AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:
AmericaOne Comes Out to Play
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by Larry Edwards, Quokka Sports
Friday, October 8, 1999 -
With the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup only 11 days away, the challengers continued to crowd the narrow confines of the Hauraki Gulf with practice match races. While most of the participants were the same as those that participated in Monday's practice fleet race, there were a few notable additions on the water.
AmericaOne came out of hiding to play with the others on Thursday and managed to scoot home safely without incident.
In its first head-to-head skirmish with another competitor, the stealth-grey and kiwifruit-green boat skippered by Paul Cayard took on Le Défi Bouygues Telecom-Transiciel's 6ème Sens in a practice race and won.
The match was one of four in the first of a series of practice match races on the Hauraki Gulf conducted by the Louis Vuitton Cup race committee. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday a series of fleet races were held, but the San Francisco syndicate had chosen instead to keep its distance, testing its new boat, USA-49, against its trial horse, the former oneAustralia (USA-31).
The 15- to 18-knot northeasterly breeze was the stiffest condition the competitors had seen since the practice races began, and it took its toll. The match between the Spanish and Young Australia ended quickly when Bravo España's main blew out sailing up the first weather leg.
America True was also scheduled to race the Spanish boat, but had to settle for a formal sparring match with its stablemate, USA-39. The remaining match-up was an intramural affair between Prada Challenge's two Luna Rossa yachts from Italy.
AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki said the crew was pleased with the day's outing, but kept mum on the details. "We managed to beat them, but I don't know by how much," he said. "We seemed to be a little faster in the stronger wind and to have a boat-speed edge upwind."
The most important thing, he said, was that the one-on-one skirmish got the crew focused on racing again, after being involved in boat testing since July.
"It was good to go around the buoys and get the cobwebs out," he said. "We wanted to get the boat handling down and the level of crew confidence up."
The races were held on the blue racing circle, near Rangitoto Island, and sailed on the 12.5-mile Course B, which will be used during October's first round robin.
Kostecki explained that sailing near to land affects the wind conditions. In San Diego during the last America's Cup, the boats started three miles offshore and went straight to sea, away from the coastline. But this racecourse is bordered on three sides by the mainland coast and a number of small islands.
"It seemed at times that the land side of the course was favoured," he said. "It's obvious the land is going to be a factor in the racing."
The two Italian boats, ITA-45 and ITA-48, which have kept to themselves since going in the water last week, had skipper Francesco de Angelis and sailing coach Rod Davis at the helm. Prada spokeswoman Alessandra Ghezzi said they were pleased with the way the boats performed, but declined to reveal which boat won the duel.
Race committee chairman Vince Cooke said the practice session, "went wonderfully well. The weather behaved -- we had a steady breeze at 040 degrees."
In fact, the normally shifty conditions were too cooperative. Cooke said he ordered course changes on each leg by at least five degrees, even when it wasn't necessary, just to put the race committee through its paces. "We have a crew of 170 volunteers and they are performing fantastically well," he said.
More practice races are scheduled through Tuesday. The racing begins in earnest on Monday, 18 October, with Round 1 of the challenger trials.
For full story go to: www.americascup.org
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