Saturday, 19 May 2007

One last sting in the Scorpion’s tail?

Chris Dickson reputedly has the tattoo of a scorpion on his shoulder. The scorpion is fabled as a creature that commits suicide by stinging itself to death when surrounded by fire.

Today Dickson was trapped by a bush fire of young Aussie James Spithill’s making, as Luna Rossa chased USA 98 into ‘coffin corner’, the left-hand boundary of the start box from which boats rarely escape without penalty.

As Spithill harried USA 98 past the pin-end start mark and into the ‘zone of no return’, in a bid of desperation Dickson gybed around and tried to get across Luna Rossa bearing down on him on starboard gybe.

The aggressive young Aussie could have whacked USA 98 amidships, and the umpires judged it as a red flag penalty. BMW Oracle was adjudged to have gained advantage from the manoeuvre, and so the Americans were obliged to take their 270 turn immediately.

If the first penalty was born of desperation, the second penalty situation seemed born of frustration. Just seconds after the first incident, as both boats crossed the line on port tack with ITA 94 to windward, Dickson jerked the wheel to leeward, resulting in USA 98’s stern scoop swinging up to windward and thwacking into the side of ITA 94.

Both teams waved their Y flags frantically, James Spithill turning around with two fingers held aloft to the umpires (palm facing OUT, before you ask), demanding two penalties. Spithill got his wish and Dickson got his second penalty.

It was game over from there. Four boatlengths ahead, Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael didn’t throw any of his 2.7km splits into the equation but played a much tighter covering game, to the relief of fluttering Italian hearts. The added bonus for the Italians is that they seem to have negated the Americans’ downwind speed advantage.

So where to go for BMW Oracle from here? One more defeat and the fires will consume BMW Oracle. However, another trait of the scorpion is that you trap it under a glass, it goes completely still, pretending to be dead when really it is waiting for its moment of escape – and revenge. Does Dickson have one last sting in his tail for Spithill?

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