America's Cup Diary: Day 5 - Valencia, Spain

Off and running: BMW Oracle 1, Alinghi 0.


05:30. Race 1 was again postponed until noon, but after the beating Harold Bennett and his Race Committee have received from around the world for seemingly playing Alinghi's game, we are hopeful for a race.

11:00. Postponement continues, but there are signs of a southerly wind picking up. Seas are flat, so there is no excuse there either. We are still hopeful.

12:30. Postponement continues, but we have 5 knots of southerly wind at both start and top mark. The Alinghi crew roll out their giant light gennaker, the second-largest sail ever made, lift their skirts and fly past the BMW Oracle trimaran on one hull. Can the U.S. team fly their hulls in these light conditions too? Skipper James Spithill does not take the bait. His crew keep their huge wing sail feathered into the wind.

12:50. Both multihulls are flying hulls. Race Committee indicate that they will commence the start sequence at 13:00.

13:15. Still no start. Winds have dropped to 3 knots at the start, but remain 5 knots at the top mark 20 miles to windward. Start sequence now revised to commence at 13:25.

13:23. Start sequence commenced-we have a boat race!

16:07. Larry Ellison's wing-sailed wonder BMW Oracle Racing trimaran demolished the perception that archrival Ernesto Bertarelli's Swiss catamaran Alinghi would be the faster boat in light winds. Skipper James Spithill overcame a mistake at the start that left the American tri stalled dead in the water. BMW Oracle Racing sailed 1 knot faster and 3 to 4 degrees higher to overcome a 660-meter deficit within 10 minutes of the start. Bertarelli, at the helm of Alinghi, had no answer. While the Swiss cat kept dipping her weather hull, the BMW Oracle crew consistently kept both outer and center hulls clear. The trimaran rounded the windward mark, 20 miles upwind of the start, 3 minutes, 21 seconds ahead of Alinghi-a time that translated into a massive 2,140 meters distance between them. BMW Oracle seemingly took command within a minute of the prestart. Entering on starboard, James Spithill caught Alinghi dead in the water as the Swiss made a failed attempt to tack ahead of BMW Oracle. Their protest flag drew a penalty. Game set and match? Not quite. Spithill kept the Swiss pinned up into wind but one minute before the start, got caught by a sudden luffing move on the part of Alinghi. BMW Oracle was caught in irons, her huge 223-foot-high wing sail totally stalled. The Swiss bore away, rounded the pin end of the line and set off on starboard. It was another 1 minute, 21 seconds before Spithill and his crew had regained their composure. We had a boat race-or, at least, thought we did. But any hopes Bertarelli had of recovering that prestart penalty were quickly dashed. The American trimaran could not only point higher but foot faster. The Swiss defender had no better answer downwind. Despite being an estimated two tons lighter, Alinghi was sailing consistently 3 to 4 knots slower than her American rival, which could also sail an impressive 5 degrees deeper. Within an hour of rounding the weather mark, BMW Oracle's lead had extended to more than 3,500 meters-1.89 nautical miles. USA crossed the finish at 16:07-15 minutes, 28 seconds ahead of Alinghi. That's a horizon job in any language! The second, and perhaps last race to decide this contentious 33rd America's Cup is slated for 09:06 on Sunday.