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Moët Cup Match Racing in San Francisco Day 1

by Magnus Wheatley & Moët Cup Media Centre 16 Sep 2003 07:58 BST
America's Cup holders Alinghi and Challenger of Record Oracle BMW Racing battle off Alcatraz Island in the Moët Cup © Bob Grieser

Report from Magnus Wheatley

Never let it be said ever again that sailing America’s Cup boats is boring. The billionaires Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison are staging one of the greatest regattas on the planet with a showpiece event on San Francisco Bay. If the America’s Cup comes even close to this then Europe is in for a real festival of sailing in 2007! Seeing two powerhouse yachts hammering tack after tack just metres off the shoreline has to be one of the wonders of the world. Throw in the backdrops of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Fisherman’s Wharf and you’ve got a spectacle unrivalled anywhere in world sailing. It is quite simply spectacular and for once the billionaires have got it so right, it’s glorious to watch.

With the winds duly obliging today on the first day of the regatta, spectators were treated to two races that saw the billionaires race (Larry Vs Ernesto) and then a fully pro regatta where Jochen Schuemann took on Gavin Brady for early bragging rights as to their current form. The pros didn’t disappoint with an awesome pre-start and a tacking duel that if SKY ever broadcasts, is one not to miss. Both crews were operating on the outer limits as the wind blew in at a steady 22 knots and remarkably there were very few sail-handling errors. Oracle still seemed to be suffering from a lack of speed out of the tacks but this looked more like inexperience on Gavin Brady’s part than on any fundamental boatspeed issue. Chris Dickson summed it up by saying that his team had “a 95% day rather than a 99% one.” Interesting as it looked more like a 75% when the pressure came on and the East German Iceman Schuemann applied the pressure and won the race by 26 seconds!

Larry Ellison did the business in the first race of the day, comprehensibly beating Ernesto Bertarelli after pulling a classic match race move at the first leeward mark and sailing the Swiss maestro three to four boatlengths past the mark before doubling back and extending to a four length lead. That’s one for the scrap-book for Larry but the Alinghi team, who have curiously cast themselves as the underdogs for this regatta, will be back with vengeance tomorrow and I expect the owner/driver series to produce fireworks as the week continues.

One notable absentee though is Russell Coutts. Officially the Alinghi team are ‘building for the future’ and want to create two teams capable of competing. Oh please! Pull the other one it’s got bells on. That’s not what this show-piece event is about and Coutts should be here. Whatever internal wranglings or power plays are going on within Alinghi are only detracting from what is a fantastic event and Mr America’s Cup is a glaring omission from the Alinghi team who despite winning one race just don’t seem the same without those piercing dead shark-eyes and iron will. I might just have to start a rumour that Coutts is going to Oracle and that Larry is pulling an Abramovich-style transfer move….Stranger things have happened in the America’s Cup! Stay tuned.

Report from the Moët Cup Media Centre

In front of a spectator fleet of close to 100 boats, and with a sizeable crowd lining the shore and filling the VIP tents, America’s Cup holder ALINGHI and Challenger of Record ORACLE BMW Racing staged a match racing clinic on San Francisco Bay Monday afternoon (local time).

With Alcatraz Island looming in the background, the two teams dueled in 20-knots of wind, battling for the MOËT CUP.

The event promised exciting, short course racing, close to land, and in full view of the spectators. Monday’s action delivered on that promise, with close, intense racing, and highlight reel match-race maneuvers.

In the first race of the day, Larry Ellison gained a measure of revenge for the Louis Vuitton Cup Final. Ellison was at the helm of his ORACLE BMW Racing boat (USA-76) to beat Ernesto Bertarelli on ALINGHI (SUI-64), in the first race of the MOËT CUP. With the win, Ellison jumps ahead 1 – 0 in the Owner – Driver series.

For the second race, the Pro-Drivers took the helm and Jochen Schuemann demonstrated immediately why he has three Olympic medals to his credit. After a relatively mild pre-start dance, ALINGHI came off the line flying, hitting top speed, and crossing the start line just as the gun fired.

