Alinghi Wins the America's Cup, Sweeping Team New Zealand 5 - 0
Alinghi won Race Five of the XXXIst America's Cup Match in Auckland on Sunday and, for the first time in its 152-year history, the America's Cup is going to Europe.
Ernesto Bertarelli's Swiss Alinghi Team swept away Team New Zealand in five consecutive races, becoming the first Challenger to win the America's Cup on its initial attempt.
With his 14th America's Cup win, Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts broke Dennis Conner's record of 13 America's Cup race victories, adding the five wins of 2003, to the nine he earned with Team New Zealand in the 1995 and 2000 campaigns.
Coutts has also now equalled the legendary Charlie Barr and Harold Vanderbilt by winning three consecutive America's Cups.
The Hauraki Gulf delivered conditions America's Cup aficionados had hoped for, and Sunday's race was sailed in ideal weather, with a steady 12 to 15-knot Northeasterly, blue sunny skies, and fair weather cumulus clouds providing an idyllic backdrop for the drama on the water.
As they have throughout the 2002/2003 America's Cup season, the Alinghi Team turned in a dominant performance, winning the start, and converting that early advantage into a solid lead that they protected ferociously.
Team New Zealand tried everything they could to break through, but the black boat continued to be plagued by gear failure, this time breaking a spinnaker pole on the second run. In the end, Alinghi was too strong, and proved to be well deserving of the most prestigious trophy in the sport.
The America's Cup will be collected by Alinghi in the Eastern Viaduct immediately as the boats return to port. The Official Prizegiving and closing ceremony will be at the American Express Viaduct Harbour on Monday afternoon at 16:00.
XXXIST AMERICA'S CUP MATCH - RACE 5 - THE FINAL
Alinghi (SUI-64) beat Team New Zealand (NZL-82) - Delta 00:45
Alinghi wins the best-of-nine series over Team New Zealand, 5 - 0.
Another consummate performance from beginning to end saw Alinghi sweep to a 5-0 victory in America's Cup XXXI. Once again, there was no dial up as the yachts came into the starting box. Instead, they elected to sail deep into the box and then line up for a time-on-distance run to the line.
Once again, skipper Russell Coutts and his afterguard timed the run to perfection, hitting the line at speed as the gun went. Alinghi were to windward, with Team New Zealand tucked away slightly behind and to leeward.
Both yachts left the line on starboard tack and very quickly Alinghi once again demonstrated its ability to sail higher than Team New Zealand. Alinghi led around the first windward mark by 21 seconds. Team New Zealand, skippered by Dean Barker, reduced the deficit to 18 seconds and 16 seconds on the next two mark roundings, but then Alinghi stretched away.
The delta at the second leeward mark rounding was 31 seconds, building to 42 seconds at the final windward mark and 44 seconds at the finish line. Once again, Team New Zealand was plagued by gear failure, breaking its spinnaker pole towards the end of the second leeward leg.
The crew jettisoned the broken pole for the chase boat to later collect. With a spare pole on board, the breakage did not cost the team significantly in terms of time, but underlined the difference between these two teams.
Alinghi was flawless throughout the America's Cup Match, while Team New Zealand suffered a succession of breakdowns and had to abandon two of the five races.
TEAM NZ DISMASTS
Team New Zealand Dismasts, Alinghi is on Match Point
In very difficult, blustery, conditions, Team New Zealand dismasted in Race Four of the America's Cup - to many seasoned Cup observers, its chances of a successful defence in the XXXIst Match appeared to tumble down with the rig.
It was a tough fourth race of the series, with rain squalls bringing strong gusts and sharp, choppy seas to the Hauraki Gulf.
On the second beat, after a strong squall had passed over the two boats, Team New Zealand appeared to pound through three particularly big waves. As the bow came down off the third wave, the mast snapped between the first and second spreader after what appeared to be a shroud or spreader failure. None of the crew members were hurt.
"It's possible it's the top of the V2 (shroud), which is the main, load-bearing outside rigging element, but until we get a chance to really look at the damage, we'd just be guessing," said syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg moments after the disaster. "When the boat pitches forward that increases the shock loading and the boat was definitely bouncing over a couple of waves there and that was obviously the thing that pushed it."
The Swiss Alinghi Team had been leading for the entire race, after skipper Russell Coutts executed a perfect time on distance start to hit the starting line just as the gun fired. Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker started slightly behind and to weather, and at the first cross, five minutes up the beat, Alinghi was able to tack ahead in a strong lee bow position.
