The much-heralded first match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa was all over in a flash.
The spark was at the start when Dean Barker and his crew 'hooked' the Italian boat and prevented Chris Draper, the Luna Rossa helmsman, from bearing away until the Kiwis were fully in control of the situation.
It was a classic match-racing manoeuvre and allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to start two lengths clear, sailing at close to 40 knots in the 17-knot south-westerly breeze. That was the spectacle – from there on the Kiwis remorselessly sailed faster than Luna Rossa, gaining on each of the seven legs of the course.
One mustn’t however forget the way in which both boats were sailed – almost immaculately. The spectators were treated to these 72 footers gybing without dropping off their foils, but there was no doubt that the greater experience of the New Zealanders showed through.
Statistically the course was completed in 43:52 and the top speed reached was 42.33 knots. Sadly, Luna Rossa finished outside the five-minute time limit (behind the winner), at 5:23, but there had been a match, at last.
Matches will need to be closer than this to maintain spectator interest.
Once the tumult and shouting had died, skipper Dean Barker reflected on the first race of the AC-72s and that much of ETNZ’s gain had been upwind. 'We were able to go our own way, once we were well in front,' he said, 'we could chose the fastest possible course. But the real secret is being ahead at the bottom (leeward) mark, as it is more difficult to pass upwind.'
Tactician Ray Davies agreed: 'You can’t afford to worry about what the other boat does if you are more than 30 seconds in front.' Luna Rossa was that much behind after both boats had rounded the second (leeward) gate. Davies agreed with Barker that the team was stimulated by the enormous support it was receiving: 'It was great to see all those Kiwi flags along Marina Green,' he said. 'It was awesome,' said Barker.
From the other side of the fence, Chris Draper, the Luna Rossa helmsman, said that they had been waiting a long time for this match. 'It’s great to race and good for us to learn. We were about where we expected to be, perhaps not as good as we thought, but we feel we can match them upwind, but we have a lot to learn about downwind,' he said, adding: 'The start just hurt my ego!'
Emirates Team New Zealand now has three points in the rounds robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup to Luna Rossa’s one. Artemis, which has yet to launch her second boat following the tragic accident in May, has no points.
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by Bob Fisher - 11:48 PM Sat 13 Jul 2013 GMT
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2013 America's Cup
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