They say that the measure of a good team is not by how much it wins, but how well it copes when things start going wrong. Well, on the fourth day of Louis Vuitton Act 13 in the America's Cup, we saw both sides of Alinghi yesterday - dominant from start to finish in the first race, and then somewhat error-prone in the second race but still able to salvage a third place despite a poor start and a penalty turn later in the race.
The signs are ominous for the challengers, as Alinghi looks the match of anything the other teams can throw at them. BMW Oracle's crew work has looked impeccable up until recently, with the broken spinnaker pole an understandable error, and a big wave washing across the bow yesterday causing the headsail to be ripped out of its feeder and damaging the headsail foil. Sailing upwind without a jib is never a good look, but all the more surprising for the fact that it was the usually very slick Americans who found themselves in this position.
Tactician Gavin Brady was philosophical about the mishap. "That is one of the things that can happen in fleet racing, where you get a lot of boats coming into the mark at the same time. It generates waves coming in from all different directions. We nearly lost two of our guys overboard. I was surprised they managed to stay on the boat. It was pretty impressive."
Brady remains upbeat about the performance of USA 87, which after all is probably to be considered the team's second boat after USA 98. "It was the first time we saw these yachts sailing in real waves. Our performance was as expected. We are definitely one of the stronger teams in a breeze. We know that our boat is quick enough that if you get into trouble, you can get back into the race."
Head of Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton, was pleased to notch up a first victory for the Kiwis, but he rated the speed of the Italian teams highly. "We were very impressed today with the speed shown by Luna Rossa and Mascalzone Latino. They had a really good day. Alinghi continues to impress. The boat is fast and the crew is very polished."
Alinghi pitman Josh Belsky puts their success down to good boat speed but above all some great decision making by the brains at the back. "It’s a lot easier on you if you can get off the starting line in the front row. In the first race we got away cleanly, Brad [Butterworth] picked the shifts right and did a great job in getting us out in front. Once you get out in front in this class you’re off.
"In the second race we made it harder on ourselves but we were able to scratch our way back on the first beat. We had our hands full during the whole race but it felt like the boat was going well. I can’t say enough about what a good job the afterguard did in picking our way back into it."