The Alinghi lead was never threatened and when Team New Zealand dismasted, Coutts and his team sailed the rest of the course to grab a 4 - 0 lead in the XXXIst America's Cup Match.
For Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts, his 13th consecutive America's Cup win puts his team on match point in the XXXIst America's Cup Match. Coutts is now just one victory away from capturing his third consecutive America's Cup, and breaking Dennis Conner's record for America's Cup race victories.
Under the Match Conditions for the America's Cup, Team New Zealand cannot ask for a lay day to effect repairs.
"We'll swap masts with NZL-81, that's a very nice rig, and we'll be ready to race tomorrow," Schnackenberg promised.
Race Five is scheduled to start at 13:15 on Saturday afternoon.
31ST AMERICA'S CUP MATCH - RACE 4
Alinghi (SUI-64) wins, Team New Zealand (NZL-82) retires Alinghi leads Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series, 4 - 0.
Team New Zealand was slightly late entering the start box on the starboard end. Both yachts sailed deep into the box, neither one wanting to engage, and then going for a time and distance run into the line.
Russell Coutts, at the helm of Alinghi, hit the line exactly at the gun, with Team New Zealand about half a boatlength behind and to windward.
From then on, Team New Zealand was playing catch-up all the time, rounding the first windward mark eight seconds behind and the first leeward mark 17 seconds in arrears.
First signs of drama came on the downwind run as Team New Zealand, driving through the quarter wave of Alinghi, took a lot of water over the bow and down the forward hatch.
For most of the second beat, Team New Zealand appeared to struggle to control its sailplan, with much of its mainsail backwinding, on a heavily pre-bent mast.
With a squall crossing the course and winds of up to 26 knots up the second beat, Team New Zealand ploughed into three large waves. As the bow buried into the third wave, the rig broke just above the first spreader and the crew went from racing mode to survival mode.
For the second time in this Match, Alinghi was left to sail around the course on its own, taking their score to 4-0 and needing just one more win to take the America's Cup to Switzerland.
Alinghi Wins Third Victory
Alinghi is in charge of the 31st America's Cup Match after winning the third race in the best of nine series. The Swiss Challenger now holds a 3 - 0 lead over the Defender, Team New Zealand.
Race Three started in a 10-12 knot Northwesterly. The wind shifted back and forth across 45-degrees throughout the race, and at times hit 17-knots late in the piece.
Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts changed his mind midway through the pre-start, opting to take the right hand side of the course on the start line and nearly immediately realised a huge gain as the wind shifted dramatically in his favour. The lead Coutts built in the first five minutes of the race would carry him the rest of the way around the course.
Team New Zealand worked hard to minimise the damage on that first leg and slowly chipped away at the Alinghi lead over the next four legs.
But Kiwi skipper Dean Barker ran out of time as Alinghi protected its lead ferociously, especially on the final run to the finish, when Barker was given few options to attack.
Russell Coutts equalled Harold 'Mike' Vanderbilt with his 12th win in the America's Cup. Only Cup legend Dennis Conner, with 13, has more.
Team New Zealand must now win five races before Alinghi wins just two more if it is to successfully defend the America's Cup.
Race Four is scheduled to start at 13:15 on Thursday, but was posponed.
31ST AMERICA'S CUP MATCH - RACE 3
Alinghi (SUI-64) beat Team New Zealand (NZL-82) - Delta: 0:23
Alinghi leads Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series, 3 - 0.
Race three of the America's Cup saw a very different style of pre-start maneuvring between the pair with NZL-82 slipping across Alinghi's bow on port tack. By doing this, there was no dial up and Alinghi chased NZL-82 deeper into the starting box.
As the early stages of the race was to prove, gaining the right hand side of the start and the course was the correct strategy, at least in the initial stages. Aboard Alinghi it was tactician Brad Butterworth who called for the right hand side of the course and his team delivered the goods, crossing the start line second perfect on port tack at the Committee Boat end.
NZL-82 started on starboard at the pin end, half a boat length behind at the gun.
A few minutes later and the anticipated right hand shift up the beat started to pay dividends for Alinghi who pulled out a 200m lead. Eventually, as the boats approached the top of the course the breeze swung back to the left and allowed Team New Zealand to reduce this early margin, rounding the weather mark 28 seconds behind.
Just three gybes punctuated the first downwind leg and once again it was the last few minutes that allowed Team New Zealand to haul back another precious few metres, rounding the leeward mark 20 seconds behind the Swiss team.
