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(C)update: Race 2 proves interesting
The 2nd race of the 2nd round robin provided some of the most interesting and insightful racing we have seen off Auckland New Zealand.
Two of the races were quite typical of the racing so far. This is to say the winners were as expected and the margin comfortable. One such typical race was Young America's 1' 23" win over the Spanish Challenge. Young America sailed past the Spanish upwind and rolled from there. Another as expected contest was the French over the Australians. Although the Young Australia team now sails a better boat they were beaten by France sailing a 1999 design by 1' 43'.
Another race again hinged on reliability. That races are won and lost by boats unable to compete or to finish is actually another typical aspect of this Cup. The race in question matched 1st place Prada against 4th place Nippon. Nippon won the start and seemed to have the race in control. However, as they rounded a leeward mark and went on the wind the clew ring of their mainsail failed. Without control of the mainsail, Nippon DNF'd.
This is the 3rd time Prada has triumphed due to an opponent's breakdown. This is also the 3rd time they were trailing when the breakdown occurred. One could look at this and say some of Prada's first place is built on luck. An opposing view might say that sailing is a simple game, and one of the elementary areas to master is having a reliable enough boat to finish in the conditions presented. Enough problems have occurred to think that at least for now Prada's extra development time has made their boats more reliable and that they deserve first place as seamanlike relability is nothing to be ashamed of.
One theme that has not been typical of the racing has been upsets. The chalk has held in most cases.
Monday saw two races that were true upsets. One upset occurred in a battle between teams whose home port is San Francisco. America One was over early at the start. According to Paul Cayard who drove USA 49 over early the onboard timer hit zero, but the gun did not sound for 2 seconds. Cayard described the incident: "We had a mistiming, obviously, at the start. We were off by two seconds on our start compared to the committee boat. It was a bad mistake." This is the latest in a series of starting errors by America One. America True capitalized and added a total of 63 seconds on the upwind legs, while losing 13 seconds sailing the runs. At race end the delta was 1' 29".
Another race in the category of upset is the Swiss Fast 2000 team's first victory. The Swiss performed a simple Vanderbilt start and outsailed Abracadabra 2000 on the first leg. Troubles rounding marks kept the race somewhat close. As the final upwind began Abracadabra's mainsail failed, and for certain the Swiss had a win and 4 point in the standings. Throughout the race which began in 12-15 knot winds which later climbed to 22 knots the Swiss boat had a straight line speed advantage. The growing importance of each race is illustrated by the fact that the Swiss teams lone win has now pulled them level with Abracadabra in the standings table.
Monday's racing produced a pair of upsets and a reminder that the teams are still struggling just to finish. The challengers have a long way to go in many areas.
(C)update: Monday 15 November
Results of Race 7 of Round 2 are as follows:
Races again featured the lite stuff. The key to many a race was control of the left side. For instance Prada got the left at the start and held America One in check. America True's Dawn Riley commented on the left handedness of the race course: "It wasn't just one big shift but oscillations of about 10 degrees, back and forth. The lefties had more pressure, and we seemed to gain on every one of those." This is not to say that the left side call was a no brainer. Stars and Stripes Ken Read had the right side in mind saying: "We wanted the right; we won the right on the starting line; we took the right and we were wrong!"
Updated Standings: Table
Schedule for Race 8 is as follows:
Round Robin 2 Standings through races of Saturday 13 November
Magnen wins Mini
Sebastian Magnen arrived in Guadeloupe Saturday evening. Despite being dismasted Magnen arrived in time to win the Mini Transat for the 2nd time in a row. His winning margin was on the order of 10 hours. This was the 12th edition of the race.
Magnen's dismasting came courtesy of a fierce tropical rain storm. He described the incident: "I go for cover, free everything off, I cannot hold the helm, I am on a huge surf and in less than a minute everything on the boat is broken!"
3 of the overall top 5 boats were dismasted but managed to hold their position. Finishing 4th on Leg 2, but 2nd overall was Pierre Yves Moreau. 3rd overall and the first non French finisher was New Zealand's Chris Sayer who took 7th on Leg 2 and was dismasted. 6 hours further back was Leg 2 winner Erwin Tabarly. 5th in the overall standings was Alex Bennett. Bennett was 8th on Leg 2. Next up for Alex is a berth as a crewmember on Pete Goss' The Race entry Team Phillips.
That several non French sailors were near the top shows that French domination of extreme singlehanded racing is at least starting to be contested. Increased competiion from the Mini Transat on up to the Vendee Globe should continue to make this one of the most compelling aspects of sailing.