Emirates Team NZ acknowledges their many fans - San Francisco (USA CA) - 34th America’s Cup -
Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge are familiar partners in the America’s Cup arena. The two teams contested the 2000 America’s Cup Match, were finalists in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup Final, and have shared a design package and many hours of training together in the lead up to the 2013 America’s Cup.
Today the familiar foes contested the first two-boat race of the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challenger Series, and the reigning champions from New Zealand came out on top.
Skipper Dean Barker and the Emirates Team New Zealand crew made today’s race look effortless. With the wind blowing around 17 knots, Emirates Team New Zealand held up Luna Rossa in the pre-start and then sailed away to win by nearly five and a half minutes on the 15.47-nautical-mile course.
The Kiwis completed the course in 43 minutes, 52 seconds. They recorded a top speed of 42.33 knots (48 mph), compared to Luna Rossa’s 39.95 knots (46 mph).
'There was a really nice public turnout today, good to have two boats out there on the racecourse,' said the 40-year-old Barker. 'It can only make you better because you put yourself in different positions; you get to find out what’s going on around the start line and the first reach. That’s all paramount to how the race plays out.'
'We ended up almost where we thought we’d be, probably a little bit worse off,' said Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper of the final result. 'I think the majority of the losses were in boathandling and a little bit in upwind boatspeed. But it’s all fixable and we knew that was there, so no massive surprise.'
The first race was met with great anticipation. The AC72 is the fastest yacht designed to a rule created specifically for the America’s Cup. At top speeds, the wing sail catamarans are capable of sailing their 72-foot length in a single second. The introduction of hydrofoils adds a technological dimension that captivates attention.
'We are going to see, for the first time ever, the two fastest, round-the-course racing vessels that have ever existed on this planet,' said Regatta Director Iain Murray at his morning briefing. 'When we see those two crews approaching the first mark probably at speeds of 40 knots (48 mph) or more, and then see them employ the tactics of racing on these unbelievable craft, it’ll be a world first.'
The pre-start ramped up the anticipation for the race. Emirates Team New Zealand tacked to leeward of Luna Rossa and luffed up its opponent. The two crews started late, but Barker had the enviable leeward position and was able to speed away at 41 knots while Luna Rossa was doing 39 knots.
'There aren’t too many moves you can pull off in this type of start,' said Ray Davies, Emirates Team New Zealand tactician. 'It’s a short time period, enough for one or two maneuvers. That’s a standard move we’ll see. If you opponent doesn’t get out of that tack well, there’s an option to tack to leeward and stop the race.'
'We’ve done a few pre-starts against them in the 72s and have generally come off better,' Draper said. 'So it was frustrating to make a pickle of it then. But to be honest it was 10 seconds of the race and they beat us by 5 minutes, so the pre-start didn’t mean a whole lot.'
On the racecourse, the Kiwi crew was far superior to the Italian crew. Barker steadily increased his team’s advantage at each mark rounding, especially on the upwind legs.
'It’s important to be in front at the bottom, so you have to be fast downwind to capitalize there,' said Barker. 'Luna Rossa has stepped it up on the downwind stuff. They probably have some work to do on the upwind stuff, but it’s early days for them and their new systems and setup. They’ll get better for sure.'
The next scheduled race of the Louis Vuitton Cup is tomorrow, and will feature Emirates Team New Zealand in a sail-over.