AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:
AmericaOne Handles the Pressure
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by Chris Law, Quokka Sports
Monday, December 6, 1999 -
It's how you handle the pressure that counts. Frustrated by the enormity of a mistake yesterday in the afterguard, Paul Cayard's AmericaOne came back today and won against the might of Italy's Prada Challenge in emphatic fashion.
The expected breeze for this time of year is between south/southwest. We had five knots, building to 10 to 12. The wind line (bearing to windward mark) was 175 degrees at the start, but soon after the wind clocked to 190 and the pressure built to 14 to 15 knots. Today the pressure differences were more crucial than the direction. These boats power up so quickly that a velocity change of one knot equates to nearly two boat lengths.
This match had added drama, as it could have been a dress rehearsal for the Louis Vuitton Cup finals.
AmericaOne, on port, times its approach perfectly and hits the line at full speed. Prada is a little late, slow and disadvantaged by a slight starboard bias in the line. That meant the steel grey hull of AmericaOne slid past the lunar-module grey of Luna Rossa. Advantage to AmericaOne. With its bow wave foaming in the light winds, Prada comes in for the hook, the overlap to leeward.
Two lazy circles later there's 2:20 to go, and AmericaOne breaks off too early. Prada gybes [?] around to starboard and builds speed. With its bow wave foaming in the light winds, Prada comes in for the hook, the overlap to leeward [?].
The rules state that a boat overlapping to leeward can luff [?] slowly, but at all times has to give its windward opponent room and opportunity to keep clear.
But the $50 million Prada syndicate drove in hard and immediately overlapped AmericaOne. Collision. Bow knuckle missing. Luna Rossa sailed the match as if she'd had her front tooth knocked out. Y flag: protest. Yellow flag. Penalty to Italy. Relief for AmericaOne. Good calls from the umpires.
Now it's a battle of tacticians. And what a battle this was. John Kostecki, known by some as the best sailor in the world, against Torben Grael, a superb sailor in his own right. Olympic medallist against Olympic medallist, world champions squaring off. These two have raced each other so much they know each other's moves.
"Today was tricky," said Kostecki. "We just tried to manage the shifts and the pressure lines and stay as close as possible. The boats seem very even. It worked out in the end."
"We tried to sail our own race," said Grael. "We missed the last shift at the end. We don't agree with the penalty. We thought AmericaOne did a sudden luff that caused the collision."
This match pitted Prada's No. 2 (latest) boat vs. AmericaOne's No. 1 (oldest) boat. Coming off the line both boats held a long starboard tack toward the lee of Rangitoto Island. The lifting breeze favoured Prada, but they carried a yellow ball, which meant they owed the umpires a 270-degree penalty turn, i.e. either a tack downwind or a gybe upwind. A roughly 40-second manoeuvre if done well, a minute if not.
Prada led at the first windward [?] mark by 18 seconds; 32 seconds the second time around. A good second run reduced the gap to 15 seconds at the second leeward mark, and then Prada took a 37-second lead beginning the run to the finish. If my guess of 40 seconds to do a turn was right, this was going to be tight.
With both boats holding starboard, AmericaOne to leeward of Prada's line, the Italians cleverly faked a gybe, dummying AmericaOne into an early gybe. However, there was still a final act to play.
Later on the leg AmericaOne crossed behind Prada to the right, got more pressure and gybed back to port. When they approached the finish line, Prada coming across on starboard, there was no way Prada could do the penalty turn and maintain the lead.
As they converged, both boats hoisted genoas under the asymmetric spinnakers. From my position I thought Prada, holding starboard, would risk dialing up AmericaOne. They were so close they might as well have been starting the race over again. They were in this position over two hours previously.
However, Prada didn't want to risk it and put their bow down, heading for the pin end of the finish line. They took their spinnaker down, bowed graciously to the winner and bowed out. AmericaOne crossed to an emphatic 23-second victory. A really, really good race. Light, shifty, tactical. And a great battle between the tacticians.
AmericaOne's success was the result of focusing on keeping in touch and keeping within the time period necessary for Prada to do their penalty. Trailing throughout, they managed this race fantastically. They damn well near-dominated it. Simply a great win for AmericaOne.
Cayard, Kostecki and crew are now within one point of the series lead, and still with their second barrel to fire. If the racing is this tight now, it's going to be compelling in three months when every race, not just the odd one, carries huge implications. Keep your screens on.
Chris Law is the former world No. 2-ranked match-race skipper. He has won nine Grade 1 match-race events around the world. He has been a national, European and world champion in the Finn, Soling and Etchells one-design classes, and a member of four British Olympic yachting teams. He has helmed entries in two Louis Vuitton Cups, aboard White Crusader in Fremantle in '86-87 and Sydney '95 in San Diego, and is TVNZ's technical analyst in Auckland.
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