AUCKLAND, New Zealand, January 17, 2000 — AmericaOne, the San Francisco-based St. Francis Yacht Club’s America’s Cup 2000 challenger, advanced to the Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup by winning eight races. As the top scoring team, AmericaOne will race against Prada Challenge for the Louis Vuitton Cup, beginning on January 25.
During the Semi-Final Round of the Louis Vuitton Cup six challengers from four nations raced each other twice, for a total of ten races. The scoreboard from the previous rounds was cleared; the winner received one point per race won. Only two of the six teams remain after the ten races. Racing is on an America’s Cup course, three laps totaling 18.55-nautical miles, in a windward/leeward format.
Following is a summary of each of AmericaOne’s races.
[Race 1, January 2]
AmericaOne beat Le D Francais (FRA 46) by 22s.
With wind conditions ranging in the 10-16 knot range, and white caps dotting the Hauraki Gulf, the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup was a good test for USA 61’s debut. The AmericaOne Team secured a three-boatlength lead on the first windward leg, and continued to lead the French to the finish.
“We were pleased to have USA 61 come out of the box a winner,” said Paul Cayard AmericaOne Skipper & CEO. “The French did a good job keeping us on our guard and kept the match close.”
[Race 2, January 3]
AmericaOne lost against America True (USA 51) by 2m 23s.
Off the starting line AmericaOne was able to extend its lead en route to the windward mark. After rounding, a crossed spinnaker halyard led to a delayed set, which cost the AmericaOne Team time.
At the second windward mark rounding, America True’s spinnaker tore, causing the spinnaker pole to break as well. This incident contributed to a more than one minute lead for USA 61 at the last leeward mark rounding. Moments later, the jib halyard on USA 61 broke and the headsail came down, tearing the sleeve of the jib which holds it onto the forestay. Without the ability to put up another headsail, USA 61 was effectively out of the race.
“It’s frustrating to lead for two-thirds of the race,” said Cayard. “And then lose due to gear failure.”
Four challengers invoked the postponement rule for the first time in the Louis Vuitton Cup. With wind speeds in excess of 18 knots, four of the challengers – America True, Nippon Challenge, Stars & Stripes, and Le D Francais – requested a postponement in racing to a future date. The race committee granted their request under Rule 14.4 (d) of the Notice of Race for the Louis Vuitton Cup, which permits postponement upon unanimous agreement between the race committee and the representatives of the competing boats.
Rain squalls then blasted the Hauraki Gulf with winds over 30 knots at times. The committee eventually abandoned racing, including the match between AmericaOne and Prada Challenge.
[Race 3, January 5]
AmericaOne beat Prada when Luna Rossa (ITA 45) dismasted on the first leg of the race.
USA 61 charged into the start box with a mission: To defeat ITA 45. On starboard, USA 61 rounded the committee boat while ITA 45, on port, rounded from the opposite direction in an attempt to shut out AmericaOne. USA 61 gybed and ducked in the gap between the transom of the race committee boat and Luna Rossa. AmericaOne crossed the start ten seconds ahead of the competition.
Halfway up the first weather leg, Luna Rossa’s mast failed at the third spreader disabling ITA 45 for the remainder of the race. AmericaOne continued around the course to collect its point.
[January 6] Racing was abandoned due to insufficient wind.
[Race 4, January 7]
AmericaOne beat Nippon Challenge (JPN 44) by 23s.
Race 4 was AmericaOne’s fourth consecutive win over Nippon Challenge. USA 61 and JPN 44 remained close, exchanging tacks and gybes throughout the first lap. On the second windward leg, AmericaOne caught a windshift and effectively stretched the lead to the leeward mark, protecting its position to the finish.
[Race 5, January 8]
AmericaOne beat Stars & Stripes (USA 55) by 2m 43s.
With this win AmericaOne captured the top spot on the scoreboard for the Louis Vuitton Cup. Racing took place in 7 knots of wind. After winning the start against Ken Read and USA 55, Cayard and the AmericaOne Team outpaced USA 55, rounding the first leeward mark 1m 14s ahead. The team continued to use better boatspeed and handily won against Stars & Stripes.
“We had the first shift and the first cross,” said AmericaOne Tactician John Kostecki. “It seemed to be the key to winning.”
[Race 6, January 9]
AmericaOne beat Le D Francais (FRA 46) by 1m 16s.
The race commenced with a thrilling pre-start period which found USA 61 taking control of the boat helmed by Bertrand PacSeconds before the starting gun, AmericaOne, to leeward, luffed, while the French team edged dangerously close to the starting line. FRA 46 was forced to split and tacked away; USA 61 accelerated and crossed the line, gaining control of the favored left side of the course. AmericaOne continued to stretch on the weather legs and despite Le D’s good downwind speed, USA 61’s position was never challenged.
John Demourkas, AmericaOne-Lycos Auction winner rode as 17th crew aboard USA 61. John’s wife Deneen Demourkas joined bidders from around the world over an 11-day period of online bidding at Lycos.com. The winning bid was a birthday present for her husband.
The International Jury stripped one point from Stars & Stripes after determining that it had sailed with an illegal rudder in Race 1.
[Race 7, January 10]
AmericaOne beat America True (USA 51) by 1m 16s.
