America's Cup World Series Naples third day of racing got underway today. Yann Guichard and the men on Energy Team achieved their first victory. The second race was not so kind to the French, who finished in seventh place. Adding in the score from these two races from Friday 13th April, Energy Team ends up in fourth place in the overall rankings.
The wind was light today at around just ten knots and it was raining… but Energy Team got off to an excellent start in today’s first fleet race in Naples. Third at the first mark, the French AC45 was the first to gybe and head off to the left-hand side of the race course, which turned out to be the favoured side. On the starboard tack, Yann Guichard managed to pass inside the leader, Team Korea, and rounded the second mark in the lead for the first time in the World Series in Naples.
Behind, there was a traffic jam at the gate and Team New Zealand was penalised, while at the front, the French took off at the front along with Team Korea. On the third leg, there was magnificent duel between the two AC45s, which were followed by James Spithill’s Oracle in third place. The two frontrunners came together with a perfectly executed cross. Yann Guichard was telling his men a lot and encouraging them all the time during this top class duel, showing all the calm you associate with an Olympic sportsman. At the third mark, it was extremely tense between the two boats, but Energy Team got ahead again and accelerated away gaining a lead of 17 seconds. The following downwind leg was sailed perfectly by Energy Team, who increased their lead by 5 seconds. Team Korea was now in second place 22 seconds behind with Oracle Spithill third 36 seconds behind the leader.
On the fifth of the nine legs, Energy Team controlled the fleet from the front, with a lead of 90 metres. They had to make the most of each puff to get the hull up and keep going. But in 7 knots of wind Energy Team was sailing at 7 knots and managed to increase her lead still further, while Oracle Spithill began to attack Team Korea.
At mark 5, the halfway stage, Energy Team was still in the lead after 21 minutes of racing… but Oracle Spithill was catching up from behind in second place taking advantage of a stronger puff. Meanwhile, the overall leader of the vent ETNZ skippered by Dean Barker was at the rear in ninth place, more than 3 minutes behind the clear leader, Energy Team. Yann Guichard and his men really showed their talent with a lead of 200 metres at the penultimate mark. Just as in the teaching manuals, Energy Team placed herself between the final mark and the chasing pack led by Spithill. A magnificent race. 'Keep at it lads, we’re doing fine!' said Yann Guichard to encourage his men, just before a spectacular big gennaker hoist. The eight and final leg was a real pleasure for Energy Team, who led the race all the way and sailed perfectly. Spithill managed to claw a few boat lengths back, but Guichard was in control and at the end of 39 minutes and 14 seconds of racing, Yann Guichard and his men achieved the first win for the French in this World Series in Naples, 10 seconds ahead of James Spithill. A magic moment! A great opportunity too as far as the rankings were concerned: Energy Team climbs from fifth to third place after this fifth race in Naples.
Race 2: Extremely well placed between the line and the fleet, Energy Team and three other boats were unfortunately forced to come back again after being a few centimetres too soon over the line. A bit of a blow in this sixth race in Naples, but it was down to a good idea. Taking into account that penalty, Energy Team did not do too badly moving up to sixth place at the second mark. With the rain still pouring down and in very light and variable winds, it was Oracle Spithill that led the way ahead of Team Korea and China Team. The wind shifted by 10 to 15 degrees in the space of 30 or 40 metres and in strength went from 7 to 11 knots without warning. Energy Team was suffering back in eighth place on the fourth leg, while Dean Barker was challenging the supremacy of James Spithill. But by the end of a good upwind leg, Yann Guichard was able once again to say 'well done, lads,' as Energy Team showed their ability to bounce back, gaining three places in one upwind leg.
At the front, the podium was already decided by the halfway point: Oracle Spithill and TNZ were battling it out together, while being chased by Luna Rossa Swordfish. Unfortunately for Energy Team, a wind hole at the sixth mark was unkind to them: with four boats caught in a pile-up at the mark, they found themselves back in seventh place. In the lead, Dean Barker showed how it should be done and the New Zealanders certainly recovered from their disappointing performance in the previous race achieving their fourth victory in six races. Oracle-Spithill finished in second place, with Luna Rossa Swordfish third. The end of the race was very tough for the other six boats, who could not find enough wind. There was a fight at the finish… but Energy Team got a penalty and ended up in seventh place.
Energy Team climbs to fourth place overall on equal points with Team Korea, but tonight can celebrate their first incredible race win.
Yann Guichard’s first reactions: 'We got off to a good start today in the first race and were able to lead the fleet from start to finish. It was a long race with a lot of excitement and it’s great for the team to win this race. It was not that easy with the wind changing all the time in strength and direction. There was quite a lot of stress and things were very tense on board, but we really enjoyed keeping James Spithill in check right up to the finish, as he just about got back up with us'.
Americas Cup website
by Pierre Giboire
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5:45 PM Fri 13 Apr 2012GMT
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