America's Cup Yachts Compete In The Louis Vuitton Pacific Yachting Series

Tony CastaneiraAnalyst IFebruary 22, 2009

The Louis Vuitton Pacific Series greeted Alinghi and Team New Zealand (TNZ) with a cold and wet final day on the waters off Auckland.

The regatta was condensed to a best of five series after gusty southerlies spoiled the previous day’s racing with only one race held, which Alinghi won after a great pre-start skirmish between two of the world's finest Yachting match racers Ed Baird and Dean Barker, with Barker of TNZ taking control early on but letting Baird off the hook just before the gun.

The Louis Vuitton Pacific Series is a match race regatta in America's Cup Class yachts in Auckland, New Zealand held January and February of 2009 with the racing starting on January 30.

The creation of this event is in response to the legal battle surrounding the America's Cup yachting competition. Ten syndicates are participating in the event. All ten teams will use boats loaned for the regatta from Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle Racing to make participation more affordable.

Described by its creators as a "fun and friendly event”, the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series relied on the concept of loaned boats with quick and short races combined with a abbreviated schedule to pack 72 match races into a three week period. There was racing every day except on the two scheduled lay days.

Six daily match races were planned on short windward-leeward courses laid at the entrance to Auckland's Waite Mata Harbor, between Rangitoto Island and the city foreshore. There will also be an outer course to be used if necessary to avoid weather delays.

Emirates Team New Zealand, as hosts, earned direct entry into the Louis Vuitton final. However, the team had been allocated to a pool and raced in the preliminary qualifying rounds. The points they won in pool play was disregarded when determining the rankings after the qualifying rounds.

Team New Zealand is providing NZL-92 and NZL-84 for the event. BMW Oracle Racing shipped USA-87 and USA-98 from Valencia for the event. The boats arrived in Auckland in mid-December. All four boats were extensively redesigned and worked on by onshore crew before the event.

The boats have been simplified and as a result would not completely meet IACC standards. The changes have been made to make the boats easy to operate and the races as even as possible.

First race of the day, final series race 2:

With a southeasterly wind of around 12knts and steady drizzle supplemented the gloom.  The wind was forecasted to turn to the North East and increase in speed to the high teens. Teams that were previously knocked out gathered in a large spectator fleet including their support boats. Racing was due to start at 11am, but was postponed.

Entering the starting box from the left hand side Team New Zealand met Alinghi and went head on into wind. Alinghi then peeled off with Team New Zealand chasing. A traditional duel then ensued. 

Team New Zealand broke off headed deeper and gybing with Alinghi electing to go right and not chase! Team New Zealand shut the door on Alinghi by immediately hardening and headed back up towards the line. Team New Zealand led across the line a super lee bow position, forcing Alinghi to tack off just after they crossed Team New Zealand 40M in front.

The boats tacked up the middle of the course but Alinghi was not able to draw Team New Zealand into a tacking duel and the gap extended out to 70m as they went out to the starboard layline.

The difference stretched to Alinghi trailing by over 100m at the top mark, with Team New Zealand having a slight speed advantage. The boats gybed down the heart of the track, with Team New Zealand riding the gusts coming down the course. On the final beat Team New Zealand protected the right and kept in the more beneficial tide.  It was a 28 second lead and a very easy win for Team New Zealand at the finish gun.

Race Three:

The race started with the wind still in the south at a steady 12knts with the tide tearing out of the harbor down towards the start line.  Completely dominating at the line, Team New Zealand not only started boat lengths ahead, but also forced a penalty on Alinghi.

Team New Zealand was forced to make avoiding action by Alinghi not giving Team New Zealand the right of way. Alinghi was left wallowing, facing the wrong way with a penalty still to do.

Alinghi made a remarkable comeback by picking up a better shift and took the lead.  What next followed was a series of tacks which achieved no changes.  Taking the advantages by moving left Team New Zealand gave starboard to Alinghi.  This allowed them to lead at the top mark and expand out to 170M during the downhill leg. 

The final beat found Alinghi accelerating but still 23 seconds behind but still with that penalty turn to do. At the finish gun it was another easy win for Team New Zealand, by 34 seconds.

Race Four:

Race four began with the winds picking up to the high teens, the clouds clearing with the tide now at full ebb.   Alinghi tried every trick in the book before the start.  They even tried diving into the spectator fleet when Team New Zealand gybed to head back to the line. 

But it was to no avail as Alinghi started to leeward allowing Team New Zealand to tack over the top forcing Alinghi away.

At the layline, Team New Zealand had a 70M advantage which they extended out to 180M when Alinghi executed a slow gybe set.   Alinghi battled back downwind and reduced the gap to 60M, as the race committee shifted the course 10 degrees and shortened it to 1.3 nm to avoid shallow water.

Team New Zealand then turned up the heat, increasing lead to over 90M as they headed to the right hand side layline, to make for the final turn and an easy cruise home to take the series. Team New Zealand’s 3 wins to Alinghi’s 1.

The celebrations for a stunning hat trick by Barker, Dalton and Team New Zealand started with the spectator fleet blowing their horns, as the rain even stopped for the win.

Now it is time to pack up the gear and catch some planes as the lawyers take over to see when, where and how the next America’s Cup will take place.