by Bob Fisher
Emirates Team New Zealand NZL5 with Glenn Ashby driving practice before the Round Robin 4, Artemis race. Louis Vuitton Cup. San Francisco.
For the first time in the Louis Vuitton Cup races for six years, Dean Barker was absent from the wheel of Emirates Team New Zealand, and his place as helmsman was taken by Glenn Ashby, normally the wing trimmer.
Ashby’s credentials for the job are more than sufficient, having won 14 world championships in three multihull classes and ten Australian A-class catamaran championships.
The south-westerly breezes in San Francisco Bay were lighter than usual, at an average of 13 knots, peaking at 15.7. Nevertheless, Ashby and the Kiwi crew sailed the AC-72 around the five-leg, 9.64-mile course in 30’:59' at an average of 22.8 knots, with a top speed of 33.8 knots. It was an impressive performance in what should have been a race against Artemis that gave the reserve helmsman good practice on the racecourse.
There was just one moment of concern for the ETNZ crew. It occurred as the boat rounded the windward gate and was about to gybe. A family cruising boat had strayed on to the course as Ashby prepared for the downwind manoeuvre shortly after bearing away – he was forced to gybe early to miss the boat. 'Not the sort of thing you would want if you were in a close race,' declared a smiling wing trimmer Adam Beashel.
At the end of the fourth round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand leads with eight points and Luna Rossa has four; the Swedish team, Artemis, has yet to race. The blue boat has been out for practice on three occasions, but stayed in her Alameda base today. Tomorrow sees ETNZ matched against Luna Rossa in the fifth round.
Tactician Ray Davies runs across to joing Glen Ashby, Louis Vuitton Cup - Race Day 12 - Emirates Team New Zealand