There’s an old maxim in racing, and it goes along the lines of “when the flag drops, the bulls**t stops” and after more three years of legal action and posturing between the teams' billionaire principals, Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli, it was a much awaited start in many ways that mercifully kicked off the America’s Cup yesterday. Just 40 nautical miles (nm) later, the whole event seems all but over, as BMW Oracle was clearly faster downwind and particularly so upwind in comparison to the defending champ Alinghi V in conditions which were expected to favor the Swiss team. The racing was compelling and very spectacular, but in the best of three series, with the second race scheduled for Sunday …
The first race got underway after three frustrating days of unsuitable conditions. The defending champion from the Société Nautique de Genève took a 660m advantage onto the course, but such was the speed of the BMW Oracle trimaran that in a straight drag race, the advantage was held for just 16 minutes. After crossing the starting line with a 1m27s lead, by the time the windward mark was reached after 20nm, Alinghi V was 3m21s in arrears.
With the ultra lightweight construction of the Swiss catamaran, Alinghi V was expected to peg back at least some of the advantage downwind, but Team USA showed unprecedented (for an America’s Cup) 30 knot speeds to be nearly ten minutes faster over the 20 nm downwind leg.
With team president Ernesto Bertarelli at the helm, the catamaran was 15m28s behind at the finish after performing a penalty turn for a pre-start infraction.
Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said: "As long as you’ve got a life you’ve got a chance. We will regroup and think about race two. Sunday's race will be a different sort of race. We’ll see what conditions lend themselves. They looked pretty awesome upwind, and it was hard for us to hold them back. We’ll have our work cut out."
He was right. Alinghi’s chances of winning the cup for a third time are now close to zero, as evidenced by one of the few bookies still taking bets after the race showing 16/1 on for Team USA.