The America's Cup World Series is not the only spectacle in town - there is also the Festa della Sensa, an annual festival held on Ascension Day. It is one of the city's best-known festivals of its thousand-year history. It began in 1000 AD and the second event was 177 years later and has been held annually since. It is the rite of the 'Wedding with the Sea,' when the Mayor of Venice throws a symbolic gold ring into the sea.
Hoards of boats, mostly propelled by oars gathered in the basin off St. Marks and there was a regatta for two-oared and four-oared gondolas - not the big black ones that young lovers chose to take for sight-seeing, but brightly coloured light shells. They formed an impressive sight as they gathered early in the morning. After the racing, the boats paraded to the church of St. Nicolo at the Lido, close to the finishing line of the races, for a special service. AC45s made an appearance in the basin before the racing.
The ACWS has certainly captured the imagination of the Venetians. For Saturday's racing there were in excess of a thousand spectator boats (counted from helicopter-shot images) and over 100,000 spectators along the shoreline. The attendance in the AC Village was 14,500 and you can take it from me that that was probably understated - it was extremely crowded.
The day's activities for the AC45s began with a series of speed (trials) - the wind Gods were not cooperating with the competitors and even the top speed was low.
Final speeds in knots'
Luna Rossa - Piranha 13.39 Energy Team 13.00 Luna Rossa - Swordfish 12.75 Emirates Team New Zealand 9.19 Artemis 8.52 Oracle Team - Spithill 8.04 Oracle Team – Bundock 7.75 Team Korea 7.12 China Team 7.01
This was followed by the final of the Match Racing Championship of Venice, a single race affair, between Terry Hutchinson's crew in Artemis Racing and the local favourite, Luna Rossa - Piranha, skippered by Chris Draper, fresh from his speed trial success.
Hutchinson, coming into the start box on starboard, gained the upper hand and crossed the start line with a two-boat lead. From there, Draper, fought hard but never managed to close the gap, finishing half a minute behind. It further improved Artemis Racing's overall position at the top of the season's match racing championship.
This was a desperately light-air race and the master of catamaran racing, Loick Peyron, gave his competitors a master-class in the art and skills of sailing these boats - it was pretty to behold, except from the aspect of the other eight teams. At the third mark, he was almost a whole leg ahead of the next boat, Jimmy Spithill with Oracle Team -Spithill. Behind them, there was a log-jam at the mark with multiple penalties from inevitable collisions. Artemis Racing was the first of the rest to get clear, then ETNZ and Oracle Racing - Bundock.
At one stage, Peyron led by seven minutes.
The wind fell lighter and lighter as the race progressed and boat speeds were well down - not the spectacle that the organisers, or the crowd lining the shore, had hoped. Five knots was a good speed and while initially the gaps had been big, they reduced in size towards the end with Oracle Team - Spithill closing the gap to the leader on every leg. What had been more than 500 metres, slowly came down to just 1:41 at the last mark. Peyron appeared to be dead in the water and it needed all his undoubted skill to stay in fron. He finally achieved this by blocking Spithill on the last gybe in to the line to take the winning gun by a nine second margin.
Eventually, only two other boats finished the race within the time limit, Artemis Racing narrowly beat Emirates Team New Zealand
Results: Fleet Race:
1. Energy Team 2. Oracle Team USA - Spithill 3. Artemis Racing 4. Emirates Team New Zealand
2011-12 AC World Series Overall Championship Leaderboard (after five of six events) 1. ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill…84 points 2. Emirates Team New Zealand…80 points 3. Artemis Racing…71 points 4. Energy Team…65 points 5. Team Korea…56 points 6. ORACLE TEAM USA Bundock…53 points 7. Luna Rossa Piranha…34 points 8. China Team…31 points 9. Luna Rossa Swordfish…21 points
AC World Series Venice Fleet Racing Championship – Final Leaderboard 1. Energy Team…74 points 2. ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill…58 points 3. Emirates Team New Zealand…54 points 4. Artemis Racing…52 points 5. Luna Rossa Piranha…43 points 6. Luna Rossa Swordfish…43 points 7. Team Korea…37 points 8. ORACLE TEAM USA Bundock…22 points 9. China Team…18 points
AC World Series Venice Match Racing Championship Final Match: Artemis Racing defeated Luna Rossa - Piranha; 1-0 1. Artemis Racing 2. Luna Rossa Piranha 3. ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill 4. Energy Team 5. Emirates Team New Zealand 6. Team Korea 7. Luna Rossa Swordfish 8. ORACLE TEAM USA Bundock 9. China Team *The losers of the Semi Final and Quarter Final matches have been assigned final finishing positions (3rd through 9th) in the Match Racing Championship as per the Sailing Instructions. by Bob Fisher