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 6: 'Super' Sunday - in Naples - Race Day 4
Naples – the final day.
'Super Sunday' – the very term is destined to be inspirational, but it can also induce fear to a team that has dutifully logged a series of good results to appear at or near the top of the scoreboard. The reason is the heavily skewed points available for the one race on the final day. The winner’s bonus is out of proportion to the rest of the scoring from the previous three days’ races. Instead of a two-point bonus, the winner of 'Super Sundays' sole race is 15 points better off than the second placed boat.
With logical progression out of the window, the pressure on the top four teams – the only ones that can guarantee to win the series by winning the final race – is immense and intense. But it all boils down to winning this one race – no pressure!
ACRM Supremo, Iain Murray, predicted that the light early morning westerly breeze would again back 70 degrees and fill in at 8-13 knots – conditions similar to the preceding three days and that there would be a goodly crowd along the foreshore. He also said that both ISAF and Swiss Timing were examining the way in which this regatta was run and were in Naples to see what the America’s Cup was doing to progress sport.
'What we do to the rules,' said Murray, 'is a matter of discussion for all the teams and their rules advisors.' He indicated that it was a constant review and that the current situation was Version 15. Doubtless, Version 16 is under consideration – with a note about the two boats OCS in a match race; the situation that occurred with two of the Luna Rossa boats yesterday and was illogically resolved.
The Swedish, New Zealand and Chinese flags were at half-mast over their boatsheds today, recognising the sad passing of Magnus Olsson. Mange, as he was universally known, was 'The Smile' to all sailors. No one who ever met him will forget the good-humoured laugh with which they were greeted. He was an inspiration to several generations of competitive sailors, notably those who took part in the Whitbread and Volvo races, and he raced with Pelle Petterson on Sverige in the 1977 America’s Cup.
First, the Match Race final – Francesco Bruni in Luna Rossa – Swordfish and Tom Slingsby with Oracle. Bruni pulled a standard match racing ploy at the start and shut out Slingsby, who admitted that he was a near-neophyte to this discipline, at the boat end of the line and led by two lengths around the first mark.
Downwind Bruni stretched away and then covered his opponent all the way up the first windward leg. The lead was 18 seconds at the windward gate and Bruni sped away on the run and it looked all over for the Oracle team, but the second beat saw Slingsby abandon match racing tactics and sail the shifts. It worked and Oracle picked up a left hand shift from offshore to close to within half a length. Then, Slingsby was heard to say: 'Thinking left' and used the shift back from the shore to go ahead and go through the windward gate to start the final run leading. Bruni was a beaten man and Slingsby sailed away to a 30 second victory. Slingsby was simply following in Jimmy Spithill’s footsteps and scoring yet another victory for the Cup defenders.
The final race lived up to its billing – the outcome, and the resultant podium positions changed more rapidly than the colours of a chameleon passing a psychedelic rainbow. Slingsby should have had it all his own way after a text-book start at the pin, when most of the fleet had crammed themselves at the boat. Slingsby led around the first mar and through the leeward gate and seemed to be in full control up wind, but there were significant shifts in the breeze.
Approaching the windward mark, Slingsby went too far towards the shore and Bruni and Yann Guichard in Energy edged in front, having approached from offshore. Then came Chris Draper with Luna Rossa – Piranha and Dean Barker in ETNZ and Ben Ainslie with J.P.Morgan BAR. Downwind the French took over the front running, but Slingsby was harrying and at the leeward gate there was a split when the French rounded the righthand gate and went inshore and Slingsby went the other way.
Places changed frequently on the second beat with some significant changes in the wind’s strength and direction. Once more, Bruni benefited offshore to lead around the weather gate when Slingsby had to tack. That took him back inshore while Bruni sped away offshore on a favourable gust into an unassailable lead.
Slingsby was not finished, but dodging China Team on a different leg of the course probably put paid to his chances. Oracle finished second in the race and level on points with Bruni, but the Italian took the victory on the tie-break by winning the last race. The fun was far from over and as the boats came on the short leg to the finish with Draper snatching third from Guichard and Ben Ainslie, Barker was forced to luff Roman Hagara with HS Racing into a penalty to keep sixth place. This was crucial as it secured the Kiwis the third place on the podium.
1. Luna Rossa – Swordfish 5.5.3,DNF,5,2,1 80
2. Oracle Team – Slingsby 2.6,126.96.36.199.2 80
3. Emirates Team New Zealand 1,4,5,3,1,1,6 71
4. Luna Rossa – Piranha 4,2,4,5,3,4,3 70
5. J.P.Morgan BAR 3,1,6,4,4,3,5 65
6. Energy Team 188.8.131.52.DNS.6.4 58
7. Artemis 6,7,7,7,6,8,8 40
8. HS Racing 8,9,8,6,8,7,7 36
9. China Team 9,8,9,8,7,9.9 30
Oracle Team – Slingsby beat Luna Rossa – Swordfish
The America’s Cup World Series is over and the AC-45s can be mothballed until the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in San Francisco in September. The focus now shifts to the AC-72s – there will be a fleet race for all three challengers and the defender in San Francisco on July 4th prior to the start of
the Louis Vuitton on Sunday July 7th.
© 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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7:30 PM Sun 21 Apr 2013GMT
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