New Zealand and the USA will meet in the finals of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai tomorrow after each team won their semi-final contests 2-0 today in close racing on inshore waters off the Dubai International Marine Club.
The American team BMW Oracle Racing beat the French/German team All40ne while Emirates Team New Zealand defeated Italy's Mascalzone Latino Audi. Races were close and hard-fought. All4One and Mascalzone each lost races on penalty calls.
On Saturday the USA's BMW Oracle Racing, winner of the 33rd America's Cup will square off in a best-of-three race series against the New Zealand team that won the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia in 2007.
Asked about his last big race against Emirates Team New Zealand, BMWOR's skipper James Spithill
said it was during the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia.
Spithill's team spent much of the intervening years in the legal limbo that followed the 2007 Cup and preparing for and winning their catamaran challenge for the 33rd America's Cup. The Americans have been major supporters of the Louis Vuitton Trophy competition, racing in several events, but without much success.
"I feel we're back at the level that's required now,"
Spithill said. "Obviously these Team New Zealand guys have been sailing monohulls and racing together for a long time. It's been a big push from us to go back to work and get back to this level. I'm happy with how the guys have really taken the challenge on.
"We've put ourselves into the position now where we can win the regatta. It's just going to come down to tomorrow and I think it will be a pretty tough series. Dean is a fantastic sailor, calm and with a good temperament. He and I have had some great racing over the years. I don't expect tomorrow to be any different."
Barker and the Kiwis had to come from behind today in both their races against Gavin Brady
and the Mascalzone Latino Audi team. In their second race Barker caught the Italian boat at the weather mark and forced a penalty that became the Kiwi's ticket to the finals.
"It was hard out there today, trying to pick the right side of the course,"
Barker said. "It's not easy. Mascalzone led both times at the top marks but fortunately we were able to keep the racing close enough. The guys sailed really well all round the course, keeping it close and taking advantage of the opportunities."
Barker was cautiously optimistic, looking forward to tomorrow's finals. "There have been five Louis Vuitton Trophy events and we've been in the final of all of them,"
he said. "Oracle was at La Maddalena and they were ninth. Here they've been the form team and we'll have to sail well tomorrow to beat them."
In the first race on Saturday BMW Oracle Racing will enter the start box from the favored starboard side. Emirates Team New Zealand will sail NZL 92, the newest of the Kiwi boats. BMWOR will sail NZL 84.
Race One, BMW Oracle Racing def All4One, 00:18
- Using his starboard entry advantage, James Spithill chased All4One's Sebastien Col all around the start box, cornering him below the committee boat. The skipper of the French/German boat attempted to gybe across the bows of BMW Oracle Racing, the Americans' protest flag went up and Col was penalized for failing to keep clear. Col kept it close around the course but finished second with the penalty still outstanding.
Race Two, Emirates Team New Zealand def Mascalzone Latino Audi, 00:28
- A long dialup culminated in a split start with Dean Barker taking ETNZ out to the favored right side on port. Gavin Brady and the Italians enjoyed better conditions at the top of the course and led by 22 seconds at the first mark. On the run, the Kiwis soaked down to sail into the leeward gate together with the Italians. Barker took the left-hand gate and seized control of the right as Mascalzone had an untidy drop and trailed by four seconds. Brady kept it close and Barker let the Italians get right closing the top mark. It was a good call as the Kiwis sailed into a lift and more pressure on the left. The ETNZ lead was 13 seconds, which they extended to 120 meters at the finish.
Race Three, BMW Oracle Racing def All4One, 00:51
- After swapping boats and swapping ends, both boats started on starboard tack. All4One claimed the committee boat end while BMW Oracle Racing started at speed at the pin with a small lead over their slower starting opponent. BMWOR's Spithill ducked the French/German boat on the first cross to get to the right and control the rest of the beat. The USA boat led by eight seconds at the top mark, extended to 26 seconds at the leeward mark and continued sailing away, barely faltering as they peeled a slightly ripped spinnaker on the last leg.
Race Two, Emirates Team New Zealand Mascalzone Latino Audi, 00:22
- Gavin Brady and his Mascalzone Latino Audi team claimed the right at the start and were leading approaching the top mark but let Dean Barker get out to the right and use the starboard tack advantage while sailing into the mark. Brady attempted to tack but the Kiwis were between him and the mark and forcing him away. The Italians were penalized for failing to keep clear as Barker bore off and led around fthe mark with a 14 second lead. Brady kept it close but finished second, still carrying the penalty.
The Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai is under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, the principal sponsor of the event.
Louis Vuitton Trophy Website - http://www.louisvuittontrophy.com