by Bob Fisher
Emirates Team New Zealand - Louis Vuitton Cup, Round Robin 2, Race 3, July 17, 2013
Despite the lack of an opponent, the Kiwi team provided the spectators with a game showing on the water, and for the knowledgeable aficionados a demonstration of their seeming superiority.
It was a performance in the near-limit, 18-20-knot westerly breezes that convincingly displayed that the time the team has spent on the water is reaping its rewards.
Emirates Team NZ was Mean, Moody and Magnificent in its boat handling – a factor that could be the true measure between the teams that meet in the America’s Cup match in September.
Time and again this team was able to gybe to boat while riding on the foils and the hulls never touched the water. Only once, when the 72-foot catamaran was hit by a wave as she went through the gybe (out close to the course boundary), was there a marked slowing.
The consummate ease with which the boat was handled made the difficult look easy. The New Zealand team has had more hours on the water than any of its rivals, and it shows. All those hours on the Hauraki Gulf appear to be as valuable as the team’s leader, Grant Dalton, believed they would. Back in October, when Luna Rossa was launched, he expressed his belief that the team was coming from a long way back.
'While they (the opposition – primarily Oracle) are not sailing we are catching up. We can’t be getting behind while we are sailing and they are not,' said Dalton and there can be no doubting the truth of that. Oracle’s capsize of its first AC-72 lost a potential three and a half months practice (and a further few days in April for illegally photographing Luna Rossa sailing in New Zealand).
Endeavours are being made by the defender to catch up. Its two boats were out on the course before the New Zealand sail-over, one with Jimmy Spithill steering and the other with Ben Ainslie behind the wheel. 'We had two boats out on the course this morning,' said Kyle Langford, 'and the time spent on the water is invaluable. It is particularly so when the two boats are racing.'
Normality may return to the Louis Vuitton Cup in ten days time. Artemis is scheduled to launch its boat on Monday and will need some time for trials before the Challenger of Record can race against the other two challengers.