by Bob Fisher
Louis Vuitton Cup - Race Day 13 - End of Round Robin press conference
Dean Barker, the Emirates Team New Zealand skipper, announced to a packed Press Conference following the fifth round race today that his team had chosen, by virtue of its unbeaten record and massive points lead, to miss the semi-finals and go straight to the final of the challenger selection series in three weeks time.
Barker admitted that the team had given consideration to the option of more match practice by racing an opponent in the semis, but said that there was much work to do on the boat. 'We need time to make changes,' he said, adding that those to the boat required a great amount of time. Obviously ETNZ wants to improve its boat speed and has already shown that it is a powerful force in its comprehension of sailing these complex boats.
To that end, the Kiwi team will not be sailing around the course alone on Tuesday. Work on the boat is expected to start immediately.
Iain Percy, the skipper of Artemis Racing that has yet to race, looked almost relieved that his team was not going to have to meet the formidable Kiwi team fresh out of the box. After the May 9th tragic accident, Artemis Racing has spent two months building its second boat and wing, and last week, straight after launching, put in three consecutive days of sail training, displaying its foiling ability from the start.
'We are going to take ‘baby steps’, and will not race the boat until we meet Luna Rossa in the semi-final on August 6th,' he said. Afterwards he admitted that those steps would be huge ones because the team was entering an unknown area. The previous (Red) boat had not been designed to be capable of foiling, whereas the new (Blue) Artemis has shown considerable proficiency in this advanced state of sailing.
The semi-final will see Artemis Racing facing Luna Rossa, the team that has been regularly and comprehensively beaten by ETNZ. Max Sirena, the Italian skipper, appeared unfazed by this lack of success. 'We know,' he said, ' that we have some way to go to be competitive but we have improved 20% over the past ten days.' He too promised that changes to the boat were currently taking place, but said that the team planned to be out on the course on Thursday for its scheduled fifth round match.
Without any performance details, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the Luna Rossa v Artemis Racing semi-final, but by the time it is over the winner should be better prepared to meet Emirates Team New Zealand in the final, which starts on Saturday August 17th with two races. The first to win seven races will meet the defender in the America’s Cup match.