Monday, November 22, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing clinches round robin at Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai

BMW ORACLE Racing clinched the top spot in the double round robin of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai with a victory today over Emirates Team New Zealand.

Led by Australian skipper James Spithill, BMW ORACLE Racing defeated the Kiwi crew by 25 seconds. The win improved BMW ORACLE’s record to 12-2, good for 15 points and an unassailable position atop the leaderboard.

“The mood’s great,” said runners/pit man and crew coach Dean Phipps. “We’ve worked hard for the past week and everything’s fallen into place as far as the crew goes. We’ve made some nice strides forward.”

Sailing in a light northerly wind, the pre-start action was relatively tame. Both crews are experienced and knew that keeping momentum after breaking off the dial-up was key.

BMW ORACLE tactician John Kostecki called for the right side of the start and Spithill obliged, bringing his crew onto the racecourse on starboard tack with Team New Zealand to leeward.

Both boats soon tacked to port and stretched out to the right edge of the racecourse. BMW ORACLE tacked to starboard and was able to force Team New Zealand to tack to leeward. The American yacht rounded the windward mark with a 10-second advantage.

“One stage halfway across it looked a little marginal,” said Phipps. “But Murray (Jones, strategist) was calling the breeze to go right and it came just in time. A bit earlier would’ve been nicer, but we took it as it came and we crossed nicely ahead of them.”

The two crews traded jibes down the run and BMW ORACLE set up for a port rounding through the leeward gate. Team New Zealand followed but lost control of the spinnaker takedown. The sail fell in the water and the crew had to cut the halyard away.

“We made a nice powerful rounding for the left hand gate and they got into what we call ‘no man’s land,’” said Phipps. “When you get into that place, which side the sail comes down becomes an issue for the foredeck crew. It didn’t look like they had a takedown string setup, and from there it just snowballs. The only way to get rid of it is to cut the halyard and let it all go.”

Riding aboard BMW ORACLE Racing today as 18th person was Christine Belanger (right), the Louis Vuitton representative who has helped organize the Louis Vuitton Trophy events with the World Sailing Teams Association.

“Today is a special day,” said Belanger. “It’s a great experience, one I’ve been lucky to do many times. The event here in Dubai is special because it’s the final event of the Louis Vuitton Trophy. It’s one page in the history of the trophy which comes to an end, so it’s very emotional.”

Tomorrow BMW ORACLE Racing concludes the round robin with a race against Mascalzone Latino Audi Team. The semifinals are slated to start on Friday, and the American crew will have the right to choose its opponent by winning the round robin.

Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai Standings
1. BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) James Spithill – 15 points (12-2)
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker – 8.5 points (7-6)*
3. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team (ITA) Gavin Brady – 8 points (6-7)*
4. All4One (FRA/GER) Sebastien Col – 6 points (5-7)
4. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS) Francesco Bruni – 6 points (6-7)*
6. Artemis Racing (SWE) Cameron Appleton – 5 points (5-8)
(* Points deducted for collision)

The dial-up
Up the first beat on port tack
Now on starboard
Down the run
Coming out of the leeward gate
Team New Zealand with a man aloft to cut the spinnaker halyard