x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sailing into the sunset

Tricky conditions and close racing mark the first day's proceedings in the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland.

The sun had set by the time Bertrand Pace steered Aleph across the finish line to beat Synergy in the final race of the first round robin day of the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland. Conditions were so calm in the morning that Peter Reggio, the principal race officer, could not get the first race under way until four-and-a-half hours after the scheduled 10am start. In the first race Mascalzone Latino Audi pressured the Franco-German team All4One all the way to the start line, sneaking over by a narrow margin. Sébestien Col and his tactician Jochen Schumann allowed the Italians to stretch the lead, choosing to sail far to the right to catch some wind that a crewman had spotted from up the mast. The move paid off and All4One extended a 19-second lead at the top mark to a 44-second winning margin. The second race, between the all-Italian Azzurra, overall winner of last year's Louis Vuitton Trophy, and Britain's TeamOrigin provided plenty of excitement in the pre-start and close match-racing to the first mark, with Ben Ainslie snatching the lead for TeamOrigin. Azzurra grabbed it back on the second leg, going on to win by 53 seconds. "Azzurra sailed a good race today," said Ainslie. "They seem to have a knack of overtaking us, which is getting very frustrating." A huge wind shift delayed race 3 until 5.45pm. By then the breeze was light and tricky again and a strong tidal current added to the challenge for Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Artemis. Although Artemis got within 12 seconds of ETNZ at one point, Dean Barker and his crew never looked in danger and won by more than a minute. Determined to squeeze in the full day's racing, Reggio started the last race just after 7pm. Synergy dominated the pre-start but Aleph sneaked ahead at the gun. After a close-fought first leg a disastrous spinnaker drop on Synergy sent the sail under the boat, enabling Pace to sail away and win by more than three minutes.

Racing is scheduled to start at 10am local time (1am UAE time) All4One (NZL92) v TeamOrigin (NZL84) Mascalzone Latino Audi (NZL92) v Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL84) Azzurra (NZL92) v Synergy (NZL84) Artemis (NZL92) v Aleph (NZL84)