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Steinlager Line 7 Gran Prix: Paul Cayard & John Kostecki Report From New Zealand
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Nov. 24 — Team AmericaOne Wins, Downing Law, 3-1

Team AmericaOne won the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Series today over Great Britain's Chris Law and his team by winning three races and losing one.

Again, we had blustery, southwesterly winds of 20-25 knots, which made for spectacular racing on Auckland Harbor. The current in the morning was running out of the harbor with the wind. This made the right-hand side of the course favored, because of the relief you got from the shore.

In the first race of the day, we had a poor start and followed Law around the one-way race track, losing to him by one boat length.

In the second race, we managed to win the start and control Law on the first windward leg to round the first windward mark three boat lengths ahead. The boats were close all the way around the race course, with a small advanatage to Team AmericaOne. Law sailed well, but we won the race by one second at the finish.

In the third race, we were able to get a foul on Law in the pre-start, and we won the start. This race gave us a lot of confidence as we stretched away for an easy win.

Skipper Paul Cayard had a great start in the fourth race, and we held a one boat-length lead at the first windward mark. Law gained on the first run and we were overlapped at the first leeward mark.

The left side of the course was favored upwind, so we protected that side and had a one boat-length lead at the second windward mark. However, we had a poor spinnaker set at the windward mark, while Law and his team had a nice set. They got our wind and managed to pass us on the starboard side, but we held the starboard tack and leeward advantage.

At this point the wind increased to 25 knots, with some gusts that could have peaked at 30 knots. The boats were rolling side to side as we ran to the finish. On one of the rolls, Law's mainsail touched our spinnaker and the umpires signaled a penalty against Law. From that point on we sailed conservatively and lost the race across the line, but we won the race and the regatta because Law still owed a penalty turn.

Winning the Steinlager Line 7 regatta was a nice start to our two-week stay here in Auckland, and a great start to bringing the America's Cup back to the St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay.

Paul Cayard, myself, our designer Bruce Nelson, and our meteorologist Roger Badham will stay for another week to race the same boats we sailed this week out on the 2000 America's Cup course on the Hauraki Gulf. We'll keep you posted on what we find out.

John Kostecki, Tactician, Team AmericaOne

See also the Steinlager Line 7 race report.


Nov. 23 — Team AmericaOne Advances to the Finals

We beat Neville Wittey today, 3-1, to advance to the finals of the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Regatta. Chris Law of Great Britain also advanced to the finals by defeating Roy Heiner of The Netherlands, 3-2.

Racing was close and exciting today on Auckland Harbor, with the winds picking up to 22 knots by the end of the day.

We lost our first race to Neville Wittey after being over early at the start, and then being penalized on the second windward leg. Although we lost this race, it gave us confidence because were able to come back after a poor start.

In the second race, Neville Wittey's tacticain, Mark Christiansen, fell overboard in the pre-start, which gave us a big edge off the starting line. We then covered to an easy victory.

In the third race, skipper Paul Cayard performed a nice start, which gave us a boat-length lead up the first windward leg. We were able to stretch to the favored left side, and increased our lead to win again with a comfortable margin.

The fourth race was one of the most interesting match races I can remember. Again, we held an nice advantage after the start. We had a tight windward leg, with Wittey gaining on us as we approached the windward mark. We tacked on Wittey's lee bow and were penalized by the on-board umpires for tacking too close. Wittey then tacked away from us, and we tacked as well, pinning him from tacking to the windward mark.

We both sailed upwind past the mark for 4 minutes, passing under the Auckland Harbor Bridge (which is very low, near mast height). We managed to work off our penalty while running back toward the windward mark! Wittey rounded the mark a few feet ahead of us.

We were able to catch Wittey in an exciting gybing dual on the first leeward leg, and forced him into a foul. The on-board umpires called Wittey for a port/starboard foul in which the boats touched. After Wittey completed his penalty turn, we gained a boat-length advantage, and stretched our lead to finish ahead by three lengths.

For the finals against Chris Law, we will race a best three-of-five series to decide the winner. We expect it to be windy and rough for the finals, which is good for us. We are comfortable in the breeze and look forward to the challenge.

