33rd America's Cup, Part 3

Race 2                                                      

Race 2 was set to take place two days later on the Sunday. It was another long wait while Harold Bennett looked for suitable conditions in which to start the race. The cut-off time of 4pm was just minutes away when Bennett called for the start procedure to begin.

However the Kiwi race officer discovered that some members of his race committee crew, from the Defender’s representative yacht club, the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), had other ideas. They refused to raise the start flags on Bennett’s orders. As the race officer observed later, he had “a bit of a mutiny” on his hands. Instead, Bennett turned to Tom Ehman, BMW Oracle’s representative on board, and a support-boat driver to assist him with getting the start under way. "I have never seen such disgraceful behaviour on a committee boat, trying to influence the PRO to the point of ordering me to stop the sequence,” commented Bennett in an email to colleagues.

So despite the best efforts of the SNG, the start sequence began. But the crew of Alinghi 5 was caught napping again. As the five minute gun fired, signalling them to enter the start box, they were the wrong side of the line. It was an unforced error of unimaginable proportions. Mistakes like this don’t even happen in the lowest levels of the match racing, let alone at the America’s Cup.

For the second race running, the umpires gave Alinghi a penalty before the race had even started. Being late into the start box also handed the initiative to BMW Oracle who put Alinghi under pressure in the countdown to the start. Bertarelli was forced to tack away, downspeed, while Spithill surged across the line at close to full speed. At least Alinghi was headed towards the right-hand side of the course, the side which Alinghi’s weather team predicted to have the best wind.

And so it proved, as Alinghi seized back the initiative in the early stages and showed signs of being a much improved boat from the stuttering performance of Race 1. After the first few minutes, Loick Peyron took the helm from Bertarelli, and Alinghi 5 looked even better for the change. But a more favourable wind on the right-hand side was only disguising the fact that Alinghi 5 was still the slower boat, even if this time there wasn’t much in it.

When BMW Oracle made its final tack on the lay line to the windward mark, the boats were converging rapidly on a collision course. James Spithill took the conservative option, bearing away beneath Alinghi’s stern but now grabbing the lead as Alinghi had to make one more attack to the mark.

This 40-mile course was an equilateral triangle, with 213-mile reaches to the finish. Once ahead, USA-17 was unstoppable, the Americans converting a 28 second advantage at the first mark to almost 3 minutes by the gybe mark, and to a winning margin of 5 minutes 26 seconds by the finish. Larry Ellison had been on board to enjoy the ride, and he loved it, hugging and high-fiving the team.

Race 2 of the 33rd America's Cup
© Carlo Borlenghi / alinghi





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