Emirates Team New Zealand today proved that it can win at will.
Even without a headsail for much of the race, the Kiwis’ boat was demonstrably faster than Luna Rossa, winning the seven-leg, 15.42-mile race in the third round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup by 2’:20' in 16 knots of west-south-westerly breeze.
Dean Barker and his crew won the all-important start, peeling off to leeward of the Italian boat with 24 seconds to go, and then beating their rival to the line so that Emirates Team New Zealand was ten seconds ahead at the end of the first leg.
Once more demonstrating their ability to go from gybe to gybe while retaining the boat’s hull clear of the water on foils, the Kiwi crew began to pull away from a Luna Rossa that was much improved since their previous meeting eight days ago. While the Italian team was better, it still has some way to go to be competitive with the best.
One around the second (downwind) mark, ETNZ began to extend her lead to just over 300 metres when the luff of the jib went soggy as the halyard clip (a $100 piece of equipment) failed. Several crew members went forward to attempt a re-hoist but that was not possible and the sail had to be doused. It was then detached from the forestay and subsequently dropped into the sea for the support boat to collect.
All the Kiwi supporters along the Marina Green had their hearts in the mouths as it first appeared that Luna Rossa was closing, but once the jib was cleared, with ETNZ still 200 metres in front, the remorseless gain recommenced. By the time the two 72-foot catamarans went around the third (windward) mark, ETNZ’s lead was 300 metres – a matter of 42 seconds.
The question remained – was the lack of a headsail going to slow ETNZ downwind sufficiently for Luna Rossa to pass?
Barker said after the race that the boat’s trim had to be rebalanced, but once that was accomplished the Kiwis continued to gain and were 1:17 in front at mark 4.
The competition, such as it was, had come to an end. ETNZ continued to stretch away, increasing her lead. This time however the gap between the boats at the finish was far less than it was when they first met just over a week ago.
Luna Rossa has made considerable improvements to its boat and its sailing technique but as skipper Max Sirena admitted after the race: 'we need to try and improve as a crew and our boat speed in the next few weeks.
by Bob Fisher
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10:45 PM Sun 21 Jul 2013GMT
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