Following a front that passed through the area Sunday night, a moderate Westerly wind was in place early this morning on the waters off Valencia. The westerly wind is quite shifty and puffy as it is coming off the city. This made for some tricky racing.

In the first match, Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle got of the line fairly evenly with BMW Oracle to windward on starboard tack. The boats drag raced out to the left with very little changing between them. This is the best look at the relative speed of the boats that we would get all day. After that, Luna Rosa tacked to port and BMW Oracle tacked in front of them in what looked like quite a strong position but Luna Rossa climbed out to windward and lived for a long speed test back toward the middle of the track. At the 3/4’s mark, Luna Rossa had a 2 boat length lead. From there Luna went left and BMW went right and the left paid. Luna at the top mark by 29 seconds.

Down the first run, Luna gybed first into the middle of the course and there was less wind there. The boats arrived at the gate together but with Luna able to round the left gate and head left while BMW went right. Luna tacked onto port to match BMW after about four minutes but the whole time both were on port, Luna gained. At one point, Luna Rossa had a 400 meter lead. At this point, Luna Rossa just sailed the wind they had without regard to BMW. The two boats were never in the same wind so classic match racing tactics would have brought Luna Rossa back to BMW Oracle. Luna tactician Torben Grael is the best at these difficult and shifty breezes and he did a greatest job today even if some of the Italian spectators would have liked a little tighter cover at times.

On the final run, Luna sailed more in the same wind as BMW Oracle, albeit from in front, and went on to win by over 2 minutes. Right at the end of the race the sea breeze came in and pushed the westerly off the course. This exaggerated Luna’s lead which really would have been about 30 seconds. For Team New Zealand and Desafio, this shift was a bigger deal and the final pair sailed the last mile of the race upwind!

In the TNZ-Desafio match, TNZ got the first shift and maintained the lead all the way around. At times, Desafio made big gains to erode TNZ’s lead. There did not seem to be an appreciable speed difference between the Spanish and the Kiwi’s but then again, today was not the day to read speed.

It was a day of sailing the wind you had. Tomorrow should return to more stable conditions. That should allow us to better interpret the speed of the boats.

For us with Italian TV, it could not have started better. I big win in the first race of a series for Luna Rossa means huge audience for the days to come.

This evening I went to visit 180 members of the St. Francis Yacht Club who are on the Commodores Cruise here in Valencia. Nice to see so many friends. After that I Went to a function by the Yacht Club de Monaco in the Valencia Super Yacht Marina to celebrate the arrival of “La Belle Classe” classic yachts Tuiga (1909), Ivanhoe (1938) and Eleonora (replica of 1910).

The Spanish finally did it today. The Swedish lost their race to Team New Zealand despite a great start by Magnus Holmberg and leading around the top mark. The Kiwi boat was just better suited to the 10 knots winds of today and got inside the Swedes at the bottom mark, took the right side up the second beat and that was it.

The Spanish actually lost their match to BMW Oracle but several hundred meters but because the Swedes also lost, the Spanish celebrated their first entry into the Louis Vuitton Semi finals after four attempts. The horns and fireworks were going off like the 4th of July over here as the Spanish boat came back into the America’s Cup Harbor.

+39 beat China team easily and the French disposed of the Germans. In the Italian derby, Luna Rossa beat Mascalzone in a similar fashion to NZL vs. Victory. Mascalzone helmsman Jes Graham Hansen got a great start over James Spithill but the leaner Luna Rossa just had too much speed for the high prismatic Mascalzone in today’s 10 knots.

What is left for tomorrow’s last flight of Round Robin Two is the big showdown: BMW Oracle vs. Emirates Team New Zealand. The winner will win the Round Robins and have the right to chose their opponent for the semi finals. The forecast is for 10-12 knots of wind so it should make for a great match.

The other matches of the day are: Desafio vs. Luna Rosa, Mascalzone vs. Victory, +39 vs. Germany and Shosholoza vs. Areva.

All four semi finalists are racing in two matches tomorrow so we may have a preview of the semi finals.

I unfortunately will miss the race as I am flying home for a few days with my family. No report tomorrow.

There has been some great racing in these two round robins but in the end, their aren’t any real surprises in the top four. Sure Victory or Mascalzone could have been there, but they did not win the races they had to win. So the teams will have four days off then the battles resume on Monday May 14. It will be interesting to see what the semi finalists are able to do in these four days to improve their performance.

