Tactics maneuver America3 to 2-1 lead

May 13, 1992|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- After America3 crossed the finish line in the Pacific Ocean off Point Loma yesterday, Bill Koch left the wheel and made his way forward -- giving out high-fives, handshakes and hugs to his crew.

America3, the U.S. defender, just had won Race 3 of the 28th America's Cup by 1 minute, 58 seconds.

And Koch, whose group had been criticized for shoddy sailing and poor tactics in Race 2 on Sunday, had beaten Il Moro di Venezia, the Italian challenger, in every phase of the game.

"Our crew work was almost flawless, and our tactics were conservative and proper for these conditions," said Koch, who heads the America3 syndicate. "Flat water, steady wind."

The key move in the race was at the start, when America3 starting helmsman Dave Dellenbaugh put the U.S. boat clear at the left end of the starting line, while Il Moro started at the right end.

Il Moro won the start by two seconds, but, by two miles or so up the first leg, it was pretty clear that America3 could win the race.

"I thought we fought pretty hard for the left side of the line," said Koch. "In fact, David did a wonderful job of getting us the left."

In pre-start maneuvering, America3 entered the starting area with right of way, but Il Moro skipper Paul Cayard quickly took a controlling position behind and off the quarter of the U.S. boat.

Throughout the pre-start, Cayard concentrated on forcing America3 away from the left end of the line. But, then, about 50 seconds before the gun, the wind briefly went right, and Cayard broke away to go with it.

America3, sailing in what appeared to be slightly fresher breeze, took the left side for a short period before tacking over to the

right.

Midway up the first windward leg, it was clear that Dellenbaugh had made the right move early -- the wind, which ranged from 10 to 12 knots, had settled in to the left, and the U.S. boat had built a seven- or eight-length lead.

"We basically drew the wrong conclusion," Cayard said. "We thought that as far left as the wind could go was 270 degrees."

The wind went left to 265 degrees.

With Cayard declining to initiate a tacking duel, America3 found itself in a position where the best tactic was straight-line speed -- an area in which the U.S. boat is clearly superior.

At the first mark, Il Moro trailed by 47 seconds.

"A drag race seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for them," Cayard said.

"I think we will change our plans for [Race 4] Thursday."

At the end of the first downwind leg, Il Moro had gained six seconds but still trailed by 41 seconds.

On the second leg to windward, Cayard and Il Moro initiated a tacking duel, to try to cut America3's lead before the boats entered the three reaching legs of the course, where the American boat has excelled.

If anything, the tacking duel backfired for Il Moro. At the end of the second windward leg, the Italians had lost 14 seconds and trailed by 55 overall through three legs of the eight-leg course.

Buddy Melges, who sailed the first three legs of the race for America3 before giving way to Koch, said, "We straightened out our act today, our crew work, our tactics, upwind and downwind."

On the first of three reaching legs, with Koch at the helm on the U.S. boat, Il Moro lost another nine seconds and trailed at the first wing mark by 1:04.

By this time, Il Moro also was flying a technical protest flag, apparently to ask redress for having to avoid an ESPN cameraman who had been stationed in the water at the mark by the cable television company. Il Moro later declined to protest.

On the second reaching leg, with Koch at the helm, Il Moro gained eight seconds but trailed overall by 56 after five legs.

On the last reaching leg, Il Moro gained four more seconds and, with Koch still sailing the American boat, the stage was set for a tacking duel on the final windward leg.

However, although Cayard did try to get America3 into a duel, the U.S. boat had a large enough lead that it could pretty much do as it pleased.

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