Emirates Team NZ leads Luna Rossa in the first race of the Final of the Louis Vuitton Cup
The 30th anniversary Louis Vuitton Cup Final got off to a boisterous start today with Emirates Team New Zealand opening a 1-0 lead over Luna Rossa Challenge.
On a windy day on San Francisco Bay, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa both wrestled with equipment problems, each suffered in different fashion. The difference was that Luna Rossa’s problem inhibited the crew’s ability to race, while the Kiwis’ problem scared the living daylights out of them.
Luna Rossa had a daggerboard problem before the race that ultimately scuttled the crew’s race after the first mark rounding. The team had refined the daggerboard and its lifting post last week.
'A composite part of the lifting system broke,' said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. 'We did a bit of work on the daggerboard to try to improve the aero package. We chopped part of the board and lifting post and moved all of the attachments on the board. We sailed five days with it and then today it broke. Luckily it broke during the reaching leg and not a jibe, otherwise it could’ve been another nosedive.'
Emirates Team New Zealand led by 7 seconds at the first mark and continued racing after Luna Rossa had all but withdrawn. Later in the race, however, the Kiwi crew nosedived at the third (windward) mark rounding.
The team’s AC72 Aotearoa popped up onto its hydrofoils rounding the mark and then a gust of wind hit. The port (left) bow of Aotearoa buried up to the main crossbeam, reducing the boatspeed from 40 knots to 13 and flicking two crewmembers, Rob Waddell and Chris Ward, overboard. The two grinders were recovered unharmed by the team’s chase boat, but the rush of tons of water tore the port side fairing off the main crossbeam and left the crew shaken.
'In this sort of racing, the boats are incredibly powerful. You see how quickly the speed rockets up as you make the turn around the top,' said skipper Dean Barker. 'We came in there with good pressure. Through the turn we were always going to pick up a decent increase in speed; I’m sure there are a few things we could’ve done better.
'We’re very thankful that all the guys are OK. Everyone’s a little shaken, but that’s yacht racing and this type of sailing is pretty full on,' said Barker.
Grinder Chris McAsey described the experience: 'I’m on the forward pedestal and was holding on for dear life,' McAsey said. 'I was the second guy under water, with Jeremy Lomas in front of me. I was holding on as hard as I could. It all was a blur, everything’s wet and white, you come up, there’s a bit of broken carbon around the place and we’re two guys short. From there on it was just a matter of trying to cover the two guys lost.
'It was an interesting day,' McAsey said. 'I spent a lot of time wondering how this day would play out. We were stoked to start the Louis Vuitton Cup Final, and it’s nothing like I expected it would be.'
With the windspeed exceeding the 19.3–knot limit the race committee postponed the day’s second race until tomorrow. It is scheduled to start at 1:10 pm PT. Race 3 is scheduled to follow at 2:10 pm.
Before the Louis Vuitton Cup Final started, ORACLE TEAM USA conducted two practice races with its two AC72s. Skipper Jimmy Spithill won the race that was broadcast to the public, beating Ben Ainslie by 33 seconds.
'We’ve got a lot of depth in our sailing team. The ability to put two competitive boats on the water is a big advantage for us,' said Spithill. 'That’s been a big part of our campaign, two-boat sailing. To do that you need a lot of support from the shore team, designers and engineers. Ben and I’ve been pushing each other very hard and we think it’ll help us prepare for the America’s Cup.'
Louis Vuitton Cup Final Standings (first to 7 points wins)
Luna Rossa Challenge – 1
Emirates Team New Zealand – 0
Upcoming Louis Vuitton Cup Final schedule (best-of-13 series)
Sunday, Aug. 18: Final Race 2 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 3 (2:10 pm PT)
Monday, Aug. 19: Final Race 4 (TBD)
Wednesday, Aug. 21: Final Race 5 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 6 (2:10 pm PT)
Saturday, Aug. 24: Final Race 7 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 8 (2:10 pm PT, if necessary)