TNZ and BMW will race for sure tomorrow as they have something to fight for. But will Luna Rossa and Desafio? Would they be better served with 25% more time to prepare for the semis? Even just one more day of rest? You will know before me. Enjoy!

Another perfect day on the Med- 12-15 knots from 125, sunny and fairly smooth seas.

The big race of the day was Luna Rossa vs. New Zealand. New Zealand got a slightly better start and slowly, over 20 tacks, eked out a small lead up the first windward leg to lead by 17 seconds. On the first run, The boats held about the same delta of 17 seconds with New Zealand still leading the way out to the right on the second windward leg. There was much opportunity for Luna Rossa and TNZ went on to win by 5 boat lengths.

The win for TNZ will most likely set up their race with BMW Oracle on Wednesday as the deciding race as to who will win the round robins and have the right to pick their opponent in the semi finals.

The other big match was Desafio vs. Victory challenge of Sweden. A win by Desafio would have clinched the last semi final spot for them. However, facing a must win situation, the Swedes came out and got the job done. It was a close match but the Swedes led the whole way and won by just one boat length. The Spanish are still in a very comfortable spot; a lost by the Swedes in either of their last two matches(TNZ and Mascalzone) or a win in either of the last two races for Desafio (BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa) will put the Spanish into the semis.

+39 put on a great show, winning the start and stretching all the way around the course to beat Shosholoza by 235 meters. Very well sailed by Ian Percy and Ian Walker.

Mascalzone, and its starting helmsman Graham-Hanson, had a KO going in the prestart against BMW Oracle up until the last second as they went over the line early on an unforced error, which allowed American boat the easy win.

Tomorrow’s big matches are the Italian derby of Luna Rossa and Mascalzone Latino and Desafio vs. BMW Oracle which Desafio won in the first round. Victory meets Team NZ.

The big match of the day was Mascalzone vs. Shosholoza and they did not disappoint. In a toughly fought pre-start Paolo Cain, the helmsman of Shosholoza, was able to get a penalty on Mascalzone which ultimately made the difference in this close race.

Mascalzone won the start and held the lead the entire race, sometimes opening up a lead of 150 meters which made some spectators think they would execute the penalty turn then and there, and keep the lead. However, the wind was on the lighter side, 9 or 10 knots, and it was quite shifty, so the amount of lead was never solid. Mascalzone waited until the finish line to make the penalty turn and they did not have enough of a lead to cross the line first, so the win went to Shosholoza. Mascalzone was eliminated from the semi-finals at that moment.

It is interesting to see the different techniques used for the penalty turns on the finish line.

+39 has authored the “staysail” turn where, after dropping the gennaker, the boat luffs into the wind with the staysail up (but rolled), so no windage. Once the boat crosses through the eye of the wind, they unfurl the staysail and use it to pull the bow down and across the line.

Today, Mascalzone went with the traditional genoa up, spinnaker down, luff up and tack technique. One could see the boat laboring to luff into the wind, with the genoa trimmed in and the main not in quite enough. Did this make the difference? I think the staysail would have worked better today.

Another interesting thing is that most teams are rounding the starting mark in doing the penalty. To me, this takes too much space. I would prefer to do the turn just above the line, away from the buoy so as not to have to worry about hitting that too. Of course, by rounding the buoy, you have protection from an oncoming starboard tack boat by way of Rule 18…room at the mark. Anyway, nothing is conclusive yet and it is interesting watching the teams figure out the best technique.

There were no surprises in the other matches: BMW Oracle beat +39, Victory beat Areva, Team New Zealand defeated China and Desafio continued their march into the semis by defeating Germany. Luna Rossa had a bye.

Tomorrow’s big matches are: Luna Rossa vs. Team New Zealand and Victory vs. Desafio. A win by Desafio will put them into the semis and Victory out. A win by Team New Zealand over Luna Rossa will most likely allow the final race of Team New Zealand vs. BMW Oracle to be the decider as to who wins the round robins and therefore, who gets to pick their opponent in the semi-finals.

This week’s VOR podcast includes one of the giants of the sport – Paul Cayard. A former Star World Champion, winning Whitbread skipper, and a World
Sailor of the Year, Paul talks about the America’s Cup, the TP-52 circuit, the World Sailing League, and the new look Volvo Ocean Race. There’s also
the latest from Valencia with America’s Cup website editor Peter Rusch, and news regarding the VOR going to India. — http://www.volvooceanrace.org/podcast

A Big day for Desafio. A tough day for Mascalzone Latino.

