Louis Vuitton Cup gets underway to opening shock for Kiwis

BMW Oracle crosses the startline on Match 1 of the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup

The first race in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup has got underway off Valencia on the Juliet course, with BMW Oracle Racing sailing against United Internet Team Germany.

Although sailing in light winds and flat seas, the boats seem reasonably powered up, and there would seem to be no reason why racing should not continue for the whole day.

In the opening round Mascalzone Latino caused a shock in Kiwiland by winning her start against Emirates Team New Zealand who was to leeward.

For a time the Italians looked to be suffering and tacked off onto port.

Emirates Teeam New Zealand continued to prosper on the left, building a margin of 45 metres, but refused to go and cover the Italians. In a quick gulp the margin halved, but still the Kiwis did not go. When NZL-92 did did tack onto port, the Italians had found a good shift out to the right and from there on the Kiwis had a problem, as the margin very quickly swung the Italian's way and NZL-92 pointed at their transom..

At one point the advantage was out to 70 metres in favour of the Italian, and eased back to 45 metres separation when they closed at the first cross not far off the starboard layline. Emirates Team New Zealand conceded the Italians were in the lead and tacked a boatlength high of the layline to avoid the Italians gassed air as ITA-99 led into the first mark.

Their lead stretched to 100 metres on the run before Dean Barker was able to pick a good shift and apparently carry up a little more breeze to reduce the Italians lead to 40 metres and then down to just over one boat length at the leeward mark both rounded the starboard mark at the gate (looking upwind).

The two split tacks again on the second beat. With ITA-99- taking the right, and building a gain of 98 metres soon afterward. NZL-92 was able to close down the advantage midway up the third leg, with the benefit of good pressure, and eased out to a narrow margin for a short time. But it was shortlived.

As good as it got for NZL-92 - just under half a boat length ahead of ITA-99, on Leg 3, but when the two crossed the margin went out to 33 metres in favour of the Italians.

When the two came together again ITA-99 had regained her advantage of about 40 metres before they again separated to their usual left and right sides. ITA-99 and NZL-92 came together several times on the beat, with ITA-90 bouncing off to protect the right hand or starboard layline each time.

As the Italians made their run down the starboard layline for the last time, their lead over NZL-92 incraesed from 40 to 70 metres, and guaging the boatspeeds, the Italians appeared to be consistently carrying more pressure, or in a stronger breeze, on the right.

At times ITA-99 was showing a boatspeed of almost half a knot advantage over NZL-92, indicative of more breeze on the right.

At the top mark for the final time. ITA-99 rounded with a margin of about 30 seconds or 100 metres over NZL-92, which had been unable to make a serious impression after the halfway point on the beat.

On the run, ITA-99 eased out to a lead of 120 metres, as the pressure seemed to remain even for both boats.

Emirates Team NZ in big trouble on the final run in their opening match against Mascalzone Latino

In the final half of the run, Emirates Team New Zealand soaked off to leeward a little on the Italians before gybing onto starboard. Again ITA-99 let them go and their margin increased to 150 metres as the Italians held onto port gybe with the New Zealanders apparently playing a losing game on starboard.

The two boats then came together again, with ITA-99 having made a good gain and stretched her lead to 170metres, and they both crossed to the opposite laylines with no hint of a cover by the Italians who seemed to be content to play for the pressure and shifts first and a tactical game second.

However in the dying stages of the run. Emirates Team New Zealand made a good gain out on the port layline and cut the Italians lead by 120 metres - leaving them with just 40 metres in the bank. But ITA-99 was able to squeeze away again and were content to hold a lead of 60 metres heading to the finish.

The winning margin for ITA-99 at the finish was 15 seconds, in a shock first up loss for Emirates Team New Zealand.

The result gave Kiwi sporting fans a dismal international sporting trifecta for the night. Being beaten by Australia in the Anzac Rugby League test; trounced to their worst ever loss by Australia in the World Cricket Cup; and then the loss to ITA-99 in the opening race of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Unfortunately it wasn't all just a nightmare.

On the positive side, at least the Final of the Rugby World Cup wasn't being played this night as well!