Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing looks to semifinals at Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai

BMW ORACLE Racing, led by its 31-year-old skipper James Spithill of Australia, advanced to the semifinal round of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai as the top-ranked team with 17 points on a 13-2 record.

The American team wrapped its account of the round robin series with a 51-second victory over Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup.

By winning the round robin BMW ORACLE Racing earned the right to choose its opponent when the next round begins on Friday.

“It feels like we’re sailing like a proper race team again,” said Dirk de Ridder of The Netherlands, who trimmed the wingsail for BMW ORACLE Racing in its victory in the 33rd America’s Cup. “We were a bit rusty, so to speak.”

Spithill has done a masterful job in the pre-starts, the afterguard of John Kostecki, Murray Jones and Ian Moore has made sound calls on the racecourse, and the crew has performed cleanly in all maneuvers.

Credit goes to the crew and coaches Philippe Presti and Dean Phipps for breaking down every position and rebuilding it with confidence.

“Everyone has stepped up enormously,” de Ridder said. “We’ve put quite a bit of effort into the RC44s and the SM40s in Valencia, and it’s paying off. It feels really good to be back on again.”

Today’s race, however, might’ve been won yesterday when Mascalzone Latino scored two victories and moved up the leaderboard into third place, nearly guaranteeing itself a spot the semifinals. The only thing that could’ve prevented the Italians from advancing was penalty points from the umpires, and they sailed knowing that consequence.

Although determined to avoid close-quarters situation, Mascalzone was penalized during the pre-start sequence when it got too close to BMW ORACLE Racing, on starboard tack, while backing down.

“We couldn’t afford hard contact,” said Mascalzone tactician Morgan Larson. “Hard contact for us would’ve meant a loss of points and we wouldn’t have advanced to the semifinals. We’re already in the semifinals, so when we saw they were being aggressive we backed off and handed it to them.”

Joining BMW ORACLE in the semifinals are Emirates Team New Zealand, Mascalzone Latino Audio Team and All4One, the combined French/German team.

Tomorrow is a scheduled lay day at the regatta that runs through Saturday. Thursday’s schedule calls for fleet racing before the semifinals on Friday. Semifinal picks must be made by Thursday night, but there’s no indication from the crew as to their preference.

“That’s up to the chiefs,” said de Ridder.

Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai Standings
1. BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) James Spithill – 17 points (13-2)
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker – 12.5 points (9-6)*
3. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team (ITA) Gavin Brady – 8 points (6-9)*
4. All4One (FRA/GER) Sebastien Col – 8 points (6-9)
5. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS) Francesco Bruni – 6 points (6-9)*
6. Artemis Racing (SWE) Cameron Appleton – 5 points (5-10)
(* Points deducted for collision)

Trimmer Joey Newton and mastman Shannon Falcone
The orange and red Y flag was flown frequently in the pre-start
There it is again
A close situation
At the start, BMW ORACLE Racing has the pin end

Approaching the windward mark, BMW ORACLE Racing is clear in the lead