Sunday, 20 May 2007

USA out, Italy in, Spain alive

A great day for Italy and Spain, Luna Rossa booking an easy place in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals and Desafio Espanol proving the match of the Kiwis in every department, winning a thrilling match by just 15 seconds.

Every time the Spanish win, they celebrate like they have just won the America’s Cup, such is the spirit in the team. Fortunately they have a day’s rest to get their heads together and contemplate the possibility of taking another match of New Zealand on Tuesday. It is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility.

Having witnessed Luna Rossa trounce BMW Oracle 5-1, the Spanish must be beginning to believe that the unthinkable really can happen against New Zealand. There is very little to choose between these teams in terms of boatspeed. On these 3.3 nautical mile race courses, when the breezes are steady and moderate, there are few passing lanes. Which loads a lot of responsibility on to the helmsmen in the pre-start.

This is where Chris Dickson came unstuck against James Spithill (pictured), and where Sten Mohr fared little better today in another pre-start where the young Australian dictated all the terms. Dean Barker is doing OK, but Karol Jablonski is certainly causing him some problems. Even if the Kiwis do get through, they must be seriously worried by what they’ve seen of Spithill this past week.

So too must Alinghi, who it is rumoured are going to use Ed Baird in the America’s Cup Match. However Baird’s strong suit is not in the pre-start, but more around the race track where he’s considered a more consistent bet than Peter Holmberg.

There is a view that Alinghi has enough pace to get round the challenger on pure boatspeed and that Baird is the man to do that for the Swiss. Is it as simple as that anymore, though? James Spithill has always been considered a class act, but sailing a boat that was always a little off the pace. That no longer seems to be the case.

Luna Rossa are becoming increasingly comfortable with their equipment and their set-up, and it’s hard to see anyone getting the better of Spithill if he maintains this sort of form in the pre-start. If the Italians can maintain this upward trajectory they are going to be very dangerous indeed, a threat to challengers and defender.

1 comment:

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