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Louis Vuitton Cup- Not only history repeats - Finals, Race 6

by Bob Fisher on 24 Aug 2013
Emirates Team New Zealand crosses the finish line to win Match Race 6 at the Louis Vuitton Cup finale on August 23, 2013 in San Francisco California. SW

As the America’s Cup moves into its 163rd year (America won at Cowes on 22nd August 1851), there was a degree of inevitability about the result of the sixth race of the Louis Vuitton Cup final.

Held in 13-17 knots of south-westerly breeze, Emirates Team New Zealand totally dominated her opponent, Luna Rossa, finishing almost two minutes in front over the ten-mile course.

Luna Rossa entered the starting area on port tack, and with the given ten-second advantage, crossed the bows of the Kiwi boat quite easily. But there the advantage stopped. Skipper Dean Barker and tactician Ray Davies set up Emirates Team New Zealand to windward with a minute to go. 'We identified very early that we wanted to start to windward,' said Barker after the race.

Chris Draper, the British helmsman of the Italian boat, said later: 'The cold reality is that they [the Kiwis] are going to sail past us whatever we do.' He and his team know that their boat is a first-generation model of the New Zealand boat, and that they are behind in the development due to the constraints of time. There seems to be a noticeable lowering of the shoulders of the men in the shiny silver Prada sailing suits.

After the race, grinder Nick Hutton admitted the frustration, saying of the team’s members: 'We are all winners in this sport, we do a lot of it, and when you are behind at the reach mark, it’s not good for you.' It would be true to say that rounding the first mark behind would destroy some of the driven intensity of any top-class crew.

From the start, Emirates Team New Zealand bolted. Barker’s timing of the acceleration – going from eight to almost forty knots in five seconds – was critical and the Kiwis crossed the starting line flat out. By the time they rounded the first mark the gap between the boats was 10 seconds and ETNZ was nursed almost immediately into a foiling gybe and away on the downwind leg.

ETNZ gained, almost certainly through better gybing, and started the upwind leg 50 seconds in front. The upwind leg was difficult. 'There were huge wind shifts,' said Barker, 'It was more round to the left, coming off the [City Front] shore,' he explained, 'and that makes it harder on the crew.'

At the top mark, ETNZ had increased her lead by 26 seconds and picked up another 31 by the bottom mark. Reaching fast to the finish the Kiwis were 1’57' clear at the end of the race and now lead by 5 – 1 in the first-to-seven wins final.

'We need to race when the breeze is up,' declared Barker and this was echoed by skipper Max Sirena: 'We were in the crossover range today – we are better when it blows harder.' Luna Rossa did record the fastest time on the course of 39.33 knots to ERNZ’s 37.28. Tomorrow the Italians may get what they want. The forecast is for winds close to the upper limit, most certainly for the second race, but with the scoreline where it is, the Italians could wait in the hope that Aeolus smiles on their endeavours.

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