There was drama on the America's Cup course for the final race of Round 3 of the Louis Vuitton Cup, when Emirates Team NZ blew up her jib, and had to race without a headsail for much of the seven leg course.
The incident came soon after the start of the first windward leg of the race, where Emirates Team NZ had a lead of just 25 seconds, before the top of her jib let go with a halyard issue.
After trying to sail with the half lowered sail, it fell to Adam Beashel to go forward and physically pull the sail down the forestay. Eventually it came free and blew down to the stern of the boat where it snagged on a backstay, before being cast adfrift.
Then came a brief moment or drama as the Emirates Team NZ chase boat moved in quickly to clear the sail from the water, forcing the trialing Luna Rossa to tack away.
The question was then posed as to whether the New Zealand boat would be slowed by the loss of her headsail.
The answer was inconclusive, as she continued to extend her lead for the duration of the race, winning by 2minutes 26 seconds in the breeze of 16kts gusting to 18kts. That margin was about half that of the teams previous encounter with the Italians, who will take heart from their effort today.
The situation was reminiscent of the opening leg of the 33rd America's Cup where USA-17 was able to sail down Alinghi, drop her headsail and then sail away to a substantial lead under wingsail alone. The key to both situations was the moderate strength breeze, couple with the fact that the jib only seems to aid tacking ability, and some balance and stability to the AC72.
At the start Emirates Team NZ had control from astern of Luna Rossa, before electing to shoot to leeward, and both reached foil-borne to the first mark.
Luna Rossa split tacks downwind, but Emirates went to shore and almost doubled their lead to 217 metres. There was some concertina action in the margin on the first downwind expanding to 300metres at times, before Luna Rossa would come up on a puff from astern and chop 100 metres out of the lead.
Around the bottom mark, for the first time, Emirates Team NZ led by 25 seconds, and headed for the fans on the shore. Soon after tacking back onto port her job halyard failed, with the jib eventually being cut away and dropped for their chase boat.
Interestingly Luna Rossa was able to make little impression on the New Zealanders - even though they were clearly trying to sort out their boat. The Italians were not helped by hitting some lighter patches of breeze both on the leg to the shore and when they settled in an attack position on the New Zealander's line astern.
Once on song again, the New Zealander's speed upwind was actually superior to the Italians, while there was good steady breeze, however they lost margin in the tacks, and clearly had to make every one count for the rest of the race.
The next question came as the Emirates Team NZ rounded the windward mark and took off downwind. the lack of headsail seemed to make little difference on the bearaway, and none at all to her foiling performamce.
Foiling gybes were just as slick as before, perhaps even more so, without the distraction of the jib.
The leader's margin increased on the downwind leg, with Italy doing themselves no favours by sailing outside the course boundary, and suffering a time penalty for their indiscretion.
As in their first encounter, Emirates Team NZ stretched their lead all around the course taking their sixth point by a margin of 2minutes 26secs - ironically dropping eight seconds on the final reach to the finish line.
The two teams will meet again Tuesday (local time) in Race 1 of Round 4.
If today's result is repeated, Emirates team NZ will have sufficient points from the round to be in a unbeatable position, and will have the option of sailing in the Semi-Finals or progressing to the Final of the Louis Vuitton Cup, starting on August 15, 2013.
by Richard Gladwell
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8:18 PM Sun 21 Jul 2013GMT
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