And so the pattern continued, with Team New Zealand hauling back three more seconds on the second upwind leg and a further two on the second downwind leg to hang in 15 seconds behind.
But in the end, Alinghi's flawless performance provided no further opportunities for Team New Zealand to slip into the lead, despite getting within striking distance. In the end Alinghi crossed the finish line 23 seconds ahead to take their third race in a row.
COUTTS BESTS PROTEGE IN RACE 2
Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts got the better of his young protégé, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker on Sunday in a thrilling race to go up 2 - 0 in the America's Cup Match. Coutts made an incredible pass on the final run, breaking hearts across New Zealand as Alinghi slipped by just a few hundred metres from the finish.
Racing was delayed for over two and half hours to allow the sea breeze to stabilise on Sunday, and the warning signal eventually sounded with 8 - 10 knot Northeasterlies on the race course.
Coutts and Alinghi looked strong in the pre-start as the Swiss team won the favoured left side of the start line. Halfway up the first beat Alinghi crossed ahead of Team New Zealand, and hometown sailing fans had their hearts in their mouths.
But after trailing around the first mark, Team New Zealand showed an impressive display of speed on the first run, and 40-minutes into the race, the Kiwi black boat crossed ahead of its opponent for the first time in the XXXI'st America's Cup match.
Team New Zealand completed the first lap of the course with a 34-second lead and looked as if they would hold on the rest of the way. But on the final run to the finish, Alinghi rolled past NZL-82 after some ferocious luffing duels, and Coutts enjoyed his 11th consecutive America's Cup win.
Monday is an 'off' day. Race Three is scheduled to start at 13:15 on Tuesday afternoon.
31ST AMERICA'S CUP MATCH - RACE 2
Alinghi (SUI-64) beat Team New Zealand (NZL-82) - Delta: 0:07
Alinghi leads Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series, 2 - 0.
Race Two of the America's Cup got underway in light conditions with the breeze struggling to top 10 knots. With positions reversed for the entry into the starting box, Alinghi entered from the left and Team New Zealand from the right. But as the breeze started to shift around to the left further up the course it became clear that the left hand side of the start line would be favoured.
After a close quarters pre-start tussle, Alinghi held on to the favoured end of the line, forcing Team New Zealand to tack away and start on port.
As the first leg unfurled Alinghi did indeed appear to have the advantage as the breeze slipped to the left. Yet even though Team New Zealand was further to the right, they didn't seem to be losing out.
At the weather mark the Kiwis were 12 seconds behind Alinghi.
As both boats sailed downwind from the weather mark on port, Team New Zealand kept the pressure on by appearing to sail at the same speed but lower than the Swiss. Eventually they gybed away and shortly afterwards started to pull ahead rapidly.
On rounding the first leeward mark they had overtaken the Swiss to lead for the first time and were 130m ahead with a delta of 34 seconds.
The second beat saw Barker and his crew hold onto most of their lead despite the tricky conditions. At the weather mark, Alinghi was 26 seconds behind but by the leeward mark Alinghi had hauled back some of this advantage to close to the gap to just 14 seconds.
On the last beat the breeze had dropped to 7-8 knots and Coutts' team seemed keen on engaging Team New Zealand in a down-speed tacking duel. But as the pair bounced off each other it was Team New Zealand that appeared to gain the advantage, stretching their lead metre by metre with every tack.
At the last weather mark rounding, both boats had thrown in 33 tacks and Team New Zealand was ahead by 26 seconds. Choosing to perform a bear away set may have cost them the race as Alinghi opted for a gybe set. Team New Zealand were quick to respond and gybed over onto starboard but as the pair sailed downwind Alinghi, to weather, managed get the puffs first, sailing deeper at the same speed and soaking down to Team New Zealand.
What followed next was one of the closest finishes of the series, as Coutts' team fought to break through. Initially, Barker managed to hold Alinghi off, carrying the Swiss team out to and beyond the port gybe lay line. But after the gybe, Alinghi managed to drive over the top of NZL-82 yet again to win by seven seconds.
BAD LUCK FOR TEAM NEW ZEALAND
Team New Zealand Withdraws From First Race of America's Cup Match
From the Edwin Levick
All the elements were in place for a splendid opening to New Zealand's second defence of the America's Cup. Sunshine bathed the inner Hauraki Gulf in bright colours, a spectator fleet estimated at 2,500 boats was on hand and the weather conditions were challenging, 20 knots and a one-metre swell.
