Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 23 News List

`Alinghi' sweeps day two of Louis Vuitton Act 13

AP , VALENCIA, SPAIN

Crew members of Italy's +39 Challenger struggle with a broken mast during the match racing pre-regatta for the Louis Vuitton Cup Act 13 ahead of the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia, Spain, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

America's Cup champion Alinghi swept the second day of racing on Wednesday at the Louis Vuitton Act 13. Alinghi barely won the third race of Act 13 after cruising to a strong finish ahead of Desafio Espanol of Spain in the second race.

The Swiss boat couldn't keep tack as BMW Oracle Racing whipped around the final marker and into the lead in the late race. The US boat's turn of speed had been dominant, but the streaky conditions left it -- along with many of the fleet -- momentarily stationary 300m from the finish line as jibs failed to catch wind.

Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird finally found the breeze and was forced to tack at the finish line but still cleared it 14 seconds ahead of Italian team Luna Rossa. Desafio Espanol finished 29 seconds behind in third despite having been penalized after an early start.

"Up to that point we were having a good race and had a lead going down that run, we just didn't see it coming," BMW Oracle Racing trimmer Ross Halcrow said. "A few huffs were coming through and we got one big puff there that broke a symmetrical pole and one of our guys went over the side and we picked him up as we went by, though I don't know if anyone saw it."

A stewards' jury was to meet later on Wednesday to review protests filed by +39 Challenger and United Internet Team Germany that resulted in neither team finishing the race. +39 Challenger lodged its protest against United Internet Team Germany, while the German team lodged its against French syndicate Areva.

The Germans broke a rig after a collision at the first windward mark, while the Italian team's new mast snapped in three places two days after the team had worked through the night installing it.

Alinghi leads the standings with 33 points, five more than both BMW Oracle Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand. Desafio Espanol is fourth with 26 points.

Despite the last-lap glitch, Halcrow said the US team was pleased, since its performance could have been a lot worse.

"All in all we're pretty happy with the day," Halcrow said. "It's unfortunate the pole broke but we got without injuries, and we could have broken the mast."

And despite the sweep, Alinghi trimmer Simon Daubney believes the team still has some areas to improve on.

In the early race, BMW Oracle Racing skipper Chris Dickson couldn't hold his USA 87 boat from crossing the start early, costing the US team an early penalty as the other 11 teams charged across the starting line.

Mascalzone Latino kept pace with Alinghi initially before skipper Vasco Vascotto was red-flagged for impeding the Swiss boat's progress in a crowded middle section of the course.

Dickson raced his boat up from eighth to fourth behind the New Zealand team as the breeze moved to the right, forcing the teams to come down on port gybe. Six teams were within a minute of the leader after the second turn.

A left-hand shift of wind kept gave the leaders a comfortable downwind lead around the final marker, with the Spanish team holding its second-place position and BMW Oracle Racing unable to overtake the Kiwis and third place as it put up its symmetrical jibe in the rolling breeze.

With Alinghi's points not factored into the final standings, bonus points will be awarded to the 11 challengers following Act 13, which is worth triple points. The points are carried into the round-robin stage of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which could mean the difference in a tiebreaker.

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