Desafio came from behind in both of their matches today to take critical wins off of Shosholosa and Mascalzone. Both races we won in exactly the same way. Desafio, just two boat lengths behind on the first run of both races, waited patiently for the lead both to gybe, then they pounced, gybing symultaneously, with better execution and then took the wind of each and made the pass. Then with excellent speed the built up leads of 200 meters by the finish line.

Both wins were important steps for Desafio in their quest to make the semi finals. The race against Mascalzone was a resail due to an infrindgment by the Italians when the race was originally run on wedensday. Unfortunately for the Italians, they had won the match on Wednesday then had the race anulled. This loss just about mathematically eliminated Mascalzone from the competition for the fourth spot.

Victory Challenge of Sweden and Desafio are the two teams really fighting for fourth.

It was a great day for sailing on the water off Valencia, sun, 15 knots and smooth seas. The local crowd set off fireworks when Desafio crossed the line for her second win of the day. The local team is making good.

The big three, BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa, and Team New Zealand all won their races today. Apart from the battle between Desafio and Victory for fourth, the next big battle could be in the last flight between TNZ and BMW Oracle. The winner of that race will most likely be the winner of the round robins and have the right to pick their adversary in the semi finals. We will have to wait until Wednesday for that one.

Big day today. Two flights with a nice 10-12 knot sea breeze. The big match of the day was the battle of the Louis Vuitton Cup leaders, Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle. This match was run in the first flight. The boats crossed the starting line pretty evenly, both on starboard tack, but with Luna Rossa to windward. Luna Rossa eked out a small advantage on a long starboard tack drag race and protected the right the rest of the beat to the first mark. On the run the boats seemed very even but BMW Oracle was able to sail a bit lower and get into a threatening position as the lay line approached. This forced Luna Rossa to gybe early, before the lay line to either end of the gate and BMW Oracle decided to cross behind Luna Rossa and set up for an inside position on the left hand (looking downwind) gate mark and with starboard tack advantage as well. Shortly before the gate, Luna Rossa gybed to port and attempted to cross but BMW Oracle was too far advanced and Luna Rossa was forced to gybe back and take the right hand gate while BMW Oracle gybed and took the left gate. This allowed BMW to get to the favored side up wind and that was pretty much it. The boats seemed very close in speed and it was a case of the boat who makes the last mistake loses. These two teams may not see each other for a month if there are to meet again in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals.

The other big news of the day was that Mascalzone Latino had their win over Desafio taken away last night by the jury for an illegal use of the backstay. The infringement came as Mascalzone reattached its upper backstay on the second windward leg of the race on Wednesday. The rules state that you can race with the upper backstay detached from the runner block or attached, but you can not change it once the race starts. The jury can award penalties in varying scope anywhere from nothing to a fine to disqualification. In this case they mandated a resail which will most likely be done tomorrow after flight 7. There is only one flight scheduled tomorrow. This race is do or die for Mascalzone to stay alive in the battle with Desafio and Victory Challenge for the 4th spot in the semi-finals.

Team New Zealand has been quietly winning races and is just one point behind Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle.

Luna Rossa, Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle are virtually assured a place in the semi-finals. The picture on who the fourth team is, is going to start becoming clear quickly. In less than a week, seven of the 12 teams will be out of this America’s Cup.

Is it me or is it Valencia. I just got back today at 12:00 and no races today. That is 7 out of the 9 days I have been here there have been no races.

The big match of the day was to be BMW Oracle against Luna Rossa both with 27 points. BMW won the first encounter between the two by just 6 seconds this match could be important in the case of a tie breaker.

The team that wins the round robins has the right to choose their opponent in the semi finals. In a fleet where there seems to be a bit of difference between the top three and the rest, this could be a nice advantage?possibly an easier road to the finals and possibly an earlier finish to the semi final so a longer rest or more time to improve the boat.

I was asked if Team New Zealand was holding back in the racing so far. I doubt it as the prize for leading at the end of the round robins is quite significant.

Desafio is protesting Mascalzone for a measurement violation in the race between them yesterday. The accusation has to do with starting the race with the top mast backstay disconnected from the runner block and then reattaching it later in the race. The interpretation is that once you start with it in a certain state (attached or detached), it can not be changed during that race. This is a big deal as Mascalzone won the race and desperately needs those points to stay in the hunt for the semi finals. The hearing was to be tonight.

The forecast for tomorrow is good, SE 10-12 knots so let’s keep our fingers crossed.