What a great race! We had two lead changes and in the end, the Kiwis who built a seemingly unassailable lead on the first leg to windward, were rewarded with the victory and now lead the series 2-1. Are we set for a long series or is the momentum changing and the Kiwis getting on a roll?
Last night a big front passed through the area creating mountainous waves on the race course this morning. The wind was rather light at 1500 today, at 10 knots but mostly very unstable. The race committee had to wait for 2 hours and 59 minutes (the last minute available under the rules) to get the race started. It was anything but straight forward but the Kiwi meteorological team led by Roger Badham figured it out. The call was for the right and Dean Barker got it at the start and Terry Hutchinson leveraged it. Alinghi must have had exactly the opposite call from its met team as they held a 50 meter lead off the line yet continued to split with Team New Zealand to a distance of over 800 meters before taking. After 10 minutes of sailing, the wind went abruptly right, the Kiwis tacked and had a 100 meter lead at the first cross. That lead grew to 370 by the first windward mark as the right kept paying and Hutchinson did not let go of it.
The race was anything but over on the first run and Alinghi made gains on each gybe cutting the lead to 250 meters as New Zealand approached the leeward gate. Then New Zealand found themselves in a very difficult position and had to make a very difficult manouver which they had trouble with. The gennaker got caught up in the genoa sheet block and they could not trim properly. Alinghi patiently and persistently dogged the Kiwis. The Kiwis tacked first to free their gennaker and the first cross there was only 80 meters in it. Huge comeback for Alinghi and race totally open.
The two boats exchanged tacks with the Kiwis, always protecting the right. Some great tactics at the second top mark allowed Alinghi to cross ahead of TNZ and round the second windward mark in the lead. The Kiwis then did a masterful job on the run, or Alinghi made a mistake. Alinghi chose to continue on the longer board at the first cross on the run to the finish and this gave the Kiwis room to get to the west of Alinghi. The wind rotated slightly to the east as it often does this late in the day.1845..and the Kiwis brought home the race with a handy 25 second margin.
The race was sailed in 9 knots dropping to 6 at the finish. The seaway was over 1.5 meters so incredibly difficult conditions for the helmsmen an trimmers. Impossible to tell anything about boat speed today. It was all the shifts and puffs.
Wild day, great race!
Now the question is how is Alinghi dealing with these defeats? How are they dealing with the huge reversal of momentum.expectations. The Swiss were clear favorites in this Final. Now they are behind. 2-1 is not terrible but the risk is that it could be 3-1 tomorrow night with a lay day to brew on Thursday. That does not sound like a pretty picture so I think tomorrow is almost a must win for Alinghi.