Today's race took place in the most testing conditions seen to date at the Louis Vuitton Cup. Winds approaching 20 knots whipped up a swell of just over one metre, and the short, sharp waves tested both man and machine.
Emirates Team New Zealand led Desafío Español over the starting line and extended the rest of the way around the race course to claim the win and finish the series.
Desafío Español played a typically aggressive game in the pre-start against Emirates Team New Zealand, even in the big waves that were rolling across the course. However, Dean BARKER (NZL) got into a controlling position and forced Karol JABLONSKI (POL) out beyond the right-hand end of the start box.
Eventually BARKER tacked back towards the Race Committee boat and aimed for the line. NZL 92 crossed 17 seconds late but this did not matter because ESP 97 crossed more than 10 seconds later, directly in the wake of the Kiwis.
The Spanish rolled into an early tack, the Kiwis moving to cover, and the New Zealand boat looked a lot more comfortable in the lumpy seas and 18-knot breeze. The green boat on the other hand was shipping a lot of water into the cockpit and two sailors went to leeward to bail the water out with plastic buckets.
Eventually the Spanish got the measure of the conditions and looked better through the water, but the Kiwi squad was looking very solid and eased away from its opposition. There was a moment of worry for New Zealand fans when the foredeck crew failed to get the spinnaker pole attached before bearing away at the top mark, and one crewman was washed back down the boat and sustained an injury to his hand.
However, the Kiwis rounded 38 seconds ahead and took out chunks of distance downwind. The New Zealand crew were pumping the mainsail aggressively on the waves, surfing at every possible moment and rounding 50 seconds ahead at the leeward gate. The breeze dropped to 14 knots up the final windward leg but the Kiwis continued to pull away, leading by just over a minute at the top mark and going on to win by 1 minute and 18 seconds.
Speaking in the post-race press conference, Terry HUTCHINSON (USA), tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand, commented on the reaction to the victory, 'It is potentially a bit of a sense of relief, I think the Spanish team were a dangerous team for us to pick- we were always prepared for a full nine race series. We try to be more of a flat liner, whether it is a win or loss. We have a big task ahead of us and we have two more best of nine series to get through, hopefully. There is a reason to feel good today, but we are all very aware of what still lies ahead and that is daunting. Don't expect any of us to be doing cartwheels because we have moved on - that is just kind of how we are.'
Looking ahead, HUTCHINSON said, 'We are going to take a couple of days off now. Rest is as much as a vital part of the preparation as things we can do to the boat. The series that we had was a very good test for us because we are going to face that with the next opponent - someone who is loose, confident and dangerous, is risky. Once they get a sniff of confidence there is the potential of getting steamrolled.'
Meanwhile JABLONSKI was proud of his team, 'For sure it couldn't have been better today. We are very happy we got so far; nobody thought we were going to even make it to Tuesday. I'm very happy with the performance of the team, we are all really happy with what we achieved. A few weeks ago I had dinner with a neighbour. After the first bottle of wine he said, 'you are racing well, you are going to be in the top four.' I said, 'let's drink another five bottles and we'll win the America's Cup!''
The Final of the Louis Vuitton Cup will begin on 1 June.Louis Vuitton Cup - Semi Final Matches
|Emirates Team New Zealand||1||1||0||1||1||0||1||5|
|Desafío Español 2007||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||2|
|BMW ORACLE Racing||0||1||0||0||0||0||1|
|Luna Rossa Challenge||1||0||1||1||1||1||5|
The America's Cup Match and Challenger/Defender Series are designated as ISAF Special Events. For more information on the America's Cup, the Louis Vuttion Acts and the teams competing, visit the official America's Cup website - www.americascup.com.For a complete list of all the news about the America's Cup 2007 CLICK HERE.