Team New Zealand loses jib but still demolishes opponents Luna Rossa who are left trailing once again

So how should we read today’s race between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand?

On the face of it, a big improvement for the Italian’s second official race against the current favourites, more than halving their time deficit of the first race. Given that this was just the second official race against another boat, the under dogs had done well.

But had they? Numbers can prove anything, the detail of the race revealed a different picture. Race 9 of the Louis Vuitton challenger series may have provided a touch more action than we had expected yet the final score delivered a more compelling result.

Despite dominating the racing from the start, the Kiwis had lost their jib shortly into the first windward leg when the halyard/strop broke. As the crew tried to pull the flogging headsail down it broke free from the forestay and started to trail in the water to leeward, forcing them to ditch the sail. As they did so their chase boat charged over to pick up the sail but appeared to force the Italians into a tack to avoid hitting the RIB. (Watch out for a protest on this one.)
Unable to hoist another jib, because; a) they didn’t have one aboard and b) there is no second halyard to use (AC72s use jib strops rather than halyards so when its gone, its gone), the Kiwis were forced to sail the bulk of the race without a jib. But as any of the crews will tell you, the jib’s main role is in helping with low speed manoeuvrability, including tacking while also helping a bit with pointing upwind. Losing it was a pain but it wasn’t a game changer, at least not in this match.
When your boat and crew work is that much slicker and faster and you can do genuine foiling gybes downwind and lose just a few knots in the process, losing the jib is of little consequence as Emirates Team New Zealand went on to demonstrate.

At the first leeward mark, after a short downwind leg and just a few minutes into the race, the Kiwis were 290m ahead. When they lost their jib a third of the way up the first windward leg the gap closed, for a short while. But then Dean Barker’s crew knuckled down and started to pull out distance on the Italians. By the windward mark they were 42 seconds ahead, or 380m metres for those who prefer distance.

Scorching down the downwind leg the Kiwis showed no sign of a loss of pace and demonstrated why we are not going to see gennakers in this Cup unless the forecast is for unseasonal light winds. By the bottom mark they were 1min 17 seconds ahead, a lead that had increased largely due to the impressive foil to foil gybes that they were putting in. The Kiwis were already good at this, now they are even better.

To be fair to the Italians and Chris Draper’s crew, they too have improved their boat handling since we last saw them. Gybes are more polished and there is ore confidence in their boat handling. But they’re still slower than the Kiwis.

By the end of the next and final upwind leg the news had only got worse for Luna Rossa as they trailed their opponents by 1min 56 secs, a yawning gap not helped by an unforced error as the Italian boat breached the electronic boundary and was dealt a penalty.

By the finish Emirates Team New Zealand had won by 2min 20 seconds.

Some chose to view this as an improvement on the part of the Italians. If the Kiwis had finished with the sail plan that they had started with I would agree, but with the jib doing more miles in the chase boat than it did aboard the AC72, I’d say that the Kiwis had dealt another painful blow to Luna Rossa.

A great match to watch, but no indication as yet that this will be anything other than a one sided affair.

The Kiwis meet Luna Rossa once again on Tuesday 23 July.

Race Stats
Seven-leg America’s Cup course
Course length: 15.43 nautical miles
Elapsed times: ETNZ – 48:10; LR – 50:29
Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 19.4 nautical miles; LR – 19.99 nautical miles
Average speed: ETNZ – 24.19 knots (27.8 mph); LR – 23.77 knots (27.35 mph)
Top speed: ETNZ – 38.72 knots (44.5 mph); LR – 37.73 knots (43.4 mph)
Wind speed: average 13.8 knots; peak gust 20.5 knots

This Week’s Race Schedule
Tuesday, July 23, Luna Rossa Challenge vs. Emirates Team New Zealand
Thursday, July 25, Artemis Racing vs. Luna Rossa Challenge
Saturday, July 27, Emirates Team New Zealand vs. Artemis Racing
Sunday, July 28, Emirates Team New Zealand vs. Luna Rossa Challenge