The Franco-German team, All4One emerged this afternoon as the overall round-robin winner in the Louis Vuitton Trophy in La Maddalena, Italy, to wind up a roller-coaster first stage of a regatta that has featured extremely tight racing, smashed boats, race-stopping mistral winds and some very surprising results. Such excitement augurs well for the UAE, with the America's Cup-class event - one of the most prestigious in the sport - coming to Dubai in November for the third of the year's four meetings. To see All4One, a small and young team that runs on a (relative) shoestring budget at the top of the leader board is no less surprising than to see BMW Oracle, the super-heavyweight of the class and the current Defender of the America's Cup, come second to last. With only three wins from nine races, the Americans are out of the regatta. As had been expected, our "home" team, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ - sponsored by Emirates Airline) made a strong showing throughout, under the leadership of Dean Barker, finishing second equal to Artemis, the Swedish boat helmed by Terry Hutchinson, with Paul Cayard as skipper and tactician. Artemis had held the top spot on the leader board for most of the round-robin, losing it to All4One in a final showdown. Being held in the waters around the small island of La Maddalena, off the north-western coast of Sardinia, the regatta so far has been full of drama, with a series of nail-biting finishes: on Race Day 2, Mascalzone Latino Audi (the Challenger of Record for the 34th America's Cup) beat its old nemesis, Luna Rossa, by a mere five seconds - its first win over its compatriots after seven years of trying. More super-tight wins came for the British TeamOrigin (five seconds, over All4One), ETNZ (four seconds, over Synergy Russian Team) and Mascalzone Latino Audi (one second, over Aleph). The Russians have been another surprise here, improving steadily throughout the regatta, as if galvanised by their upset win over BMW Oracle on Race Day 7. This afternoon, following a brief hiatus when the boats' settings were adjusted for the quarter-finals, Synergy stole an early lead in the best-of-three format with a first race win over Mascalzone Latino Audi. The Italians squared the match in the second race.
The biggest upset of the regatta so far perhaps came on Race Day 4, when a serious start-line collision between Aleph, of France, and the Sardinia-based Azzurra and earned Aleph a one-race disqualification and three penalty points - effectively ending the French team's campaign. The boats - loaned for the regatta by BMW Oracle, which had campaigned them in the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia - suffered significant damage: the bow of USA-87, sailed by Aleph, had its bow almost snapped off, while the aft starboard quarter of USA-98, sailed by Azzurra, was smashed in. With the regatta continuing in the backup pair of boats, loaned by Mascalzone Latino Audi, shore crews have worked around the clock to repair the two Oracle boats - announcing this afternoon that USA-87 would be race-ready again by tomorrow. The next quarter-final pits Emirates Team New Zealand against Azzurra; the other quarter-finalists are Artemis, TeamOrigin, Luna Rossa and All4One. email@example.com