Team New Zealand today face their biggest showdown of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series to date, going head to head with old foes Alinghi for the first time since the 2007 America's Cup finals in Valencia.
With a number of the Alinghi crew, including skipper Brad Butterworth, having previously sailed for Team New Zealand, the two syndicates have developed a strong rivalry over the past six years.
But having wrested the America's Cup off Team New Zealand in 2003 and then successfully defended it against the Kiwi Challenge in 2007, it is Alinghi that hold the upper hand in the rivalry.
A win today would go some way to helping Team New Zealand settle the score, but with Alinghi appearing to find form in the second round of the regatta, the Kiwis have a huge battle on their hands. Alinghi have won both their second-round match-ups to date, while Team New Zealand are one from two after Thursday's shock loss to Damiani Italia.
Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies said his team's 26s win over Luna Rossa yesterday had helped ease a few nerves heading in to today's racing. "We look forward to sailing Alinghi, it's always a great test to sail against those guys, it's always a lot of fun and it's normally pretty fiery as well. We're expecting a big match."
Today's race will be the first of two big clashes for Alinghi this weekend, with the Swiss set to take on BMWOracle tomorrow. The two syndicates have been involved in a bitter legal dispute for the past 18 months, and tomorrow's match-up will be the first time they have faced off on the water since the feud began.
While the public will be licking their lips in anticipation of the Alinghi-Oracle showdown, strategist Dean Phipps said that from his perspective it was just another race. The Kiwi sailor said what was happening in the court-room would be the farthest thing from their minds when they met Russell Coutts and his crew on the water tomorrow.
"We're not lawyers, we're sailors, we just want to get on with going sailing and the legal thing will sort itself out," said Phipps.
BMWOracle slipped behind Alinghi in the gold fleet standings after being docked a point for making hard contact with Team Origin in an action-packed day two yesterday.
Oracle skipper Coutts was relentless in his attacks on Team Origin's Ben Ainslie in the pre-start. With the seconds counting down after a long dial-up, Ainslie made his bid to break clear. As both teams bore away, Origin's stern came into contact with the port side of Oracle's boat.
Coutts picked up a penalty as a result of the collision, putting Team Origin in the box seat for the remainder of the race. But disaster struck the British team as they approached the bottom mark of the first run, when they were unable to raise their headsail due to a damaged head foil, forcing them to retire.
BMWOracle sailed out the race to pick up the win, but with the umpires docking Oracle one point for causing the contact, the victory counted for nothing.
And there was further bad news to come for the Brits, with Team Origin docked half a point after the umpires ruled they were partially responsible for the pre-start incident.
Origin appealed, but the jury upheld the decision of the race committee.
There was more drama to come in the fourth race of the day, with the hapless Greek Challenge copping two penalties well before the start gun in their showdown with China Team. Not surprisingly, China Team went on to win the race by nearly three minutes.
ROUND ROBIN TWO
Day two Results
* Alinghi bt Damiani Italia (44s)
* BMWOracle Racing bt Team Origin (Origin withdrew)
* Team New Zealand bt Luna Rossa (26s)
* K-Challenge bt Team Shosholoza (14s)
* China Team bt Greek Challenge (2m 58s)
* Damiani Italia v BMWOracle Racing
* Luna Rossa v Team Origin
* Team New Zealand v Alinghi
* Greek Challenge v Team Shosholoza
* China Team v K-Challenge