U.S. Boat Ral­lies to End Round 1

Sur­pris­ing Loss Fol­lowed by Key Come­back Win

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By An­gus Phillips

VA­LEN­CIA, Spain, April 28 — The first round robin of the 32nd Amer­ica’s Cup drew to a close Satur­day, six days late but with enough drama to make the wait worth­while.

In mod­er­ate winds and sun­splashed seas, pre­vi­ously un­de­feated U. S. en­try BMW Or­a­cle took an un­ex­pected beat­ing from the much- loved home team, De­safío Es­pañol, in the first race but ral­lied to beat Emi­rates Team New Zealand in the sec­ond. The win gave BMW Or­a­cle the lead in the stand­ings half­way through this elim­i­na­tion round and sent pre­re­gatta fa­vorite New Zealand plum­met­ing to third.

Or­a­cle vs. TNZ was the highly an­tic­i­pated finale of the 110race round. The pair en­tered the se­ries ranked one- two based on pre­lim­i­nary com­pe­ti­tion, but both are now sail­ing new boats that had never squared off be­fore.

A dust- up be­tween vet­eran Or­a­cle skip­per Chris Dick­son and young TNZ helms­man Dean Barker, both na­tive New Zealan­ders, was ex­pected. They did not dis­ap­point. The two lined up side- by- side, stalled in the breeze just me­ters apart as the five- minute prestart se­quence ticked down.

When the start­ing gun sounded, Dick­son had pushed Barker over the line, but the younger skip­per spun his boat bril­liantly, ac­cel­er­ated to steal Dick­son’s wind, ducked back across the line to start legally and es­caped po­ten­tial dis­as­ter. Within min­utes, the Ki­wis had carved out a four- boat- length lead.

Dick­son wasn’t done. He ham­mered away at the Ki­wis up the 2.6- mile first leg, throw­ing tack af­ter tack at his ri­val, and by the first turn­ing mark Or­a­cle had pulled even. As the two boats spun around to head down­wind, BMW Or­a­cle’s spin­naker snapped full, blan­ket­ing TNZ’s wind, and the Amer­i­cans shot into a lead they never re­lin­quished. The fi­nal vic­tory mar­gin was a com­fort­able 38 sec­onds, or five boat lengths.

“ It was full- on race, that one,” Team New Zealand strate­gist Ray Davies said. “ They had us on the ropes in the prestart but for­tu­nately for us, they made an er­ror and we got a healthy start.” As for get­ting passed on the first leg, Davies said not to read too much into it.

“ It was a tac­ti­cal thing. We wanted to pro­tect the right side so we let them go left, and then the wind went their way and they made big gains. We’re not re­ally wor­ried about our boat speed. On the long line­ups, we did fine.”

But Davies con­ceded that TNZ’s three losses in 10 firstround out­ings were trou­bling. “ It wasn’t the best round,” he said, “ but we’re still in the top four.” TNZ, ranked first com­ing into the re­gatta, lost to fifth­place Mas­cal­zone Latino, sec­ond- place Luna Rossa and BMW Or­a­cle. The top four boats at the end of round robin 2, which starts Sun­day, ad­vance to chal­lenger semi­fi­nals; the seven oth­ers go home.

BMW Or­a­cle’s only loss in the se­ries came against the sur­pris­ingly tough Span­ish team, which now stands fourth, just a point be­hind Team New Zealand. The Span­ish led the U. S. boat at ev­ery mark of the course Satur­day, in­creas­ing the mar­gin from 14 sec­onds at the first turn to a full minute at the end.

They crossed the line to cheers and whis­tles from a big crowd of spec­ta­tor boats on a pleas­ant spring day.

Sun­day is the first day of round robin 2. In­stead of two races, Cup of­fi­cials plan to run just one a day as long as the weather doesn’t fail.

Lack of wind at the be­gin­ning of the re­gatta forced can­cel­la­tions on six of the first eight sched­uled days, but or­ga­niz­ers say light winds in May are rare. They want to fin­ish the round robin by May 9, two days later than orig­i­nally planned. Semi­fi­nals for the top four fin­ish­ers start May 14.

BY DANI CAR­DONA — REUTERS

BMW Or­a­cle, right, trailed Team New Zealand by four boat lengths early, but the Amer­i­can en­try ral­lied to win by five boat lengths.

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