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Kiwis successfully defend America's Cup 7-3

by Ben Gladwell - Sail-World NZL 16 Mar 20:45 PDT
Emirates Team New Zealand cross the finish to successfully defend the America's Cup - AC36 - Race 10 - March 17, , Auckland, New Zealand © Richard Gladwell, / nz

After some delays waiting for breeze, racing finally got underway out on Course A in 10-12 winds as Emirates Team New Zealand attempted to close out the regatta and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli fought to live another day.

Here is how the action unfolded.

Race 10

Luna Rossa entered the start box from the port end of the line, Jimmy Spithill was heard on race radio to say that he wanted the right hand end of the line and as such pushed as far as possible into the box. Luna Rossa would gybe and set up to leeward of Emirates Team New Zealand who had tacked. ETNZ set up well to windward of their adversaries, and then swooped down to push Luna Rossa down the start line. They would cross the line just to windward and slightly behind Luna Rossa and so had to tack away immediately and head to the right of the course. Luna Rossa could claim yet another win in the pre-start but the question would be whether they could make it stick for the next 6 legs.

Luna Rossa pushed out to an early lead of around 30 metres when the boats hit their respective boundaries, but the breeze had shifted massively to the right and New Zealand leapt back into the lead by about 70 metres by the time they met in the middle of the course - perhaps this was a calculated move by Burling and company, intentionally starting to the right of Luna Rossa as they liked the right-hand side of the course.

ETNZ would tack on top of Luna Rossa and protect that right-hand side that had rewarded them and force the Italian boat back out to the left. Luna Rossa picked up a small gain out on the left, hooking into a nice shift and gained back most of the deficit and would dip behind the Kiwi boat. As they crossed, both boats held on their course, swapping sides of the race track for the stretch to reach the layline. Once again the shift favoured the boat on the left, this time Team New Zealand, and they jumped out again and pulled ahead to around 100m ahead, rounding in front of Luna Rossa by about 8 seconds.

Downwind, ETNZ's lead began to grow rapidly out to 230m when they gybed in sync but on opposite sides of the race track. As they came together in the middle of the course, Luna Rossa had eroded some of that advantage. ENTZ didn't make any effort to cover and Luna Rossa was able to sail away in some good clean breeze and hung in with the Kiwis only around 100m behind now. Both crews had a very ordinary bottom mark rounding, ETNZ going wide and Luna Rossa getting very slow and not being able to complete their planned JK tack rounding and had to follow the Kiwis for the first sector of the upwind leg. Luna Rossa paid heavily for their mistake, sailing in ETNZ's wind shadow caused them to drop back to 250 metres before they could tack away and all of a sudden what had been a close race was blown apart.

ETNZ slotted into a moderate defensive mode on this second upwind, keeping Luna Rossa nicely tucked away while still being able to take advantage of a few shifts. Their lead blew out in a big way in the top half of the course, thanks to a well-timed wind shift, stretching out to more than 300m. Luna Rossa would round 27 seconds behind. Once they rounded the top mark Emirates Team New Zealand really got their skates on, burrying Luna Rossa behind them and sailing out to a lead of almost 600m by they time they were halfway down the run. Their VMG was regularly 3 knots higher than that of their opponent. Such an advantage represents a 10% difference in the performance between the two boats. In match racing terms, that puts them an ocean apart.

Emiartes Team New Zealand began the final lap of the race, and the 36th America's Cup regatta, with a 37-second headstart. To Luna Rossa's credit, they rounded the bottom mark with a very clean JK, and the onboard communications didn't reveal any hint that they had their heads down. The gap would continue to grow on the final upwind to more than 500m and 49 seconds as Peter Burling piloted Te Rehutai through the turn at the top mark. The young Kiwi skipper and his crew were headed for the finish and the successful defence of sailing's holy grail and the oldest trophy in international sport.

The victorious Kiwi crew would cross the finish line 49 seconds ahead of the valiant Luna Rossa. That concludes the 36th America's Cup.

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