by Bob Fisher
Never mind the weather, never mind the rain; there was a pot full of excitement when Areva met Victory in the most dramatic match to date.
Penalties and mistakes were there and a nail-biting finish thrown in for good measure. And if we thought that was good, the match between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand was equally dramatic.
The French made an appalling start – 25 seconds late, but went right and hooked into a good shift on that side of the course. When they tacked and approached Victory Challenge, Magnus Holmberg erred by tacking too close and the Swedish boat was penalised by the umpires. Areva led at the windward mark by seven seconds.
Downwind Areva increased that lead by three seconds, but upwind Holmberg reversed the position. He still had the penalty to clear. Downwind the Swedish boat drew away to be 120 metres ahead on the gain line as she approached the finish line. It was touch and go as to whether she could clear her penalty and cross the line ahead.
It was a manoeuvre that the Swedes had practiced and as they were six lengths from the line, the jib was hoisted and as Victory began to round up, the spinnaker came down and the boat was tacked around the finish line buoy – penalty cleared. Holmberg still had the wheel right over and Victory bore away to gybe inside Areva, claim the overlap and cross the line still overlapped.
What had happened to the perfect starts that Barker made yesterday? The Kiwis’ skipper made a gross error when entering on port to meet Luna Rossa.
He failed to tack in time and a 'Y' flag from Torben Grael on Luna Rossa was answered by a blue one from the umpires – Barker was penalised with four minutes to go to the start.
A big split appeared between the boats as Luna Rossa went left and Emirates Team New Zealand went right. When they eventually converged, Luna Rossa was ahead and after a short tacking duel and a luffing match at the starboard side of the mark, dipped back ahead to round the buoy 10 seconds in front..
Luna Rossa gybed immediately after rounding and another split occurred.
Luna Rossa was on the left side of the course and found better breeze to round the gate mark 26 seconds ahead. The Kiwis came back and once more the two boats were overlapped and luffing at the windward mark, but this time on the correct side to round it. Both boats set spinnakers before rounding the mark.
Emirates Team New Zealand gybed quickly and headed to the left hand side, picking up better pressure. Towards the end of the run, the Kiwis were two boat’s lengths ahead and as they approached the line, the jib was hoisted and the spinnaker came down in an attempt to catch Luna Rossa unawares. But the Kiwi boat had lost speed and despite the luff, Luna Rossa was able to roll over her opponent, bear off and cross the line for a well-deserved win.
In an attempt to complete flight 9, Harold Bennett left the South course where the wind was decidedly unstable, and moved to the North course and just beat the time limit to have his two races away.
The Chinese took no part in the racing because of damage to the keel box of China Team and it will be Sunday before this is repaired.