN regrouped quickly and moments later luffed again in another situation. Each crew was trying to get to the Nab Light Buoy first, because from there the course hardened up into the wind. Once on the wind, the trailing boat would be at a disadvantage.

As the crews went around No Man’s Land Fort TEAMORIGIN held the lead, but as the crew doused the spinnaker it fell into the water and parts of it became wrapped around the keel. A TEAMORIGIN crewman went overboard to clear the entanglement and BMW ORACLE Racing opened a lead that it would not relinquish.

“It was full on action from 10 minutes to the start,” said Shannon Falcone, mastman for BMW ORACLE Racing. “It couldn’t have been a better spectacle going down the Solent. We broke two jockey poles in those luffing matches.”

The race was part of The 1851 Cup, a match racing regatta between the two teams. Although today’s race doesn’t count in the standings, it will serve as a tiebreaker in the event the teams finish tied on points.

Racing for The 1851 Cup resumes tomorrow with three races planned on the Solent. Each race is worth 3 points per victory. TEAMORIGIN leads the series 4-1.