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14 May 2007, 06:30 pm
Emirates And Luna Rossa Draw First Blood
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Louis Vuitton Cup 2007
Valencia, Spain

The crews on Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge figured out the tricky conditions on day one of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi Finals best, drawing first blood in the 'first to five' matches. Luna Rossa tactician Torben GRAEL (BRA), in particular, was a magician in sailing his own race, and not panicking when a big early lead evaporated on the first run.

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It was a difficult day to be an afterguard member at the Louis Vuitton Cup on Monday. The first races of the Semi Finals saw an offshore breeze that varied from 8 to 18 knots in strength and shifted by nearly 180 degrees. In fact, on the final run, the boats started under spinnaker and finished under genoa, tacking for the finishing line.

Match 1 - Luna Rossa Challenge beat BMW ORACLE Racing - DELTA 2:19

In the pre-start it looked as though Luna Rossa might be able to close BMW ORACLE Racing out above the Race Committee boat, but Chris DICKSON (NZL) and his afterguard had factored in some current sweeping across the start line. The American boat slotted in nicely next to the boat with Luna Rossa just to the left.

After sailing locked together for many minutes, which seemed very sensible with the wildly shifting offshore breeze, the Italians and Americans broke away to opposite sides of the course. Luna Rossa tactician GRAEL found the better breeze to the left and the Italians rounded 52 seconds ahead.

Around the top mark, USA 98 picked up a beautiful puff of breeze and surged down the right-hand side of the course. The Italians meanwhile had already gybed off to the centre of the course and were wallowing by comparison. DICKSON recouped a 400 metre deficit to put Luna Rossa helmsman James SPITHILL (AUS) under pressure at the leeward gate, DICKSON initiating an aggressive luffing match.

SPITHILL did just enough to claim the left-hand gate mark while the Americans peeled away to the right, just 7 seconds back. Again both boats gambled with their respective sides of the course and again the Italians' faith in the left paid off as they leapt to another 400-metre lead.

This time the Italians did a better job of shadowing the Americans down the final run, and even when the breeze shifted nearly 180-degrees just before the finish, Luna Rossa capitalized on the changeable conditions and stretched the winning margin to over two minutes at the finish.

GRAEL, a five-time Olympic medallist, explained his winning tactics at the press conference following the racing, 'On a day like today normal match race style can go wrong, so playing the shifts and the pressure is important with so many holes and big puffs. There was always more pressure close to the land at the bottom mark, and it's hard to cover in those conditions. We had the option to gybe on a good heading, they sailed more in the pressure and gained a lot on that run, so we had a situation at the downwind mark. They had a good opportunity and took it, but James did a wonderful job of defending our situation at the gate.'

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Emirates leads Desafio
© Th.Martinez

Match 2 - Emirates Team New Zealand beat Desafío Español 2007 - DELTA 0:43

If the Italians and Americans were playing their match fast and loose, Emirates Team New Zealand took no such chances. Dean BARKER (NZL) won the right-hand end of the start and it was not long before the Kiwis had established a small lead over Desafío Español 2007. After winning the lead from the right, BARKER dragged the match to the left-hand layline and led Karol JABLONSKI (POL) to the first mark by 1:03.

However, with the Kiwis sailing very defensively they yielded some of that lead to round the left-hand leeward mark by just 41 seconds. The Spanish brought the match even closer up the final windward leg, rounding 30 seconds behind at the final turning mark.

As new breeze filled in across the course, and the teams were forced to douse spinnakers in favour of jibs for some close reaching to the finish, the Kiwis extended away to win by 43 seconds at the finish.

'It was a risk/reward type calculation the whole time,' said Ray DAVIES (NZL), strategist onboard the Kiwi boat. 'If you are anything less than 70% confident you can be easily bitten. These are not Lasers and you can't just tack on every wind shift. Coming into the top mark it was very shifty, and there were some pretty close and hairy moments there - they just kept chipping away at us. It is really just a balancing act between the two.'

Louis Vuitton Cup - Monday's Semi Final Matches
(the first team to win five points in each pairing advances)

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total
Emirates Team New Zealand 1 1
Desafío Español 2007 0 0
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total
BMW ORACLE Racing 0 0
Luna Rossa Challenge 1 1

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.
ACM 2007 (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Luna Rossa got off to a winnning start against BMW ORACLE Racing:© Gilles Martin-Raget
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