match it if you can
First, check out this highlight reel from the fleet racing portion of the Little AC. For more about Friday’s match racing, read below.
Match racing was in full effect today when two forces collided in Newport, RI for the championship round of the Little America’s Cup (I4C). The Defenders, Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke, sailing Canaaan faced the Aussies Glenn Ashby and James Spithill, sailing Alpha in a seesaw battle. The story line of the qualifying races has been bigger breeze-Alpha, anything else-Canaan. There was a little bit of both today.
From the onset the action was nonstop. During the two cancelled races of the morning, the prestart fight lasted until the gun, and while Alpha was more aggressive, Canaan attacked when they had the opportunity, pulling their Y-flag during a close downspeed port/starboard cross, and getting a green flag for their trouble. Canaan ended up a mile ahead in the first race by staying in the breeze better than Alpha, although it was rightfully stopped when the Narragansett Bay current was faster than the wind. After Alpha won the second start, the two ended up in the convergence zone between the seabreeze and gradient, and the race was called.
After the seabreeze stabilized at 10-15 knots, racing resumed. Again, the prestart was serious with Alpha continuing to charge and Canaan finding ways to get free. They pushed each other beyond the starboard layline on a wild reach one minute before the start. Fred and Magnus’ tactics worked well until they blew the tack to head to the line. They ended up 38 seconds behind at the top mark as Alpha sped from the line at top speed. Canaan played catch-up for the rest of the race, with Alpha showing their textbook boathandling and great speed. In the end, the margin of victory by Alpha was only eight seconds. Prestart was everything.
The battle raged on in the second prestart with Alpha continuing to attack and Canaan evading. Only in the last 20 seconds before the start did Alpha gain a true advantage, starting underneath Canaan to the left side of the course. Alpha kept gassing the Canadians until Canaan tacked back right. In true match-race style, Alpha tacked straight away and slowly (in catamaran time) rolled over the top of Canaan, forcing Fred and Magnus to tack to the left side of the course. When they met at the top mark Alpha led by 18 seconds. That was the last mark Alpha lead in the race. On the downwind Alpha covered from ahead but Canaan gybed later to starboard for the leeward mark and worked inside with pressure and superior downwind speed and angle. Canaan gybed in front of Alpha at the bottom mark and extended the lead to over three minutes, although the dying breeze after Canaan finished had quite a bit to do with the finishing disparity.
In the end, the prestarts were the key, as Canaan had trouble in the first and stayed clear in the second. The performance differences were minimal upwind, but downwind was another matter, especially in light air. What do you know? Match races with box-rule, technology-driven multihulls, decided by skill. Tomorrow starts in a dead heat, although Canaan has the tiebreak for winning the qualifying round. Look for the prestart intensity to triple tomorrow!
The fleet racing by the other three C-Class yachts in the field was a bit anticlimactic, except for Patient Lady VI dropping her rig right at the finish. The ‘T’ hound at the top of the shrouds failed right at the finish of race one, and she was quickly towed to shore. There was only minor damage which will be repaired by morning. PLVI will definitely be out tomorrow as they still have a shot at 3rd place. The slender bowed Orion, sailed by Canadians Dan Cunningham and Rob Paterson hit the beach during the first race as they didn’t want to break their wing, which is also the backup for Canaan. Orion and Invictus have been trading punches for third position since the beginning, and hopefully we will see Orion out again if the conditions aren’t too full on.
Today, all of the best wing and multihull designers were on hand to view the spectacular prelude to the future of match racing, and OTWA was there to bring you every minute. Our coverage continues tomorrow with races MOVED UP TO 10 AM. Just go to the live link on the Little America’s cup site to view some incredibly intense racing with live tracking.
Check out the two part interview with Fred Eaton and Jimmy Spithill here after the day’s racing, and check this one out to see what Steve Clark had to say the morning after the death of the Cogito wing, the predecessor…
Thanks to Gunboat, makers of the fastest cruising sailboats in the world, Layline (offering a 10% discount on their stock and rigging if you use the code Little AC), Pure Yachting, Hall Spars who happened to help out with the last Cup winning wing, the C-Class especially Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke, U.S. A-Class Catamaran Association, Ashby Sails, Red Gear Racing the best catamaran coaching in the U.S., Ion Earth for the tracking, Hard Bottom Inflatables for supplying us the HBI for coverage and SailFly for great warm gear.
Photos: Meredith Block. Check out more photos at the Little AC site here.