DUBAI // BMW Oracle Racing clinched top spot in the double round robin of the Louis Vuitton Trophy with a victory yesterday over Emirates Team New Zealand.
Oracle, led by James Spithill, their Australian skipper, beat the Kiwi crew by 25 seconds. The win improved Oracle's record to 12-2, good for 15 points and an unassailable position at the top of the leaderboard.
"The mood is great," said Dean Phipps, the runners/pit man and crew coach. "We've worked hard for the past week and everything's fallen into place as far as the crew goes. We've made some nice strides forward."
Sailing in a light northerly wind, the pre-start action was relatively tame. The crews knew that keeping momentum after breaking off the dial-up was important.
John Kostecki, the Oracle tactician, called for the right side of the start and Spithill obliged, bringing his crew on to the racecourse on a starboard tack with Team New Zealand to leeward.
Both boats soon tacked to port and stretched out to the right edge of the racecourse. Oracle tacked to starboard and was able to force Team New Zealand to tack to leeward. The American yacht rounded the windward mark with a 10-second advantage.
"At one stage halfway across it looked a little marginal," Phipps said. "But Murray [Jones, the strategist] was calling the breeze to go right and it came just in time. A bit earlier would have been nicer, but we took it as it came and we crossed nicely ahead of them."
The two crews traded jibes down the run and Oracle set up for a port rounding through the leeward gate. Team New Zealand followed but lost control of the spinnaker takedown. The sail fell in the water and the crew had to cut the halyard away.
"We made a nice powerful rounding for the left-hand gate and they got into what we call 'no man's land'," Phipps said. "When you get into that place, which side the sail comes down becomes an issue for the foredeck crew. It didn't look like they had a takedown string set up, and from there it just snowballs. The only way to get rid of it is to cut the halyard and let it all go."
Meanwhile, two come-from-behind victories boosted Italy's Mascalzone Latino Audi.
Gavin Brady, the Kiwi skipper, guided the Italian team to a comfortable victory against Sweden's Artemis Racing after overtaking them a few minutes into the first beat.
Brady's second match proved tougher after he conceded a start to the Synergy Russian Sailing team and then fought for more than half the race to gain the upper hand.
Their performance lifted Mascalzone Latino Audi, the challenger of record for the next America's Cup, from a distant fifth-equal place to third.