They were conditions that were too much for Team New Zealand. The defender of the America's Cup, skippered by Dean Barker (29), was forced to withdraw from the first race of the 31st America's Cup just 25 minutes into the contest after suffering a series of gear failures.
The Swiss Challenger Alinghi, led by skipper Russell Coutts, completed the course unchallenged to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-nine series. They need four more victories to win the America's Cup, while Team New Zealand needs five wins to retain the Auld Mug.
With the victory, Coutts sets a new record for most wins without a loss in the America's Cup Match. Coutts has won 10 consecutive races at the helm of an America's Cup yacht dating back to 1995. He breaks Charlie Barr's record of nine straight wins through three Cups between 1899 and 1903.
The two boats had an even start, hitting the line at the gun and with speed. Barker's NZL-82 was to windward of Coutts' SUI-64 by no more than two boatlengths. Barker surged to an early lead, but it was short-lived as Coutts clawed back and closed gauge between the two, pinching up from leeward.
The disasters started about 12 minutes into the race when the outboard end of Team New Zealand's boom broke. They continued about 4 minutes later when the tack of the genoa blew off. The sail pulled out of the headfoil, damaging the groove that holds the genoa to the forestay.
The crew tried to set a replacement headsail, but it pulled out of the damaged headfoil. Team New Zealand officially withdrew from the race at 13:40 hours, 25 minutes after the start.
The last time a defender withdrew from a race in the America's Cup Match was in 1920. Resolute retired from a race against Shamrock IV when the throat halyard, controlling the inboard end of the gaff supporting the mainsail, broke in a squall.
Ten years after that, challenger Shamrock V withdrew from Race 3 against defender Enterprise when its mainsail halyard broke.
Race 2 is scheduled for 13:15 hours tomorrow, and the conditions are forecasted to be lighter than today.
31ST AMERICA'S CUP MATCH - RACE 1
Alinghi (SUI-64) won; Team New Zealand (NZL-82) did not finish - Alinghi leads Team New Zealand in best-of-nine series, 1-0
The racing had started with an exhilarating pre-start in which Coutts and Barker performed brilliantly timed runs into the line for the start gun. Less than two minutes later, NZL-82 looked strong as the local boat showed early indications of being quicker.
The early lead was short-lived as Alinghi had hauled back Team New Zealand's 20-metre advantage. If the first few minutes were anything to go by, this was going to be a thrilling race.
Six minutes after the start and Team New Zealand appeared to have a problem as one of their afterguard was seen to be bailing frantically as large quantities of water were seen sloshing around down to leeward. As fast as he bailed, more water came in. A few moments after that Team New Zealand tacked away onto port while Alinghi continued on starboard.
With 13 minutes of the race elapsed, the first disaster struck as the end of NZL-82's mainsail boom broke removing all outhaul control. At 17 minutes after the start there were further problems aboard NZL-82 as the tack blew out of the headsail. But the nightmare still wasn't over for Team New Zealand.
As the crew hoisted a replacement headsail the sail blew out of the headfoil. Twenty-two minutes after the start and Team New Zealand's race was over.
Alinghi completed the course in 1:55:53. They used a spinnaker on the first run only as the wind blew between 20 and 25 knots. On the run to the finish Alinghi was sailing wing-on-wing, its genoa trimmed to windward of the mainsail. It crossed the finish line without a headsail. - Compiled by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.
What About Dennis Connor?
The San Diego drapery entrepreneur and the only America's Cup contender to win the cup four times (1974, 1980, 1987, and 1988; the cup has been lost three times, twice by Connor), was boosted out of the race in the quarter finals on Harauki Gulf.
Connor was sailing on the smallest boat in the race, a Ross 780-trailer Sailer, "The Kiwi Menace II". He was the captain for the New York Yacht Club, but he came into the race late, with his practice runs late in the Long Beach Harbor last summer, and in fact, the 24-foot boat sank in the harbor, rumors of a broken keel.
The 60-year-old sailor will not be dusting the Auld Mug on his mantel this year, and he contends it probably is his last run for the cup, kept in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron building until the winner is announced. He has sailed for the trophy on a regular basis since 1974. His budget for the 2003 cup topped $45 million, but dollars weren't enough, especially against the countless millions that billionaire Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison spent. Connor will have to be content with the fun of the rum runs - after all, one of his sponsors is Barbados' Mount Gay Rum, celebrating it's 300th anniversary in 2003.