A hard-fought battle between Emirates Team New Zealand’s Dean Barker and BMW Oracle Racing's James Spithill at the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena today went the Kiwis' way when the American team lost a penalty call in an aggressive luffing match approaching the second weather mark.
“It was close, just half a metre between the boats, as close as you’d ever want to be,” said Barker, describing the incident . “You could lean across and shake hands if you wanted to.”
Sailed in the blustery 18 to 20 knot winds of a building mistral, the match was the only one sailed today as the wind continued to increase in intensity. Racing was canceled for the day as crews prepared for a second race between the Kiwi boat and Sweden’s Artemis.
Race officials later cancelled all racing on Monday when the heavy winds of the mistral are forecast to make conditions impossible for competition. They plan to resume on Tuesday and complete the remaining races of the round robin on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Today, the umpires penalized Oracle when Team New Zealand luffed their opponent, forcing them up head-to-wind, as the boats raced side-by-side towards the weather mark on port tack.
“They made a gain to the left approaching the top mark,” Barker said. “They were in a position where they probably would have led us around if we didn’t make something happen, so we did a couple of luffs. The first one, we were required to give them room to get clear but they didn’t take the room straight away and make an attempt to keep clear so we luffed a second time and could easily have made contact with them if we hadn’t avoided. The umpires saw it the same way and penalized them.”
The confrontation momentarily cost the New Zealanders the lead and gave the advantage to Oracle, so the umpires added a red flag calling for an immediate penalty turn. The American boat circled before rounding the mark but was judged not to have completed a full turn. The umpires called for a second circle before clearing Oracle.
“It was a good hard race for us. We back our crew work against any team and we came out on the right side of that one,” Barker said. “It’s hard because the emphasis has got to be on keeping the boats apart. We can’t afford any more damage here with one pair of boats already out of action.”
Provisional win-loss leaderboard after Sunday racing
=1. Synergy Russian Sailing Team, 5-4, 5 points
=1. Artemis, 5-2, 5 points
=1. Emirates Team New Zealand, 5-2, 5 points
=4. TEAMORIGIN, 4-3, 4 points
=4. All4One, 4-3, 4 points
=6. Azzurra, 3-4, 3 points
=6. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, 4-1, 3 points *
=8. Luna Rossa, 2-6, 2 points
=9. BMW Oracle Racing Team, 1-6, 1 point
=10. ALEPH Sailing Team, 2-4, -2 points *
The forecast mistral is raging at full force here in La Maddalena. With gusts well over 30 knots, yesterday's decision to cancel racing today was certainly the right one.
The forecast for Tuesday offers a measure of relief, with the winds expected to ease later this afternoon and overnight. By Tuesday morning, the wind should be back in a 'sailable' range. But it may build too much later in the afternoon.
The pairings for Tuesday are:
Mascalzone Latino Audi Team vs. BMW ORACLE Racing
Mascalzone Latino Audi Team vs. Aleph
Luna Rossa vs. Aleph
Azzurra vs. BMW ORACLE Racing
Azzurra vs. TeamOrigin
Artemis vs. Emirates Team New Zealand