The Kiwis and Luna Rossa go head to head for the first true match of the Louis Vuitton Cup
At last, a match between two boats in the Louis Vuitton Cup and what a spectacle it was. As the Kiwis and Luna Rossa entered the starting box area at 38 and 41 knots respectively the camera shot from the air provided a dramatic snapshot of precisely what the 34th America’s Cup has been promising for some time but has as yet been unable to deliver.
Seconds later, a high speed dial up as Dean Barker smoked in on port towards the starboard tack Italians to tack underneath them. From there Barker’s plan was to pin the Italians to windward and prevent them from bearing away to start – a classic match race manoeuvre executed perfectly.
As the start gun went both boats were at least 10 boat lengths from the line with Barker calling the shots. As he bore away and accelerated to 40knots towards the start line all Luna Rossa could do was to follow.
By this stage, for all the aggravation that the Cup circus has caused and endured, this was the first true display of the bold vision that was rolled out shortly after Oracle’s victory in Valencia back in 2010. Staggeringly fast boats and incredible TV images as the AC72s scorched their way downhill riding high on their hydrofoils.
Both boats exhibited some impressive foiling gybes although it was the Kiwis who were the most expert in the boat handling department with some outstanding foil to foil gybes.
By the leeward mark on the first short downwind leg Barker and his crew had extended their lead to 400m. And that was the last we saw of a two boat competition. From there the time between the two boats only increased.
Minutes later the first official match between two AC72s looked remarkably like many of the one sided affairs that characterised much of the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia when it was held in the IACC lead mine monohulls. As the race continued so the Kiwis lead stretched out to embarrassing proportions and ended with a 5min 23 second lead over the Italians by the finish.
So there lies the irony. For all the top speeds and high technology, this Cup race at least, was every bit as one sided as many that have gone before and proves that fast boats don’t necessarily make for close competition.
Don’t get me wrong though, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the racing and, having watched virtually all of the Cup matches over the last 10 years and having commentated on many of them, there was a certain amount of familiarity in this one. It’s all too easy to forget how one sided the Cup can appear at times but this is still early days for the event.
The most important point at this stage of the 34th America’s Cup is that both boats turned up to race, both completed the course and, on the few occasions when they came close together we caught glimpse of the frenetic, breathtaking pace that this Cup will be performed at. When the boats get close to each other, which given time they will inevitably do, we could be in for some spectacular races.
But in the meantime the Kiwis dominate, just as was expected.
Tomorrow, Sunday, will see a return to the one horse race as Emirates Team New Zealand head out to race against Artemis, who as we know are not yet ready.