Emirates Team New Zealand stands two wins away from capturing the 30th anniversary Louis Vuitton Cup and booking a return to the America's Cup Final.
Kiwi skipper Dean Barker and his crew lead the final of the America's Cup Challenger Series 5-1 after posting a thorough 1 minute, 57-second victory against Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge around the 10.30-nautical-mile racecourse.
The Kiwi and Italian crews were fairly even off the start line, but Barker was to windward and in the strong flood tide had a better angle to the first turning mark. Emirates Team New Zealand led by 10 seconds at the first mark, 50 seconds at the second mark, 1:16 at the third mark and 1:47 at the final turning mark.
Luna Rossa helmsmen Chris Draper did a good job of getting off the start line in good shape. Later he said that regardless of where they start, the Kiwis are a faster boat.
"It would've been nice to have had a better start,"
said Draper. "We can talk about the start as much as we want, but the cold reality is they're going to sail past us whether they're to windward or leeward."
The conditions today were on the softer side for San Francisco Bay, 14 to 17 knots versus a forecast of 17 to 20 knots at the start of the day. Skipper Max Sirena said that the breeze was lighter than Luna Rossa likes.
"We like more wind, we are way more stable in a stronger breeze than light breezes, we know that,"
said Sirena. "Unfortunately, the forecast changed. The clouds didn't clear by the start time and the breeze didn't come up. We know we suffer quite a lot in this type of breeze."
Emirates Team New Zealand sailed a clean race. The team was hardly threatened today and took the opportunity at one point to practice hydrofoiling upwind. Barker noted his pleasure with the performance of the team's AC72 Aotearoa.
"The boat's going well. We have our modes figured out reasonably well across the range,"
said Barker. "We're always learning. We were mucking around at one stage on the upwind leg. It's quite interesting the way the boat responds in different conditions. We just have to keep improving and get consistent with the right mode calls for the right time and how it factors in on the course."
Emirates Team New Zealand gets a chance to wrap up the series tomorrow and would become the first two-time winning team in the illustrious 30-year history of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Races 7 and 8 are scheduled for 1:10 pm PT and 2:10 pm PT. Tomorrow's racing will be broadcast in the U.S. on NBC Sports Network on tape delay at 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
Louis Vuitton Cup Final Standings (first to 7 points wins)
• Emirates Team New Zealand - 5
• Luna Rossa Challenge - 1
Race 6 Performance Data
• Course: 5 Legs/10.30 nautical miles
• Elapsed Time: ETNZ - 28:03, LR - 30:00
• Delta: ETNZ +1:57
• Total distance sailed: ETNZ - 11.6 NM , LR - 11.9 NM
• Average Speed: ETNZ - 24.82 knots (28 mph), LR - 23.90 knots (27 mph)
• Top Speed: ETNZ - 37.28 knots (43 mph), LR - 39.33 knots (45 mph)
• Windspeed: Average - 14 knots, Peak - 17 knots
Upcoming Louis Vuitton Cup Final schedule (best-of-13 series)
• Saturday, Aug. 24: Final Race 7 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 8 (2:10 pm PT)
• Sunday, Aug. 25: Final Race 9* (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 10* (2:10 pm PT)
(* If necessary)