Earlier this afternoon, Alinghi scored their third consecutive win and what could be the Match’s most decisive one. They are now just one step from retaining the Auld Mug. The race was held in lighter conditions than Friday (starting at 10 knots and falling to 8) and two shifts decided the outcome.
The race started once again right on time with wind speed 10 knots and direction 115 degrees (our forecast was on spot as far as the direction was concerned but on the lighter side on speed). The prestart was aggressive but without any incidents and both boats hit the starting line at full speed. Emirates Team NZ was on the left and Alinghi on the right, both on starboard tack.
Similar to the previous races, they initially engaged in a long straight line towards the left-hand layline with Alinghi holding a small lead. The Swiss were also the first to tack to the right while the New Zealanders kept on for a couple of minutes. It turned out to be a decisive move and a small left shift pushed them forward. When they tacked as well, they were ahead and with the continued shift on the left, they rounded the top mark 14 seconds in advance.
The first run was a two sided story. Initially, Emirates Team NZ managed to stay in front of their opponent and even led by more than 100 meters at some stages. Still, Alinghi were able to close in on them and in the last stretch got very close. While the two boats were approaching the leeward gate,the kiwis took the decision to head for the left gate while Ed Baird steered SUI-100 to the right and rounded the gate a mere 11 seconds behind Dean Barker.
In hindsight, the wrong tactical choice at the leeward gate was the beginning of the end for Emirates Team NZ. Alinghi headed to the right side of the course and the New Zealanders to the left. They soon tacked to the right and the two boats started a tacking duel approximately halfway up the beat. Alinghi had benefited from a 15-degree right shift and after the third tack they were ahead of Emirates Team NZ. They led till the top mark and they rounded it 16 seconds ahead.
Having turned the situation around to the their advantage, Alinghi stayed in control of the game during the last leg and despite the 9 gybes thrown by their opponents they crossed the finish line 28 seconds in advance.
Emirates Team NZ called correctly the first shift of the day (to the left) and were ahead at the final stretch of the first leg. Valencia, 30 June 2007. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing