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Old 01-27-2000
Bruce Kirby Bruce Kirby is offline
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Louis Vuitton Finals Race Off

With the score tied at one race each, today's scheduled race between LUNA ROSSA and AMERICA ONE was cancelled when the wind refused to settle in over the Hauraki Gulf. After more than an hour of postponement, while the wind shifted and dropped, rose and shifted again, the boats were told to head back to shore and wait another day to break the deadlock.

Yesterday's come-from-behind win by Paul Cayard and his crew from the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco, popped the bubble of invincibility that had begun to surround Italy's LUNA ROSSA after her impressive win in the opening race. In that match, the Italians, led by skipper Francesca diAngelis and tactician Torben Grael, used both speed and tactical ability to beat the American boat. And they won in spite of having to do a penalty turn to exonerate themselves from a foul incurred before the start.

What began as a best five out of nine match for the Louis Vuitton Cup is now, in effect, a best four out of seven. The winner of the series will go on to meet the New Zealanders in a best of nine series for the America's Cup beginning February 19.

Yesterday's race fulfilled the prediction that Cayard and crew could hang tough when faced with adversity. Down one race and with LUNA ROSSA nearly two minutes ahead after two legs of the six-legged course, the Americans kept the pressure on, waiting for a mistake by the Italians, or a fortuitous break in the wind pattern, that would give them the opportunity to pounce. They got both, and the spectator fleet even got into the act by failing to clear the area when the shifting wind dictated alterations to the course.

At the bottom of the first downwind leg, the crew of LUNA ROSSA, flawless in the first encounter, had a bad miscue on a spinnaker jibe and wrapped the huge sail into an hour glass that took a good two knots off their speed. By the time they got the snafu cleared, what had been a lead of two minutes was reduced to one minute. Still well ahead, the Italians were faced with a dilemma. They were sailing into a knot of spectator boats that had failed to foresee a change in the course and were very much in the way. Reluctantly, LUNA ROSSA tacked away from a favorable left-hand wind shift to dodge the damaging wakes of the motorboats.

AMERICA ONE took the opportunity to escape from the Italian boat's cover and sailed on into the churned up water. It was the right move, as the tactical advantage of increased wind and a favorable shift more than offset the spectator boat disturbance. Suddenly, the American boat had eased into the lead. The speed of LUNA ROSSA propelled her back into first place by the next turn; but the Italians made another error when they again opted to dodge the spectator wash and ignore a more favorable wind. AMERICA ONE headed right through the fleet of onlookers and was able to surge into a commanding lead which she held to the end of the race.

Now it is the turn of di Angelis and his crew to prove that they too can come back from a humiliating defeat. Though the Italians are not yet making the claim in public, and the Americans are not ready to admit it, LUNA ROSSA is the faster boat in light to medium winds. It remains to be seen which of the 80-foot America's Cup sloops will have an edge if the wind blows harder; but this mid-summer season in New Zealand is the one time when strong winds are least likely to blow.

YOUNG AMERICA BREAK-UP DESCRIBED

Meanwhile, the Bruce Farr naval architectural office that designed the New York Yacht Club's YOUNG AMERICA, has issued a report in an effort to explain the disastrous breakup of the boat in November. YOUNG AMERICA, one of the favorites entering the challenger series, broke just aft of the mast during a heavy-air contest against Japan's ASURA, and nearly went to the bottom.

The report released by Russell Bowler, long-time partner of designer Bruce Farr, says the boat had suffered damage to both deck and topside sin earlier racing and had been repaired without consultation with either the designers or the builder. The New York boat was built by Goetz Custom Yachts of Bristol, RI., one of the world leaders in the construction of high-tech sail and powerboats, including several previous America's Cup yachts. Farr was the principal designer and Dirk Kramers of Tiverton, RI. was a member of the structural design team.

The report says that prior to the major structural failure, the YOUNG AMERICA team in Auckland "had found areas in the side decks of the boat where the top skin was not bonded to the core. This bond is essential for the sandwich construction of the side deck to perform its structural function as a major critical member, resisting fore and aft compression forces."

The design office report also said, "We are disappointed YOUNG AMERICA'S insurance carrier has not yet released its independent report on the incident."

Bowler's report says the repair involved cutting out a large area of the side deck's top carbon fiber skin and replacing it with a laminate, and that the details of the repair were carried out by the YOUNG AMERICA staff in Auckland. The report said it appeared the length of the scarf joint used to join the new laminate to the boat was inadequate and suggested that "more investigation is necessary to understand the full cause of their complete bonding in the side deck."