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Local heroes lead the way on historic day of racing in Venice

Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget

18-05-2012. The America’s Cup World Series fleet raced on the Grand Canal of Venice Friday, the historic waters becoming a proving ground for some of the best sailors in the world. Each of the two Luna Rossa crews rose to the occasion, recording a race win, pleasing the local spectators who were out in force both on shore and on the water.

"Today has been a great day for us, with two victories,” said team skipper Max Sirena. “But we want to keep our feet on the ground and look ahead to the next two days. There are still many points to be gained and we need to approach it in the right way.”

While conditions were perfect for racing, with moderate 8-10 knot sea breezes, the challenge came from the narrow, restricted race course, which was shoe-horned into the canal. This forced the boats close together and the crews were obliged to execute an unprecedented number of tacks and gybes as they zigzagged up and down the track.

“The boats are so physically taxing on the guys, it is literally a flogging,” said Kiwi skipper Dean Barker, who agrees that the helmsman has the ‘easy’ job on board. His team sits in fourth place on a tight leaderboard. “You can’t but help but feel sorry for the other guys. At the end of the race their tongues are hanging out and they’re completely spent.”

Loick Peyron’s Energy Team retained their position at the top of the Fleet Racing leaderboard, but not without some nervous moments. The team was in last place at the first two marks of the second race, before making a spectacular comeback on the next leg of the course to round in second place, a position they protected all the way to the finish, maintaining their consistent finishes to date.

The race course, at its narrowest, was only 140 meters, meaning at times crews would barely have trimmed on a sail before they had to make another manoeuver. But the smaller field of play made for incredible spectator opportunities, with hundreds of boats lining the course, and thousands more taking in the action from the shore.

“The Italian people love sailing, they love the America's Cup, and they love Luna Rossa,” Sirena said. “It was amazing how many people there were and how many boats we had on the water. And on Saturday there will be even more!”

Today’s Match Racing did not take place as scheduled. The Semi Finals are rescheduled to Saturday, and will take place following the Fleet Races 5 and 6.

Fleet Racing Championship – Provisional Leaderboard (after four races)
1.    Energy Team…35 points
2.    Luna Rossa Swordfish…31 points
3.    Luna Rossa Piranha…29 points
4.    Emirates Team New Zealand…29 points
5.    Team Korea…26 points
6.    ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill…21 points
7.    Artemis Racing…21 points
8.    ORACLE TEAM USA Bundock…16 points
9.    China Team…8 points

Match Racing Championship – Semi Final Results
The winners of the Quarter Finals advanced to the ‘best of three’ Semi Finals. No match races were sailed on Friday. The losers of the Quarter Final have been assigned final finishing positions (5th to 9th) in the Match Racing Championship as per the Sailing Instructions.

5. Emirates Team New Zealand
6. Team Korea
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish
8. ORACLE TEAM USA Bundock
9. China Team