by Bob Fisher
Louis Vuitton Cup - Louis Vuitton Cup Final - Race Day 1 - Race 1
One-sided is a poor description of the one race sailed on Saturday, but it does adequately describe the state of Luna Rossa, the Italian challenger that met Emirates Team New Zealand.
Before the start, Max Sirena, the Italian skipper, indicated that there was a problem with the centreboard on the starboard side.
But that was not the end . . . even when the boats lined up in the pre-start there was a sense of fallibility on board Luna Rossa. Chris Draper, the helmsman, did make the aggressive move but appeared concerned as to whether the repairs that had been effected were sufficient.
Dean Barker took full advantage of his rival’s concerns and fired up his rig and headed for the line to windward of Luna Rossa to start the race a boat’s length ahead. That stretched to four lengths (eight seconds) at the end of the short reach. Emirates Team New Zealand was borne away and began the downwind leg.
So too was Luna Rossa, but there all similarity ended. Almost immediately the problem with the starboard centerboard returned and the Italian boat slowed to a crawl. For them, the race was as good as over. Their only hope lay in a more serious breakdown to the Kiwis.
Emirates Team New Zealand appeared to be sailing well within its potential both down and up wind until it arrived at the weather mark to begin the second downwind leg. Sailing in excess of 42 knots, Barker began the bear away. Both bows dug deep in the water, back to behind the mast, and the speed dropped to an almost halt.
The water sweeping across the deck washed Rob Waddell and Chris Ward off the boat completely – they were picked up by the chase boat – and Emirates Team New Zealand staggered and then continued on her way. What appeared to be the cause was the starboard centerboard (and foil) was canted too far aft and this upset the balance of the boat.
There was collateral damage. The carbon fibre fairing immediately aft of the main beam had become detached from the beam and needed to be held in place with a temporary lashing. The boat was sailed conservatively downwind as a temporary fix was made, and finished the 9.95 mile course in 31’:03' to take the first point in this best of 13 final.
All the time, with Luna Rossa limping along, speculation was rife as to whether the Italians would request a lay day to effect the repairs to their centerboard machinery. The New Zealand crew, immediately on finishing, made a jury repair by removing the broken fairing and replacing it with a net trampoline. They were ready for action and would have welcomed the second race.
Nothing was forthcoming from Luna Rossa, except a red flag protest (later withdrawn), as the Italians were doubtless waiting for the wind to increase (a natural phenomenon of the afternoon in San Francisco Bay) to the point where it would be above the 21-knot limit for this competition. Sure enough, after one 15-minute delay, at 14.25 local time the Race Director, Iain Murray, called a halt to the day’s racing.
Both competitors repaired to their bases to mend their craft and prepare for the next day’s racing.