OneWorld wins regatta finale
AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Seattle's OneWorld syndicate won the final fleet race of the America's Cup International Regatta in Auckland, in a thrilling last minute charge for the finish line under Harbour Bridge.
After the match racing round robin series was won by Team New Zealand, two additional yachts entered Sunday's finale.
Britain's Team GBR took the opportunity of more racing experience by entering two boats with the A team helmed by Andy Green and the B team helmed by skipper designate Ian Walker.
The sixth entry was the Team New Zealand 1992 vintage NZL 40 that serves as a charter yacht from Viaduct Harbour, giving tourists an America's Cup experience.
The race started in about six to eight knots of wind with a two-mile beat out into the Hauraki Gulf. Team GBR and the Swedish Victory syndicate both made good starts, but is was NZL 60, the last Cup winner, that showed superior upwind speed.
Victory, using the regatta a to sail the only new 2002 generation America's Cup Class yacht, designed by Mani Frers, stayed in the chase.
Helmsman Jesper Bank managed to roll over NZL 60 soon after the buoy, but when the New Zealanders set a flat Code Zero reaching spinnaker they regained the lead.
The race then took the fleet in a series of gybes back along the North Shore of Auckland and into the Harbour. After the first gybe the Swedes swept back into the lead and managed to open up a five-boat length lead as they made the last turn into the Harbour.
OneWorld, helmed by the young Australian James Spithill, was also beginning to threaten the leaders by staying in more breeze further offshore and slipped though to leeward and crossed the line first.
Victory was second, less than one metre ahead of NZL 60.
The win was especially sweet for OneWorld's James Spithill who had survived a 50 mph motorcycle accident two days before.
It was also a welcome relief for syndicate chief Craig McCaw after all the spying scandals surrounding his team's former lawyer Sean Reeves.
All the syndicates judged the International Regatta an unconditional success. For those like Team GBR and the Swedes, making a return to America's Cup racing after a long break, it was an invaluable opportunity to check how far they have progressed as well a unique chance to sail against the Cup holder.
Team New Zealand look vulnerable at times which must have been an encouragement to the challengers.
Team New Zealand has declared a budget of $35 million in cash and kind, but they are facing a challenger onslaught estimated to be in the region of $550 million.
The next America's Cup starts on March 2 when the challengers sail in their own regatta -- a private affair with Team New Zealand not invited.
Expected to turn out are the Louis Vuitton Cup holders Prada, the winning Cup helmsman Russell Coutts in the Swiss Alinghi and Larry Ellison's Oracle Racing.
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