It was a light, challenging day on the waters off Valencia. Cloud cover hindered development of a sea breeze and the race was conducted in a tricky 6 to 9 knot northeasterly breeze. There was a short postponement when a windshift came across the race course just before the scheduled start time. After re-setting the starting line, racing began in 8 knots of wind before a big spectator fleet.
Luna Rossa Challenge won the first cross in today's race after the teams took opposite sides of the starting line and split early on the first leg. The Italians were on the right hand side and made a nice gain in the first few minutes after the starting gun. When the boats converged for the first cross, Luna Rossa skipper Francesco DE ANGELIS (ITA) and his team tacked ahead of NZL 92 nearly 100 metres in front on the bow-to-bow advantage line.
After NZL 92 tacked back out to the left, each team tacked again, setting up a second cross. The Kiwis had clearly made a gain and Italian tactician Torben GRAEL (BRA) called for an early tack to leeward of the New Zealand boat. Within minutes, the Emirates squad had lifted inside ITA 94 and gained the advantage line. The Kiwis sailed the Italians out past the starboard tack layline, consolidating their lead, and rounded the first mark 19 seconds ahead. From there, Emirates Team New Zealand never appeared threatened, going on to win its fourth race in the series.
Entering from the left, Luna Rossa began the pre-start well, James SPITHILL (AUS) managing to cross the bow of Emirates Team New Zealand as both boats sailed deep into the box. However, it did not seem Dean BARKER (NZL) was too worried about giving up the right, because when the start gun fired the boats exited the start on opposite tacks, the Italians sailing out to the right on port tack, the Kiwis out to the left.
Adam BEASHEL (NZL), who was wind spotting up the Emirates mast for the downwind legs, said the breeze had shifted both in the left and the right before the start, 'Our call for the start was that it was an open track, so we wanted to get a good start and take if from there.'
For the first time in the series, a big separation opened up across the course, reaching more than 1,100 metres before Luna Rossa was the first to tack. The Kiwis eventually tacked too, but when the boats converged on the centre of the course again, the Italians had made a big gain, leading by nearly four boatlengths.
However, a smaller separation opened up before the second cross, and this time the Kiwis had reduced the deficit to 40 metres, about a boatlength and a half. Luna Rossa tacked to leeward of the port-tack Kiwis, but were not close enough to give NZL 92 bad air. BARKER kept his boat trucking along on the hip of ITA 94, and when a small shift came in from the left, the Kiwis moved ahead.
Looking back at the Italian tack to leeward on the second time together Ray DAVIES (NZL), strategist on NZL 92, said, 'I can understand their reasoning - it was a left-hander, and the way it played out I'm sure they would have done it differently in hindsight. They would have wanted to get back in phase and drag it out to the layline. It was a pretty tough day; with the wind direction the left can be very strong at times. But today we got the first part wrong, and we got lucky from there. It shows that things can change quite dramatically. We can't rule out anything with the fickle conditions we are having. It's hard to make clever calls all the way up, and both teams made mistakes today.'
The New Zealanders then carried the race out to the starboard layline and beyond. When they tacked and the Italians followed, the gap was now up to several boatlengths, and around the first mark the delta was 19 seconds. Luna Rossa tried to attack with a flurry of gybes in the light conditions, but the New Zealand crew were more than a match for any moves. Extra gybes from Luna Rossa at the bottom of the course proved expensive, making the leeward gate delta 54 seconds.
It was nothing but pain for the Italians from then on, and they finished 52 seconds behind the seemingly invincible Kiwis.
Grant DALTON (NZL), ETNZ Managing Director, pointed to the weather conditions as responsible for the size of the winning margin, 'The advantage to us of about 250 metres at the finish looked impressive but in this light and patchy stuff margins often flatter the winner,' he said.
GRAEL held his hands up to acknowledge another day of Kiwi superioty, 'We had good call from the meteo we wanted the right and got the right, won the first cross. Then there was a one tiny shift to the left between two righties and they got ahead. When it's light and fluky they manage to be a little faster. They sailed very well and we have to acknowledge that. Sometime things go your way sometimes not. That's life. We are giving it everything we have but that is sport.'
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Jonathan MCKEE (USA), mainsheet trimmer on Luna Rossa, said, 'If there is anything obvious we would have tried it already and that is not ruling out that we might make a technical change - that certainly is a possibility. They are going well, especially in that wind range - they always have been fast in it, and it's not a surprise to us. We seem to be a little bit more competitive with more wind that probably pays into our hands a little bit more but besides that they are sailing very well.
'Our hats off to them they have out-sailed us so far in this series and that is all you can say. We are not going out with a do or die strategy with our boat, with the wind conditions expected, but going out to sail smart and fast the way we have up to now. I don't think you're going to see a radical change in strategy or whole different approach. Obviously we haven't won the races so far but that doesn't mean we have sailed the wrong way.'
Louis Vuitton Cup - Final
|Luna Rossa Challenge||0||0||0||0||0|
|Emirates Team New Zealand||1||1||1||1||4|
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