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Fisher's View- Watching the breeze die.' - America's Cup WS - Day 3

by Bob Fisher on 19 Apr 2013
Skipper Ben Ainslie of J.P. Morgan Bar uses a very sensitive touch on the tiller as he brings his team to victory winning the day placing first on the first day of racing at the ACWS in Naples Italy April 8, 2013 SW

Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Naples, Italy for the America's Cup World Series.

Bob is a multihuller from way back, having won the 1967 Little America's Cup, with Peter Schneidau on Lady Helmsman, and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.

He writes:

Day 3: Wednesday in Naples
Thursday in Naples – Race Day One

Sunshine and 10-12 knot breezes endorsed the choice of Naples as the venue for the last of the America’s Cup World Series regattas – at least for the opening day, for the winds in Naples Bay have a reputation for being notoriously fickle. One old salt once expressed this graphically by altering an age-old instruction to 'See Naples and watch the breeze die.' And it did, during the races with patches of no more than four knots and huge shifts of up to 40 degrees.

The first match, between China Team and HS Team, wasn’t. The China Team just didn’t compete. In the next, there was plenty of action. Yann Guichard shut out Ben Ainslie at the start, holding BAR, the windward boat, away from the line and went into a ten second lead by the leeward gate. Guichard tacked and went left while Ainslie held on and went right.

There was more wind on the right and Ainslie, uncovered, went in front by nine seconds at the windward mark – the Frenchman paid the ultimate match racing penalty of failing to cover. Ainslie stretched that lead downwind to finish 15 seconds clear.

The second quarter-final match was every bit as exciting with the more experienced Chris Draper in Luna Rossa – Piranha totally shutting out newcomer Charlie Eckberg in Artemis at the start, going into an immediate four length lead. Then Draper failed to cover downwind and the Swedish team took over the front running, but at the next mark there was a strange move when a crewman fended off the mark!

That was passed but when the two boats came together and with Luna Rossa on starboard tack having to alter course to avoid the Swede. It was a close call and Draper maybe exaggerated the course alteration. He later admitted: 'There might have been a little Hollywood in that!' That eventually brought a penalty to put Draper in front and with very little left of the race, Draper sailed away to a 37 second victory and a place in the semi-finals.

In the first fleet race, Tom Slingsby with Oracle showed his talent to lead around the first mark narrowly from Chris Draper with Luna Rossa – Piranha. Dean Barker and the ETNZ crew were up and challenging early as they went for the leeward gate and moved up to second, eleven seconds behind Draper. Ben Ainslie’s BAR was back of the pack at this stage.

Draper went hard right while Slingsby went offshore with ETNZ and at the windward mark Oracle tacked ahead of the Kiwis to lead by 26 seconds with Draper dropping to third ahead of Ainslie. Then Slingsby made one mistake and crossed over the boundary – the ensuing penalty allowed Barker to go to the front.

On subsequent rounds, Barker made no errors and went on to win from Slingsby while Ainslie found more pressure than his rivals to move into third place ahead of Draper with Luna Rossa – Piranha. His teammate, Francesco Bruni, was fifth with Luna Rossa – Swordfish to give the local crowd something to cheer even more enthusiastically about.

There was very little time before the second fleet race was underway and at the start Ainslie and Bruni chose the leeward end of the line and were overlapped around the first turn, but after the short downwind leg, the British skipper and his highly experienced Oracle crew, was well clear of Luna Rossa – Piranha with the Energy Team of Yann Guichard and Barker in ETNZ providing the best opposition.

Ainslie’s sailing was a joyous sight and the way he and his crew communicated was exemplary. It was not surprising therefore that J.P.Morgan BAR stretched away from the rest to finish a full minute clear. It gave Ainslie top billing for the day with a 3,1 score, just one point clear of Barker with ETNZ on 1,4, in turn one point clear of Draper on 4,2.


© This report and images are copyright to Bob Fisher, Linda Wright and Sail-World.com and may not be republished without permission

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