Emirates Team New Zealand regained the lead in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final when Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge had to pull up at the beginning of Leg 3 with damage sustained to a sheave on the control arm of the 131-foot tall wing sail.
Emirates Team New Zealand finished the racecourse unopposed and leads the series 2-1. The first to score 7 points earns the right to challenge ORACLE TEAM USA next month for the 34th America's Cup.
The third breakdown among the two challengers in as many days came with disappointment because Race 3 began with great competition. Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper put forth a strong effort in the pre-start, keeping clear of Emirates Team New Zealand's Dean Barker. Draper crossed onto the racecourse 1 second earlier and to windward of Barker.
"We discussed that leading back (to the start line) would be strong with the tight reach. We executed our plan,"
"It felt like we had an opportunity to hook Luna Rossa and just didn't quite pull it off,"
said Barker. "That put us in a tough spot. I could've done a better job in the final 20 to 30 seconds."
Luna Rossa was the equal of Aotearoa on a spectacular first reach, which saw the two AC72s hydrofoiling side-by-side at 34 to 38 knots and separated by less than one length. But the Italian yacht briefly came off its hydrofoils just before the first turning mark and that allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to sneak through to leeward and lead by three seconds at the rounding.
"I thought we were going to roll over them on that reach, but we had one little crash after the start,"
said Draper. "If you get hit by a lull at the same time the rake (of the daggerboards) is slightly wrong, it can stop the boat quite suddenly."
"It was a good start today, those guys are not novices,"
said Barker. "They do just fine in the AC45s so they know what they want to do. Up to now their boathandling may have been an issue, but they're getting more confident in the boat and they're not afraid to stick it in there, which is great."
Although the speeds were even on the reach, Emirates Team New Zealand was quicker on the ensuing run. The Kiwis averaged 35 knots compared to the Italians 33.83 knots, and that allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to lead by 20 seconds at the leeward gate.
Both crews rounded the gate to port side of the yacht. After rounding, Luna Rossa tacked to starboard trying to get separation from the Kiwis, and moments later pulled up with crew members inspecting the control arm of the wing sail.
"Unfortunately, we had an issue with the line controlling the twist profile of the wing and couldn't keep sailing,"
said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. "The line comes down to the base of the wing and wraps around sheaves. The sheaves moved and caused the problem with the tension of the control line. Fortunately it's a quick fix, but unfortunately it stopped us racing."
"Our reaching speeds are better, we believe we can beat these guys around the racecourse, and that's a heck of an improvement since the round robins,"
With the wind blowing in excess of the 19.4-knot limit set for the day's second race, Race 4 of the series, it was postponed until Wednesday. Sirena said that the control arm problem aboard Luna Rossa would've prevented them from racing.
"I think two races a day are pushing the sailors more than the boats,"
said Craig, the longtime race officer based in San Francisco. "The physical nature of what the teams are going through; it's a tough two races per day. I'm optimistic that with the better currents coming with the flood tide and moving into September, which is typically a lighter breeze month, we'll see the teams work through these bugs that they're encountering right now."
Louis Vuitton Cup Final Standings (first to 7 points wins)
• Emirates Team New Zealand - 2
• Luna Rossa Challenge - 1
Upcoming Louis Vuitton Cup Final schedule (best-of-13 series)
• Wednesday, Aug. 21: Final Race 4 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 5 (2:10 pm PT)
• Friday, Aug. 23: Final Race 6 (TBD)
• Saturday, Aug. 24: Final Race 7 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 8 (2:10 pm PT)