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.
Day 4: Friday in Naples - Race Day 2
With the gentle breeze hardly disturbing the surface of Naples Bay, ACRM supremo, Iain Murray delivered the official forecast: 'Lighter than yesterday – seven to eleven knots from 210-240 degrees.' La Bella Napoli was beginning to run true to form.
Murray went on to explain the penalty system in use for those unfamiliar with the LiveLine system pioneered by Stan Honey and his team. Racing AC-45s over 'Stadium' courses is a very different beast from more usual regattas and the electronic control, including course boundaries, is essential. Boats are accurately tracked to within 20 millimetres ten times a second and Murray after a lengthy explanation to the natives, spoke volumes in an aside: 'We need to survive – we need to do this.'
It all arose from a penalty imposed on Tom Slingsby yesterday for a boundary infringement. The whole process of how the boundaries were marked and how the sailors received the necessary spatial information, had to be explained in detail – it is not complicated.
Yellow lights flash as the boundary is approached and the flashes are faster the closer the boat gets, finally becoming solid if the boundary is crossed. The lights are readily visible to the skippers and crews and they also get a blue light, to slow down until the penalty is cleared. But it took time for the facts to be assimilated.
And so to racing . . . and the breeze was there exactly as promised. First up was the quarter-final match for Luna Rossa – Swordfish in the hands of Francesco Bruni and Dean Barker in ETNZ. It promised much, and delivered. Barker forced Bruni over early and after the Italian had taken his penalty, ETNZ led by five seconds at the first mark and held that to the leeward gate.
On the beat the NZ lead stretched to 70 metres, but the shoreline side (to the right) was less favoured as the beat progressed and as the two boats went to the left hand gate, Luna Rossa – Swordfish, on port, was inside the three-boat circle first and collided with the starboard tacked ETNZ. The penalty was awarded against the Kiwis and Bruni was able to sail away to a 14 second victory – one against the book!
The second match race contained its excitement to the pre-start. Tom Slingsby with Oracle went for his opponent Roman Hagara in HR Racing and inflicted a windward/leeward penalty in the first minute and almost a second before the start. Then the Austrians had to hold back, taking their penalty, as Slingsby sailed away to a relatively easy victory, 34 seconds ahead.
The line up for the semi-finals in now set. Ben Ainslie’s BAR will meet Slingsby’s Oracle in something of an in-house match, while there will be another totally in-house match in the other between the two Luna Rossa boats, Piranha and Swordfish – Draper against Bruni.
The first fleet race proved a triumph for Tom Slingsby, but it was Francesco Bruni who was to lead for more than half the race. He won the start when Barker was penalized for being three feet over early! Luna Rossa – Swordfish made a further gain by going right up the first beat (along the shoreline). It also paid for Slingsby, who was very close as the two led the fleet through the windward gate.
Bruni gained big time downwind to be 18 seconds clear at the start of the second windward leg. The Kiwis, and Ben Ainslie, who was left for dead at the start, has begun a long climb back, into fifth and sixth places, but it was Yann Guichard who was making the most impression in the second half for the French Energy Team. He moved close to Slingsby upwind and stayed with him downwind as both went past Bruni. Finishing in that order, with Chris Draper fourth, changed to order at the top of the leaderboard, notably as ETNZ and J.P.Morgan BAR were fifth and sixth.
Four boats were OCS at the next start, among them both ETNZ and BAR, and they were back in the pack around the leeward mark and a long hill to climb. Yann Guichard led the fleet away and never once appeared in any difficulty of holding that lead. Luna Rossa Swordfish was forced to retire with damage to her bowsprit, no doubt resultant damage from the collision with ETNZ in the first (match) race of the day.
Both Barker and Ainslie did improve from the back of the fleet but neither could have been totally happy at the end of the day – gone were the first and second positions overall, giving way to the day’s top boats, Oracle – Slingsby and the Energy team, each with a first and second place. Their 3 & 4 in the second race was better than the 5 & 6 in the first.
Overall points after four races:
1. Oracle – Slingsby 2,6,1,2, 38
2. Energy Team 7,3,2,1 36
3. ETNZ 1,4,5,3 36
4. J.P.Morgan BAR 3,1,6,4 35
5. Luna Rossa – Piranha 4,2,4,5 33
6. Luna Rossa – Swordfish 5,5,3,DNF 23
7. Artemis 6,7,7,7 21
8. HS Racing 8,9,8,6 17
9. China Team 9,8,9,8 14
© This report and images are copyright to Linda Wright, Bob Fisher and Sail-World.com and may not be republished without permission
by Bob Fisher
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9:46 PM Fri 19 Apr 2013GMT
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