This race was billed as the final San Francisco showdown, as it would be the last time that AmericaOne faced America True in the Semi-Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup. The race didn’t disappoint sailing fans. It was full of tacking and gybing duels but, as the race progressed it became a case of the “rich getting richer,” as AmericaOne benefited from significant wind shifts. Combined with excellent tactical decisions by Kostecki, the AmericaOne Team won the race convincingly.
“Our weather team did a really good job helping us call the first shift,” said Cayard.
[Race 8, January 11]
AmericaOne beat Prada Challenge (ITA 45).
This race was the highlight of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finals with everything spectators could hope for: Fantastic conditions, exciting racing, and tactical situations requiring experience, calm and grace under pressure.
After an aggressive starting sequence, with both boats choosing opposite tacks, AmericaOne went out to the left side of the course and picked up a considerable wind shift, which gave USA 61 a two boatlength lead. USA 61 continued to cover ITA 45 and rounded the windward mark 1m 8s ahead.
While ITA 45 gained on USA 61 downwind, AmericaOne increased its lead on the upwind legs. By the third beat, Prada had closed the distance between the boats considerably. As the boats approached the third weather mark, ITA 45 overtook USA 61, rounding inside and gaining a six second lead around the mark. The two teams accelerated down the run for an action packed finish.
A total of eleven protests were exchanged and one penalty per boat was given; Prada for windward boat failing to keep clear, AmericaOne for failing to keep clear while overtaking from clear astern. Francesco de Angelis, at the helm of Luna Rossa, initiated a three-gybe gybing duel in an attempt to work off a penalty. It was not enough for the Italians as USA 61 crossed the finish line eight seconds ahead.
[Race 9, January 12]
AmericaOne beat Nippon Challenge Asura (JPN 44) by 17s.
Race 9 was a turning point for both teams: AmericaOne secured its spot in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, and Nippon was eliminated from advancing.
Nippon needed a win in this race to advance so they pulled out all their weapons. From aggressive pre-start maneuvers to a tacking duel on the first beat, the crew of Asura fought a hard battle. Upon rounding the first windward mark, Nippon found the advantage needed in a windshift. Downwind, in a gybing duel, USA 61 gained distance each time, but the race wasn’t over. JPN 44 repeatedly established, lost, and reestablished an overlap from the leeward position.
Numerous calls of proper course violations and protest flags were answered with green flags (indicating no foul) from the umpires. AmericaOne finally surged ahead breaking the overlap with enough room to gybe onto port and narrowly crossed in front, rounding the leeward mark ahead.
The race continued to the last downwind leg, with the AmericaOne Team defending its lead and crossing the finish 17 seconds ahead.
[Race 10, January 13]
AmericaOne lost to Stars & Stripes (USA 55) by 22s.
The final race against Stars & Stripes occurred in big seas and 15-18 knot winds. Both boats started on starboard, although after splitting up the beat, USA 55 was the beneficiary of two signigicant wind shifts, giving them a lead around the top mark. AmericaOne continued to make up time lost, but on the last upwind leg, USA 55 put enough distance between them and AmericaOne to maintain its lead. The race concluded in a close gybing duel, with AmericaOne closing to less than a boatlength. Stars & Stripes defended their lead to take the win.
“The Semi-Finals were really a good series for us,” said Cayard. “Our crew work and boatspeed have come together. We had two races against Prada where we collected good information about how we perform against them and I’m looking forward to the Finals.”
AmericaOne meets Prada Challenge in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals from January 25 to February 4. During the Finals the challengers will race one race per day in a best-of-nine series. The first team to win five races will win the Louis Vuitton Cup. Racing is scheduled to begin at 1:15 PM local time on a full-length America’s Cup course, three laps totaling 18.55-nautical miles in a windward/leeward format.
Semi-Finals Sailing Crew: Bill Bates of San Diego, CA, mast/sewer; Josh Belsky of Hood River, OR, pit; Curtis Blewett of Los Angeles, CA, mid-bow; Gavin Brady of Annapolis, MD, strategist; Paul Cayard of Kentfield, CA, helmsman; Sean Clarkson of Middletown, RI, main assist; Mike Howard of Malibu, CA, grinder; Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis, MD, mainsheet; Lexi Gahagan of Wilmington, DE, navigator; John Kostecki of Fairfax, CA, tactician; Morgan Larson of Capitola, CA, traveler, David McClintock of Portsmouth, RI, upwind trim; Jim Nicholas of San Diego, CA, grinder; Carter Perrin of Houston, TX, downwind trim; Greg Prussia of Oroville, CA, bow; Ralf Steitz of Port Washington, NY, traveler; Phil Trinter of Lorain, OH, grinder; and Matt Welling of Bay Shore, NY, grinder.
Semi-Final 17th Crew: Race 1, Steve Hooper of San Francisco, CA; Race 2, Mal Thompson of Auckland, NZ, Race 3, Matt Tobriner of San Diego, CA; Race 4, Doug Smith of Piedmont, CA; Race 5, Jack Martin of Boca Gizamoe, FL; Race 6, John Demourkas of Santa Barbara, CA; Race 7, Jim Doyle of the San Francisco Chronicle; Race 8, Stu Abraham; Race 9, Bill Koch of Osterville, MA; Race 10, Icka Cayard of Kentfield, CA.