Emirates Team New Zealand proved superiority and reliability on a day when the west-south-westerly breeze was down to 12-14 knots and demonstrated that, barring breakdowns, that it will be the team that progresses to the America’s Cup.
The two races in the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup were one-sided, but considerably closer than anything that has preceded them. Margins of 2’17' and 1’28' are as close as these two boats have ever been and would show a vast improvement in the sailing technique of the Italian team. Skipper Chris Draper showed that he has mastered the foiling gybe manoeuvre and this has enabled him to stay closer to Dean Barker and the Kiwi crew.
It was the first day that two races had been possible – the thermal breeze was slow to materialize as the ambient temperature was generally lower in the morning. With a light flood tide, the waves were smaller too, at least for the first race. That was probably a factor in the closeness of the starts – in both races the boats were virtually bow-to-bow.
In the opener, Barker was to windward and was able to pour dirty air on to Draper. The Italian boat was slow out of her straps and after the short reach, Emirates Team New Zealand rounded the first buoy with a 12 second lead. The two boats shot off at 28 knots, accelerating to a regular 33 in a slightly increasing breeze. When they went through the leeward gate, the Kiwis were 33 seconds clear.
Upwind ETNZ was faster and gained by going towards the shore, where the tide had begun to ebb in her favour. At mark 3, the difference between them at the leeward mark with the Kiwis continuing to gain, had widened to 2’16', and another second was added on the short reach to the finish. The ten-mile course had taken 25’37'.
Shore crews climbed on both of the AC-72s as they made their way back towards the Golden Gate Bridge for the second start, checking every functioning part, ensuring that there would be no failure during the next race.
That one started with ETNZ to leeward in a breeze that was steady at 15 knots. Barker timed his start to perfection and was able to stay just ahead of Luna Rossa and take the inside at the first mark with a four second lead. That was a crucial move – it has been rare for overtaking after this mark rounding, and so it was in this race. Ray Davis said post race: 'The acceleration from Mark 1 is most important – the first to make a mistake is going to take second place.'
Draper kept it close on the first run and when he went to the inshore gate mark at the end – the opposite one to Barker – 18 seconds after the Kiwis, Luna Rossa headed towards the City Front and a stronger favourable current. But with the Kiwi boat’s upwind superiority, combined with the strategic mastery of Ray Davies, the ETNZ tactician, Barker stretched his lead to 1’06'.
It was all over bar the shouting and Emirates Team New Zealand was able to pull away further to finish 1’28 in front. Somewhat remarkably in the relatively light winds, ETNZ hit a top speed of 43.77 knots. The second victory took the team’s overall lead in the series to 4 – 1.
by Bob Fisher
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10:30 PM Wed 21 Aug 2013GMT
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