We are racing MRX 34s, which are a Bruce Farr one-design and are rigged for match racing. We draw one boat for each day, which is abnormal for the World Match Racing Circuit. Normally teams rotate boats every race to try to equalize the racing as much as possible. But, with the MRXs, the boats are very equal, which enables us to sail the same boat all day.

We sail with a crew of six: three Americans — Paul Cayard (helmsman), myself (tactician) and Steve Erickson (mainsheet) — and three New Zealanders — Grant Loretz (trimmer), Sean Clarkson (pit) and Nick Heron (bow).

John Kostecki, Tactician, Team AmericaOne

See also the Steinlager Line 7 race report.


Nov. 22 — Team AmericaOne Wins Double Round Robin

We won the double round robin today by beating Roy Heiner of The Netherlands in the last race by half a boat length. We finished the double round robin with a total of 13 wins, tied with Heiner but winning the tie-breaker on a count back.

Chris Law of Great Britain qualified in the third postition and Neville Wittey, of Australia, finished fourth, also on a tie-breaker, to qualify for the semi-finals.

Going into the final race, Heiner and his team had a total of 13 wins to Team AmericaOne's 12 wins. We faced Heiner in the final race, needing to beat him to win the double round robin.

Starting in 20-knot winds in front of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Paul Cayard did a fantastic job by forcing Heiner to foul in the pre-start. This meant Heiner owed a penalty, a 270-degree turn, which he could take any time during the race under the delayed penalty system, common on the world match-race circuit.

We led Heiner off the start line and rounded the windward mark ahead by one length. Heiner sailed well on the first run and passed us to round the leeward mark ahead by half a boat length. He was able to increase his lead on the second windward leg, and took his penalty turn at the second windward mark. That allowed us to just round the mark ahead of Heiner by 10 feet.

Both boats were surfing on the final run to the finish line as the breeze increased to 25 knots. Both teams pumped their sails and worked the boats to the maximum to gain an advantage. Team AmericaOne managed to beat Heiner by half a boat length to win the race and double round robin.

Winning the round robin gave us the opportunity to chose who we race in the semi-finals. We choose Neville Wittey, who finished fourth in the round robin. Chris Law of England will face Roy Heiner in the other semi-final match. The semi-finals will be a best three-of-five series, with the winners advancimg to the finals on Sunday.

A small cold front is passing over Auckland, which should bring showers and shifty winds for the semi-finals. Winds are forecast to be up to 20 knots, which should make for an exciting day on Auckland Harbor.

John Kostecki, Tactician, Team AmericaOne

See also the Steinlager Line 7 race report.


Nov. 21 — Team AmericaOne Scores Seven Wins, Climbs to First-Place Tie

The second day ot the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race was long and exciting for Team AmericaOne. We finished the day with seven wins and one loss for an overall score of 10 wins.

We are competing in a double round-robin event, with the top four teams advancing to the semi-finals.

The wind today was variable 8-15 knots, with currents up to 2 knots at times, which made each race different and unpredictable. We managed to win our first two races by passing our competitor mid-race after losing the starts. We were able to sail fast today and had excellent boat handling.

The one loss of the day was our fifth race, against Sten Mohr of Denmark. We fouled Mohr in the pre-start and owed one penalty turn before we crossed the starting line. Then, on the first run after overtaking Mohr for the lead, we were penalized for an early mastline hail. We then got a third and final penalty from the umpires after trying to exonerate ourselves and fouling Mohr for the third time. The umpires immediately black-flagged us for having three outstanding penalties.

After the black flag incident we managed to win the next three races to to finish the day sharing the lead with Roy Heiner with 10 wins. Second overall is Magnus Homberg with nine wins, and tied for third is Chris Law and Neville Wittey each with eight wins. Falling to sixth place was Peter Gilmour, who won three races today and lost five.

Friday, the committee plans to finish the last five races of the double round robin. The winds in Auckland harbor are expected to pick up to a blustery 20-25 knots. This should make for an exciting finish to the round robin.

John Kostecki, Tactician, Team AmericaOne

See also the Steinlager Line 7 race report.


