The long awaited Challenger Final began this evening with the first of three matches between Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing getting off at 17:30. Alinghi chose starboard entry into the start box and BOR chose the boat selecting NZL92. It was an even start, Ed Baird and crew on Alinghi took the right, Russell Coutts took the left, gaining an early half a length lead. Coutts won the first cross, Alinghi reeled the Americans back in to striking distance around the first top mark, just 11seconds behind. Downwind the lead swapped in a hard fight and Alinghi rounded just 5seconds behind taking the left-hand mark. Back up the beat, BOR stretched it out again and it wasn’t until the final approach downwind to the finish line that Alinghi pounced seeing a bias on the committee boat end and charging across the line just 1second ahead.
“Well I have to say that we got just a little bit behind off the start and struggled to gain on BOR but we did do our very best to try to keep things close. Down the run the team did an amazing job of gybing the boat and every time we gybed we seemed to gain a little bit. Coming in to the line it looked like BMW Oracle was going to be a couple of boat lengths ahead of us. Juan Vila said the boat end was favoured, Brad agreed, we gybed on layline and it was a beautiful gybe and the guys settled in to sailing the boat fast. We had about eight lengths to go to finish and at about five lengths out I sneaked a look at the opposition and we were gaining, from there the guys made an extra effort to do everything they could and it worked!”
Winning by a second – how did you pull it off?
“The one second thing will make you an old man before your time that’s for sure! But obviously everyone is thrilled and the teamwork made it happen.”
“It’s a three race deal now because they are worried about the weather so they have shortened it to first team to two matches. It’s much better to be the person that won the first one than the person that didn’t! Tomorrow we get port entry for the first race and starboard entry for the last one and we change to the other boat – NZL92.”