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TEAM Alinghi win first two match races

by Bernard Schopfer 10 Sep 2004 11:45 BST 9 September 2004
K Challenge vs Alinghi at the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 First Day of Match Racing © Franck Socha

For the first day of match racing in Marseilles, the Swiss won, not surprisingly, two races against the French team the Challenge, and also K-Challenge. BMW Oracle Racing, Alinghi's most serious competition, also took two wins. Overall, only two points separate Alinghi from the current leader, USA-76. To finish in the lead for Act 1, SUI-64 must now win all its matches. Tomorrow, it will relive the last America's Cup in a match which promises to be very exciting against Emirates TEAM New Zealand.

September 9, 2004 - Marseilles: In its first match race for Act 1, TEAM Alinghi met the French team, the Challenge, a team Alinghi had taken three victories from in the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2002. The French did not proceed past the quarter final repecharge, which was won by the Swiss team.

The start began with a tactical battle which turned out to be an advantage to the Swiss team. But on the first leg it was apparent that Alinghi had the upper hand, as anticipated. The gap widened and continued to extend to Alinghi's advantage as the French hoisted their spinnaker. In a poor manoeuvre, the French dropped the sail in water, losing invaluable seconds before being able to fly another. Alinghi maintained the advantage to the finish, which it crossed three minutes and 28 seconds ahead. The two matches started 10 and 20 minutes before this race saw K-Challenge win over TEAM Shosholoza and, after a tighten battle, BMW Oracle Racing took a win over Emirates TEAM New Zealand.

For the second series in today's match racing, the breeze was at 10 knots and conditions on the course choppy due to the spectator fleet. SUI-64 went up against the French K-Challenge in the second race, a new challenger for the America' s Cup. The five minutes prior to the start determined this race. The two boats engaged in a dial-up very quickly, the phase during which each goes head to wind, waiting for each other to make a move, looking for control.

Alinghi, while they did not have the advantage at the start, were able to control K-Challenge. Postioned poorly, the French had to tack away, followed closely by Alinghi who were not going to let go of any control to the French team. Peter Holmberg, made the most of this tactical blow to the French. At the gun, SUI-64 managed to close the door on the French who, sandwiched between Alinghi and the committee boat, had nowhere to go on the line. K-Challenge had to tack, regain speed and return to cross the start.

This was an expensive error for the French as they rounded the first mark one minute behind Alinghi. The remainder of this match was a similar scenario to today's first match for the Swiss. Throughout both races Alinghi was always in the lead, taking its second match for the day with a 1:01 minute advantage. In the other matches today, the Challenge put on a beautiful performance against overall leader BMW Oracle Racing, leading up the first leg but eventually bowing out to the Americans. Emirates TEAM New Zealand won without much difficulty against TEAM Shosholoza. This first day of match racing confirms the domination of two teams BMW Oracle Racing and TEAM Alinghi, which have today both won all their races. Tomorrow, SUI-64 will go up against Emirates TEAM New Zealand, its adversary of the last America' S Cup, in a race which promises to be enthralling…then Team Shosholoza. All results on www.alinghi.com

Overall results:
1st, BMW Racing Oracle 34 points;
2nd, Alinghi 32 points;
3rd, Emirates TEAM New Zealand 24 points;
4th, K-Challenge 17 points;
5th, TEAM Shosholoza 8 points; 6th, the Challenge 5 points.

Quotes of the day
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Peter Holmberg, skipper TEAM Alinghi: The start against K-Challenge was easy for us. We were very quickly in a strong position which helped us be in a place of control. They couldn't tack or jibe. We succeeded in getting them tight up against the committee boat, crossing with a 32 second advantage at which time the fate of the race was almost determined. Against the Challenge, we encountered more difficulties. We initially controlled them, then they succeeded in getting away from us and gaining control. I had to respond aggressively for us to get out from under them and we made our start on the favored side.

Jochen Schuemann, strategist TEAM Alinghi: When we are moving fast, we want to gain without taking risks. We try to carry out clean manoeuvres and be prepared for any possible one. We try to minimize the amount of tacking so not to damage the sails. One thing is for sure and that is that we don't slow down the speed!

Yves Detrey, pitman for TEAM Alinghi and observer today: The first match races for Act 1 are being raced on a course that is different to the usual America's Cup course. The windward mark is a gate, i.e. two buoys. At the end of the downwind leg, the boats have the choice to round one or the other before going for the closest. Contrary to a single buoy, the gate has the advantage of opening the tactical options. The two buoys can, indeed, shift slightly in the wind. It is also possible that the mark which seems to be most advantageous is actually the side where there is less wind. That opens up the game and creates new possibilities.