ORACLE BMW Racing helmsman Gavin Brady appeared happy with his start to leeward of ALINGHI and the teams began short tacking up the San Francisco shoreline, with Brady pushed right in along Fisherman’s Wharf and the Aquatic Centre.

The teams switched sides approaching the top mark, and with Brady in a powerful position on the right, the USA-76 helmsman simply ran out of room, the shoreline forcing him to tack before the port tack layline. Otherwise he surely would have led SUI-64 into the weather mark. In the event, the teams dueled just to leeward of the mark, with both boats held up in irons, before Schuemann was able to quickly fall back onto starboard tack before tacking around the mark with a 10-second lead.

ALINGHI was fast downwind all day, and this race was no exception with the Swiss extending to a 14-second lead. The second lap of the course changed nothing, and Schuemann earned his first win as skipper of SUI-64. The ALINGHI team takes a 1 – 0 lead in the Pro-Driver series, with the 26-second victory.

Earlier in the afternoon, in the first race of the day, Ellison established control early, entering from the starboard side of the line, dialing-up against ALINGHI, and holding position as the boats drifted upwind of the starting line. The long days of practice that Ellison has put in over the past month paid immediate dividends, as the American looked sharp leading back to the line and winning the start.

Bertarelli was hung up on the windward side of the start line with what appeared to be an override on the on the backstay, preventing the mainsail from being eased to allow the boat to bear off for the correct side of the start line. ALINGHI was stalled in irons, just before the start, with seconds ticking away towards the start gun.

The ORACLE BMW Racing team converted that start line lead into a controlling position up the entire weather leg. Bertarelli tried to make a gain by sailing up the shore line, out of the contrary current, but Ellison held on to lead by 22-seconds around the top mark.

ALINGHI made a nice gain downwind, eventually securing an inside position sailing deep on starboard tack in towards the leeward mark, but again, Ellison was ready. The ORACLE BMW Racing team luffed ALINGHI several boat lengths past the leeward mark, before gybing back for the mark. ALINGHI was flagging the Umpires for a penalty on USA-76, but in vain, as the Umpires ruled there was no foul. Bertarelli was forced to tack around to make the mark and trailed by 25-seconds as USA-76 accelerated off ahead of him.

On the second lap of the course, USA-76 maintained its lead, with Bertarelli again looking fast downwind. But the race would belong to Larry Ellison, who draws first blood in the MOËT CUP with a 27-second win. Racing continues in the MOËT CUP on Tuesday.

Quotes of the Day:

Larry Ellison (ORACLE BMW Racing) on winning his first America’s Cup Class race as skipper:

Winning is certainly better than losing, but the quality of racing, I think, was just spectacular today. The racing was incredibly close – there was lots of action around the marks maybe more action than we would have liked!

Larry Ellison on ‘beating’ ALINGHI:

We haven’t beaten ALINGHI. This is just the first day of a 12-race regatta. (The scoreline) is one – one. It’s great to be part of sailing that’s this close and this competitive where the tactics and maneuvers around the mark are so exciting for the sailors and for the viewers. We haven’t beaten ALINGHI yet. We hope to be competitive and we’re going to work very hard to try and beat ALINGHI but that remains to be seen.

Jochen Schuemann (ALINGHI) on having to give ‘sea-room’ when the boats tack up the shoreline:

For America’s Cup boats it’s not usual but in other match races it does happen often and we agreed from the beginning, because we don’t want to risk any of our boats, that whenever the inner boat asks for water, we will give it and we did. There was no problem at all and it all worked very safely.

John Kostecki (ORACLE BMW Racing) on his ‘home-court’ advantage:

Yeah, we think we have an advantage. It’s great having grown up here and having sailed many miles here between Larry and myself I think we have a good understanding of the Bay and we’re contributing to the afterguard that way and hopefully that’s a little edge we have.

Simon Daubney (ALINGHI) on the gains that his team made downwind:

I think in that first race that we were just getting the puffs a little before ORACLE BMW and we were able to put the pole back and sail a little bit deeper.

