Valencia, Spain. The opening round of the Louis Vuitton Cup was set alight today with a classic match race battle between two of the so-called Big Guns going all the way to the wire. BMW ORACLE Racing led the Italian Luna Rossa Challenge in a heart-stopping race all the way round the track to win by 6 seconds.
The victory over the powerful Italian team followed a more comfortable 1 minute 18 second win over the Swedish Victory Challenge team earlier in the day. Both wins left BMW ORACLE Racing alone at the top of the leaderboard, the only team undefeated as the first Round Robin reached its much-delayed halfway mark.
“That was one of the great America’s Cup boat races of all time,“ declared USA 98 navigator Peter Isler after the match against Luna Rossa Challenge. At no stage of the race were the yachts separated by more than 15 seconds. “That is how it is meant to be when two evenly matched teams meet in a classic match race,“ said Isler.
Race One summary: After an aggressive start by USA 98, the BMW ORACLE Racing team quickly established control and stretched away around the track against the Swedish Victory Challenge team. The mark rounding deltas grew from 48 seconds at the first mark to 1 minute 14 seconds at the second and 1 minute 22 seconds at the third. USA 98 crossed the finish line 1 minute 18 seconds in front.
Race Two summary: The fight went blow for blow all the way round the track with USA 98 coming off the startline with a slight advantage, holding the right hand side. USA 98 rounded the first windward mark with an 8 second advantage. At the second mark, it was just 9 seconds, as the two yachts rounded opposite sides of the leeward gate. At the third mark rounding, BMW ORACLE Racing was 15 seconds ahead and then came a major battle of nerves as the two yachts went gybe for gybe down the run. Again, the afterguard on USA 98 fiercely protected the starboard advantage and, after a 10-gybe leg, squeezed across the finish line just 6 seconds ahead of Luna Rossa Challenge.
Peter Isler quotes: “The first windward leg was an example of classic match racing. We came off the startline even, but we had the right hand side. Then we saw two even boats drag racing all the way to the port layline, with USA 98 holding position to windward of Luna Rossa. It felt great. They are a very strong team. They certainly held our attention all the way.
“The atmosphere on board USA 98 was calm and professional. We felt that everything had stepped up a notch from previous races. Our weather team did a great job and the crew on board were very smooth. We just wanted to do our job right.
“The difference in the end came down to winning the start.“
Gavin Brady, tactician, quotes “There was a lot going on at the back of the boat, that’s for sure. It was a team effort all the way. It was a slugfest all the way around the track. We needed to go out there and do our job and that is what we did.
“On the final run to the finish against Luna Rossa, we backed ourselves to defend our lead. It is sometimes hard to defend downwind in light winds, but we held on. The whole crew did a great job.“
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