Wednesday, November 17, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing holds top spot after split with Kiwis

BMW ORACLE Racing ran its winning streak at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai to seven races before it came to a halt in a 1 second loss.

The American crew split two races with Emirates Team New Zealand on Day 4 that left both crews happy but drained after two 30-minute races on short courses with tight, physical racing.

Despite suffering its first loss in eight starts, BMW ORACLE Racing leads the standings with 7 points on a 7-1 record, good enough to assure victory in this first round of the two-week regatta with two races to sail.

“The team’s sailing well and we’re happy,” said strategist Murray Jones of New Zealand. “It would’ve been nice to beat Team New Zealand twice today, but it doesn’t always happen like that. They were good, fun races.”

In the first race, skipper James Spithill of Australia guided BMW ORACLE Racing to a 19-second win. Taking the right side of the racecourse off the start line, Spithill used his starboard-tack advantage three-quarters of the way up the beat to dial down Team New Zealand and then slam dunk the Kiwi crew, pinning them to leeward with the mark nearby.

BMW ORACLE Racing led by 9 seconds at the first and second marks, but opened a significant 21-second advantage at the second windward mark.

“We wanted to protect the right side most of the beat,” said Jones, a veteran of many close races in America’s Cup Class sloops. “The boys were tacking the boat well and towards the top we got a right-hand shift with pressure. We got that and made a little gain.”

While the first race saw the sparring partners request a flurry of penalties on their opponent at the first mark rounding, the second race was less feisty in that regard. But it hardly lacked for action, and in the end produced the closest finish of the regatta – 1 second.

Team New Zealand got the jump off the starting line, gaining the favored right side. BMW ORACLE Racing trailed at the first two mark roundings by 11 and 8 seconds, and 8 seconds beginning the .8-nautical-mile run to the finish.

“We closed it up nicely on the beat. The tacks were good and we kept grinding away. We put ourselves in position to have a chance,” said Jones.

Early on the leg tactician John Kostecki called for a jibe to starboard and halfway down the leg it looked to be a winning move.

“The pin end was favored and we were laying it,” Jones said, “but in the last two minutes we started lifting and had to put in another jibe. If that hadn’t happened, I think we would’ve got there.”

After racing, the team celebrated trimmer Ross Halcrow’s 44th birthday. Halcrow, of New Zealand, is a two-time Cup winner, with BMW ORACLE Racing last February and Team New Zealand in 1995. He has also won the Volvo Ocean Race (2001-02).

Tomorrow’s racing schedule sees BMW ORACLE Racing taking on Mascalzone Latino Audi Team of Italy, the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup. Racing isn’t scheduled to start before 12:00 pm.

Bowman Piet van Nieuwenhuyzen
Action in a crowded cockpit
Converging with Team New Zealand near the top of the second beat in Race 2
Soon after jibing to port, the finish on the horizon
A 1-second finish