Chris Dickson (ORACLE BMW Racing) on his team’s performance in the second race:

We had more bad tacks than we would have liked this afternoon and we had a couple of small pieces of equipment on the boat that weren’t working as we would have liked…We all get used to seeing these boats work perfectly and the reality is that there’s a huge amount of crew co-ordination needed to sail these boats at a top level. Usually the guys make it look a lot easier than it really is. Today we had a 95% day on some issues instead of 99%.

Ellen MacArthur, on her experience sailing as a guest on ORACLE BMW Racing:

I learned that you can’t sail an America’s Cup Class boat by yourself…there’s such a number of people working so hard. The race actually takes a long time but it goes just like that on the boat because everyone is so busy every second. It just shows how important the training is and how much time on the water you really need. That was the most impressive thing.

Moët & Chandon is the official sponsor of the MOËT CUP. Event partners include Oracle Corporation, BMW, Hewlett-Packard, and TAG Heuer. The Media Center is managed by the Louis Vuitton Cup team. Hewlett-Packard is the technology partner of the Moët Cup Media Center. The Golden Gate Yacht Club in partnership with the Treasure Island Sailing Center will run the MOËT CUP on-the-water Race Committee.

Information about the MOËT CUP and race results and updates during the event can be found by visiting the Golden Gate Yacht Club web site at www.ggyc.com.

Report from Team Alinghi

THE RIVALRY CONTINUES ON SAN FRANCISCO BAY

San Francisco was treated to a spectacle today as Team Alinghi, winners of the America’s Cup 2003 and Oracle BMW Racing, finalists in the Louis Vuitton Cup 2003, met for Day 1 of the Moët Cup match racing series. Many spectators and spectator boats took to the water, lining up along the San Francisco city front to catch a birds eye view of top-level America’s Cup Class racing.

Racing got underway just after 1:30pm in a stiff 16 knots of breeze that filled in to a steady 20 knots throughout the afternoon. To compensate for the shorter course, each team raced with 18 crew.

While local knowledge and tight crew work after many weeks of training favored Oracle, the crew on board SUI-64 quickly fell into pace with the infamous currents and tides of San Francisco Bay. Strong flood tide conditions prevailed forcing the boats to take advantage of the relief provided by Alcatraz Island and on the city front shore. Conditions were less one-sided in Race 2 but challenging nonetheless with an early ebb tide to watch.

Race One

Owner/driver series: Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison took the helms of SUI-64 and USA-76 respectively. With starboard advantage and a clean approach to the line, Oracle crossed ahead of Alinghi who suffered a twist in the runner in the final minute before the start, forcing them to tack back and lose time approaching the line. Both boats headed off on port tack toward Alcatraz for relief from the notorious currents caused by the flood tide heading into the Bay before reaching back across to the city front to find relief along the shore. The boats remained close throughout the race however Oracle had the edge from the outset and maintained control throughout to win by 27 seconds.

Race Two

Pro driver series: An aggressive start by both teams saw Alinghi with starboard advantage hit the start line on pace with Jochen Schuemann behind the helm. SUI-64 reached off to an early lead that the team maintained throughout the race. The first beat was a drag race to the city front shore with the two teams neck and neck, giving the crowds on the shoreline an exciting tacking duel to enjoy. Focusing on the tactics required to overcome the challenging currents, the race was a show of precision and timing by Alinghi as the team worked hard to prevent Oracle from getting to the right and favored side throughout the race. Alinghi crossed the finish 26 seconds ahead of rival Oracle.

Quotes:

Nils Frei, trimmer: “It was challenging doing maneuvers in twenty knots of breeze, making sure it was safe for the guys and not taking on too risky maneuvers. The jib and spinnaker drops were critical because the course is so much shorter.”

Murray Jones, strategist: “The short course, twenty knots of breeze and coming into the roundings with the current running with you made it tricky out there today. We had to make sure to get into the right position behind Alcatraz and again on the shore to minimize the effects of the current.”

Pro Race
Alinghi: 1 – Oracle: 0 Delta: 26 seconds

Owner – Driver Race
Alinghi: 0 – Oracle: 1 Delta 27 seconds

More Information:

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