Louis Vuitton Finals - Race 4&5. Team New Zealand continue their march towards becoming the Challenger
At the bottom mark it was a familiar picture as Emirates Team New Zealand led Luna Rossa through the gate by 33 knots.
After three days of fraught boat breaking racing, Wednesday’s race started in more benign conditions with little influence from the tide in either direction. Once again it was Dean Barker’s team that got the upper hand off the start line as they out paced the Italians to the first mark.
On the downwind leg the Italians had clearly improved once again with some very polished foil to foil gybes. Their problem however was that the Kiwis had also upped their game and were now executing flawless gybes in which the boat speed barely dipped.
On the upwind leg the Italians tripped up as they sailed beyond the boundary and incurred a penalty which, to make matters worse, they didn’t slow down quickly enough and were forced to accept an extended penalty. The Italians now trailed by over 600m with just part of the upwind and one downwind leg to make up the difference. The odds were clearly against them.
By the finish the Kiwis were 2min 18secs ahead. Despite signs of an improvement, when it came to the time difference between them and their opponents the Italians were back where they had started.
The score was now 3:1 to the Kiwis.
The start was a big part of it but not all of it,” said Francesco Bruni. “We were struggling a bit but we can do much better than that. I’m sure that we can be a bit more competitive when the breeze is above 15 knots.”
A second race in the day was a first in the Louis Vuitton Series but could it count towards redressing the balance on the score board with an Italian win?
In the pre-start there was no engagement but the Italians managed to take the windward end of the line as both bpats powered towards the first mark, neck and neck. Barker and his crew managed to hold the leeward position with a nose ahead to take the lead at the first mark.
Although the Italians gybed first to get back towards the favoured side of the course the Kiwis had picked a gust and were sailing deeper, stretching their lead second by second. And when it came to the gybes, the Kiwis executed perfect manoeuvres once again.
By the bottom mark the Italians were just 18 seconds behind and took the opposite mark to the Kiwis as they headed in towards the shore as Barker sailed out into the bay.
As both boats headed up wind we saw hints of both boats lifting onto their foils on the upwind leg, a hint of what is to come?
Italian tactician Francesco Bruni’s decision to head for the shore first pulled Luna Rossa back into the game, reducing the deficit to around 70m while providing us with a long awaited match race between these two. But as the Italians tacked up the shore, Barker matched them tack for tack, extending their lead each time.
By the windward gate the Kiwis had extended their lead to 1min 6 secs.
From there the Kiwiws never looked threatened as they powered towards another win, taking their victory by a margin of 1min 28sec.
The series now stands at 4:1 to the Kiwis.