A surprise breakdown on Team New Zealand results in their first loss and a win to Luna Rossa in Race 2
Repaired and ready to race, Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand were both back out on the water today after a boat breaking first race in the Louis Vuitton finals. Both teams had limped home after the first race when their second race was postponed as the breeze broke through the upper wind limit. Today there was no such problem with the wind.
The start of race 2 saw Chris Draper take another aggressive swipe at the Kiwis in the pre-start only to be rolled by them as the gun went. From there the race took on a familiar look as the Kiwis led the Italians by 23 seconds at the bottom mark.
But half way up the beat the Kiwis seemed to have a problem as they slowed through a tack allowing the Italians to close the gap slightly. But there was more to come. Talk of ‘hydro’ referring to the hydraulics package gave some hint of the potential problem – was this another breakdown in the making? As the Kiwis sailed past the windward gate and into a penalty zone it was clear that there was indeed an issue. (After the race finish Dean Barker confirmed that they had had a dagger board problem.)
The Italians pounced, rounded the windward gate and took the lead as they headed downwind towards the finish.
When the ETNZ chase boat pulled alongside the cat it was clear that the Kiwis were out of this race, their first loss since the start of the LV series. Two races into the final and the score was 1:1 – few were expecting that.
Few were expecting to see a second race postponed either, as it had been the day before as the breeze busted through the upper wind limit. But unfortunately that was precisely what happened as the breeze pushed through the 21knot wind limit.
On the plus side, the results board displayed the beginnings of the kind of match that many had hoped for. On the downside, both results had seen major breakdowns and little in the way of close competition.
Structural problems haven’t been confined to the Challengers either. Yesterday the port rudder on Ben Ainslie’s Oracle AC72 broke during the pre-start practice against team mate James Spithill causing Ainslie’s boat to perform a wild wheelie as the boat rounded into the breeze.
The message is clear, these boats are being pressed harder as the heat of the competition starts to build, reliability is now becoming an increasingly important part of this Cup cycle. Could this be another indication that the 34th America’s Cup will become a game of last man standing? Everyone hopes not, but there’s more evidence to suggest that it just might be.