Valencia, 2 July, 2006 - Emirates Team New Zealand won a 'winner take all' match over Alinghi on Sunday afternoon on the waters off Valencia to win Louis Vuitton Act 12 and claim the 2006 ACC Season Championship.
The ultimate duel was set-up by Alinghi winning the first race this afternoon, squaring the final at 1-1, and forcing the deciding third race. The teams were surrounded by an enormous spectator fleet who cheered every tack and gybe. Conditions were ideal for racing again with a moderate sea breeze generated by the sunny skies.
After its win on the water, Emirates Team New Zealand returned to the Port America's Cup where it was scheduled to be presented with the Louis Vuitton Act 12 trophy by Rita Barberá, the Mayoress of Valencia, along with the 2006 ACC Season Championship trophy, from Yves Carcelle, the President and CEO of Louis Vuitton. The prize-giving ceremony was scheduled to take place in the public America's Cup Park, a crowded venue on a sunny Sunday evening in Valencia.
Emirates Team New Zealand earned its lead with a bold move in the pre-start. With under a minute to go, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker tacked and passed behind his opponent, switching sides to take the right side of the line near the Race Committee boat. While this meant he started downspeed and behind Alinghi, it was clearly the favoured side and within moments, it was clear this was a winning move.
Emirates converted that small advantage into a slim lead, but Alinghi was very close behind for the entire first lap of the race course. In fact, rounding the second windward mark the Swiss had never trailed by more than nine-seconds.
The Kiwis didn't feel comfortable with Alinghi so close on the run and gybed to the left side of the race course. When the boats converged again a few minutes later, Alinghi roared in at full speed on starboard gybe, pressuring the Kiwis who tried to gybe directly in front. But the manoeuvre was poorly executed and Alinghi passed NZL 84 to leeward, holding on to win the race.
Desafío Español swept past Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia in a match that saw the Italians punished for some poor crew manoeuvres. Trailing the Spanish around the first top mark the Italians hoisted a spinnaker with a tight wrap in it. They couldn't free the hour-glassed shaped sail and were forced to drop it to the deck to clear the tangle. But the sail got caught in the water, slowing the boat further. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia eventually set another sail, but the damage was done and Desafío Español raced away for the win and a 2-0 sweep of the series to claim fifth place in Louis Vuitton Act 12.
Victory Challenge extended its petit final match against Shosholoza with a well fought win over Shosholoza. The South Africans trailed around the second top mark by just eight-seconds and Shosholoza was able to split away from Victory Challenge to make some gains in the middle of the run. But Victory Challenge protected well, and held on for the win to extend the series. Both boats finished with red protest flags flying. An earlier attempt to start the match was abandoned seconds after the start gun after some apparent irregularities in signaling a premature start.
Both Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi hit the starting line at the gun with speed but it was the Kiwis on the left who made the first gain with a nice lift. Emirates crossed ahead and switched sides twice on this beat, attempting to pick the best windshifts and lanes of pressure. The Kiwis eventually found they couldn't cross ahead of a starboard tack Alinghi, but tacked just below them and squeezed up on the layline directly in front of the Swiss. The Kiwis would carry a slim 12-second lead around the mark.
On the run, Emirates wasn't too bothered by Alinghi who attempted to sail high to roll over the Kiwis. But Dean Barker didn't bite and sailed low. Alinghi was too far back to affect the New Zealanders who extended the rest of the way around the race course for the win.
Victory Challenge won this race in the pre-start when Shosholoza found itself completely stalled coming out of a very long dial-up. With both boats falling onto port tack well to leeward of the starting line, the Swedes were able to accelerate and tack for the line, while the South African helmsman threw his hands in the air in frustration. By the time Shosholoza started, the Swedes were 100 metres ahead.
But Shosholoza fought its way back into this race, and Victory Challenge could never extend enough to relax. On the beat Shosholoza appeared to have closed the gap, but a nice tactical move by the Swedes to force the South Africans into two extra tack re-established the lead. Victory Challenge went on to win the race and secure seventh place in Louis Vuitton Act 12.
Louis Vuitton Act 12 - Provisional standings
1. Emirates Team New Zealand
3. BMW ORACLE Racing
4. Luna Rossa Challenge
5. Desafío Español 2007
6. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia
7. Victory Challenge
9. Areva Challenge
10. +39 Challenge
11. United internet Team Germany
12. China Team