Nov. 20 — Day One Met With High Winds

The first day's racing for the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix was met with 20 to 30 knots of wind. Three races were run before the wind got up to 30 knots, at which time the race committee postponed the competition. The racing resumed at 1500, when the wind had subsided to 20 knots.

Today's racing, especially when the wind was in the upper ranges, was really a boat handling contest. Tomorrow, Team AmericaOne starts off with Magnus Holmberg, who is undefeated so far.

Team AmericaOne had a couple of spinnaker handling errors on the downwind leg of race one, which cost us the lead and eventually the race to Roy Heiner of The Netherlands.

In race 4, the spinnaker was torn in the take-down on leg one and was all but useless for the run to the finish. Still, the race was lost by just one boat length to Great Britain's Chris Law after having an eight boat-length lead at the last windward mark.

Our last race of the day was against Peter Gilmour and his Nippon Challenge team, who are fresh off a win at the Nippon Cup last week. We managed to pin Gilmour out at the committee boat at the start and take three boat-length lead. Up near the top of the first leg, Gilmore closed and the boats were overlapped on the port layline with AmericaOne to leeward. AmericaOne luffed and both boats came to a complete stop. This forced Gilmour to tack away to avoid fowling and AmericaOne sailed straight off to the mark with a six boat-length lead, which we held to the finish.

The scores after five races are:

Skipper               Wins
Roy Heiner, NED         5
Magnus Holmberg, SWE    5
Paul Cayard, USA        3
Chris Law, GBR          3
Peter Gilmour, JPN      3
Gavin Brady, NZL        2
Neville Whittey, AUS    2
Ray Davies, NZL         2
Sten Mohr, DEN          0
Dean Salthouse, NZL     0

A total of 18 races are scheduled for the round-robin series, where each competitor meets every other competitor twice. Tomorrow racing starts at 0900 and the forecast is for 15 knots. This should make for some good tactical racing.

Paul Cayard, Skipper, Team AmericaOne

See also the Steinlager Line 7 race report.


Nov. 19 — AmericaOne Team
on a Mission to Auckland

Welcome AmericaOne fans. The AmericaOne team is beginning a two-week training mission in New Zealand today, and I will be writing each day while we're down under.

The AmericaOne mission is to acquire valuable meteorological information on the America's Cup race course, scope out the infrastructure in Auckland for hosting the America's Cup in 1999-2000, and compete in the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race event. AmericaOne is the first challenger team to train on the America's Cup race course, and we are receiving quite a bit of attention from the Kiwis and the local media about this.

Today was scheduled to be the practice day for the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race regatta in Auckland. Unfortunately, 35-knot winds kept the fleet in the harbor. I made a trip to Southern Spars to visit the facility. Southern Spars is one of the premier mast makers in the world, and obviously the best in New Zealand.

Tomorrow will be the first day of racing. The format is a double round robin, followed by semi-finals for the top four and finals for the top two. The boats being used are the Farr-designed MRX, which is a 34-foot fractional-rig boat.

The crew is six, which is quite comfortable for this boat. The line-up of skippers for the regatta is Peter Gilmour (Japan), Magnus Holmberg (Sweden), Chris Law (UK), Roy Heiner (Netherlands), Sten Mohr (Denmark), Ray Davies (New Zealand), and myself. The AmericaOne crew includes Nick Herron (bow), Sean Clarkson( pit), Grant Loretz (trim), Steve Erickson (main), John Kostecki (tactician).

Gilmour is coming off a strong win in the Nippon Cup last week in Japan. Davies is the New Zealand national match-race champion.

Over the weekend, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron conducted the elimination series to determine the final three competitors for the regatta. Household names Rod Davis and Murray Jones (Team New Zealand navigator) were upset and did not qualify. Instead, it will be Gavin Brady, a young up-and-coming Kiwi match-racer, who will be in along with Neville Whittey of Australia, and the final slot going to Dean Salthouse of New Zealand.

The race course is just in front of the RNZYS clubhouse in downtown Auckland, which is excellent for spectating. The competitors will have to be sharp with the current and wind shifts. The forecast for tomorrow is 25 to 30 knots, dropping in the afternoon.

See ya.

— Paul Cayard      



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