Italy's Azzurra opened the Semi Final Round of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d'Azur with a solid win, but the second Semi Final match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Synergy Russia Sailing team was postponed until tomorrow due to light winds.
Today's lone match began in winds between 8 and 10 knots from the north, but the velocity dropped to between 4 and 5 knots at the finish of the short, 5.2-nautical-mile race.
“We were hoping to get more racing completed but there just wasn't enough velocity,” said Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio. “The direction was consistent enough from the east, but the strength was between 3 and 5 knots. The boats might've been able to sail upwind in that, but they'd never make it downwind in the sloppy seaway.”
Reggio stressed the importance of having steady conditions because of the nature of the semi finals. The first crew to score 2 points wins each series.
“We don't want these series becoming sudden death,” Reggio said.
The postponement also affected the Knockout Round matches for 5th through 8th places. The pairings – BMW Oracle Racing versus TFS – PagesJaunes and Artemis against All4One – are setback a day.
In the Azzura-TeamOrigin race skipper Francesco Bruni led his crew to a decisive victory of 1 minute, 34 seconds. The Italians played the right side of the racecourse and snuck inside the British crew at the windward mark to gain the advantage.
Azzurra held the early lead on the first leg when it tacked to starboard well above the layline to the windward mark. The British tacked to leeward and outside the Italians and made gains in a right-hand shift.
TeamOrigin skipper Ben Ainslie tried to shoot the windward mark, luffing directly into the wind, but Bruni got a late overlap and the British had to bear away and let the Italians round the mark first. The British thought they'd closed the door on the Italians.
“We felt we were safely clear ahead when we entered the circle but that was not to be their (the umpires') decision and so we trailed into the first mark,” said TeamOrigin General Manager Mike Sanderson. “Azzurra did a lovely job thereafter of protecting their lead to take the win. At the end of the day, to win the semis, one team still has to win two races we just used our ‘get out of jail free card' a bit earlier than we had hoped.”
The Azzurra crew led by 9 seconds at the first mark and 27 seconds at the leeward gate. The Italians protected the right side on the next upwind leg and increased their margin to 1:16 as the wind started to fade.
“It was a very important race for us and now I'm more confident on the starting line,” said Bruni, the skipper from Sicily. “During the pre-start we fought for the right and won it. We made a mistake on the first layline (by overstanding), but (tactician) Tommaso Chieffi did a good job calling the wind shifts and we regained our lead.”
Tomorrow the first warning signal has been moved up a half hour to 0830 CET. The race committee plans to start the BMW Oracle-TFS – PagesJaunes match first, followed by Emirates Team New Zealand-Synergy Russia Sailing Team and then Artemis-All4One. Additional racing is planned but will be dependent on the weather.
Semi Final standings
M1: Azzurra 1, TeamOrigin 0
M2: Emirates Team New Zealand 0, Synergy Russia Sailing Team 0