Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Big Teams get off the Hook

Big news today was Spain earning a Semi Final spot in the Louis Vuitton Cup, even if they did lose to BMW Oracle. In the other matches there were some real upsets in the starts, although by the finish all the big teams had ground down the opposition to keep a clean sheet.

Jes Gram-Hansen (pictured above) made amends for his hiccup against BMW Oracle yesterday with an epic pre-start battle against James Spithill and Luna Rossa.
After an early dial-up with Luna Rossa controlling the right, Gram-Hansen pulled off a ‘steel balls’ manoeuvre to seize the power of the right from Spithill.

Two more dial-ups later, with Spithill trying to bully his way back into the right side of the box, but Mascalzone sought refuge by gybing around the committee boat and making a perfect start off the right-hand end.

Spithill got a bit greedy in his bid to chase down Gram-Hansen, and started a boatlength off the line, handing an early advantage to Mascalzone. It didn’t take long for ITA 94 to grind down the opposition with equal pace and superior pointing ability, however.

Luna Rossa seemed to have it all wrapped up, and then there was a late charge from Cameron Dunn (who steers the course after Gram-Hansen does the start) to bring the chasing boat back within striking distance. Unfortunately it was all too little too late, with Luna Rossa scraping the win by 7 seconds.

If Spithill got a little greedy, Dean Barker was positively gluttonous in the pre-start against Victory Challenge. The Kiwi tried to get the hook on Magnus Holmberg from deep in the box, and seemed to forget there was a start time to think about. By the time they’d given up on the hook, they tacked off to the right and started almost 25 seconds late across the line, while the Swedes started on the gun.

Tony Rae, who does runners on the Kiwi boat, commented: "Deano wasn’t very happy with himself today but it was a judgement issue and he realised that the timing was out and it put us a long way back, but we chipped away to get as close as possible at the top mark. I’m sure the Spanish weren’t very happy with us with that start."

Victory did a good job of holding off the Kiwis until the Swedes gybed off into the middle of the run, with Barker holding out to the right-hand side. The Swedes handed the lead to the Kiwis at that point, NZL 92 enjoying the better breeze, and once Barker rounded the leeward gate 10 seconds ahead, that was the race in the bag.

Still, some hard questions for Luna Rossa and New Zealand where time-on-distance in the pre-start is concerned. It’s hard to recall Chris Dickson having made those sort of mistakes over the past few weeks.

I managed to get a word with Peter Isler about BMW Oracle’s stunning start against Mascalzone Latino yesterday.
Click here for the Peter Isler interview…

And here’s Jes Gram-Hansen’s view on the same start, a rare aberration from one of the big discoveries of this America’s Cup. At 35 years old, he’s not exactly a young gun like the 27-year-old Spithill, but he’s every bit as confident, aggressive and consistent as the young Australian.
Click here for the Jes Gram-Hansen interview…

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