America's Cup Diary: Day 7 - Valencia, Spain

The Cup is won.


Today, America's Cup challenger BMW Oracle Racing won the second race of the best-of-three series, defeating Alinghi syndicate. Here is how the day's events transpired:

05:30. Another lie-in. Due to expected lack of wind for today's race around a 39-mile triangular course, the Race Committee delayed the start overnight.

08:30. Alinghi and BMW Oracle depart from their docks. It is match point against the Swiss defender. Have they come up with any answers overnight to combat the speed exhibited by Larry Ellison's American wing-masted wonder in race one?

11:00. The postponement flag is still limp, but forecasters are predicting 4 to 10 knots of wind filling in between 13:00 and 14:00. Certainly there is a good sea breeze blowing across the harbor wall, but this does not extend out to the race course 25 miles out in the Mediterranean. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

14:15. The Postponement flag still flies. Winds are now between 4 and 7 knots, but the direction has just shifted through 90 degrees. The Race Committee rushing to relay course before time runs out at 15:00.

15:00. Start time has been extended to 15:30. The Race Committee have warned crews of an expected start at 15:25.

15:15. The 10 minute gun fired-we have a boat race!

15:25. What an incredible race! Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi crew came back from a self-imposed penalty during the start sequence after failing to clear the box before the 5 minute gun, and came back from a 62-second, 300-meter deficit at the start, to not only overtake BMW Oracle Racing, but extend that advantage to more than 500 meters within 35 minutes.

The catamaran's performance was completely transformed from the first race on Friday when BMW Oracle Racing dominated proceedings upwind and down to win by 15 minutes, 28 seconds. This time, Alinghi was not only footing faster, but pointing higher than the American challenger. How? While the pundits were suggesting the use of a more powerful mainsail and greater water ballast, Alinghi skipper Ernesto Bertarelli handed the wheel to his French deputy Loïck Peyron as they raced out to to the favored right hand of the course. BMW Oracle, which had strode out to the left-hand side of the course, suddenly saw their initial 300-meter advantage disappear and tacked to give chase. The two kept track with each other for a further 5 minutes before Alinghi tacked onto port, now wearing a protest flag, with a complaint, not against her rival perhaps, but the race committee. Word back in the press office was of a war of words had broken out onboard the committee boat on their judgement to start the race. Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron had ruled a start within 5 minutes of the time limit. His fellow committee members, all representing the defending club, Société Nautique de Genève, it is suggested by the BMW Oracle representative onboard, disagreed. The truth of all this will not be known until much later tonight.

16:15. BMW Oracle Racing tacked on the port lay-line for the windward mark, 309 meters behind Alinghi, and as the two multihulls closed on each other at a combined speed of 40 knots, the gap closed rapidly. By 16:19, it was down to 110 meters. Alinghi just had the space to cross ahead on starboard, but not to tack in front of BMW, and the American challenger sailed under her stern and into the lead. Within a further 2 minutes, the gap had been reversed by 220 meters, and Alinghi rounded the windward mark 28 seconds adrift. But now BMW Oracle's 223-foot wing mast began to really show its advantage on this first reach on the triangular course. Within 6 minutes, her lead was 385 meters as her leeward hull sliced through the water, touching 33 knots. The Alinghi crew had no answer. They were 12 percent slower on this tight reach, and by the gybe mark were 2,066 meters behind. Alinghi kept a better pace on the broader second reach and, after completing their 270-degree penalty turn, finished 5 minutes, 26 seconds behind the challenger.

17:45. Word from the Alinghi Camp is that Ernesto Bertarelli has dropped his protest-Larry Ellison and his crew have recovered the America's Cup for America for the first time since Dennis Conner last lost it to Peter Blake's Team New Zealand back in 1995!