Race 1 of Round Robin 4 and the Kiwis win by their biggest margin so far to secure their place in the Louis Vuitton finals

Winning today’s race, the tenth of the Louis Vuitton Cup saw Emirates Team New Zealand win by 7min 14secs was a massive blow to Luna Rossa. Their worst defeat so far and their second DNF on the scoreboard asonce again they failed to finish within the time limit of 5 minutes. Time is running out for the Italians as fast as the Kiwis stretch their winning margin.

In the previous race the crew of the silver dream racer had started to show signs of improvement in their boat handling, a hint perhaps that the team was making fast progress. They had rigged their gennaker too, were they feeling punchy?

Having spoken to skipper Max Sirenna only a few weeks ago he told me that they had decided to take the bow sprit off the boat because they would not be using a gennaker during the racing. Others have expressed similar views as teams climb the steep learning curve and discover that a big furling sail on the downwind legs is often slower than just a jib thanks to the new found speeds that are being achieved on foils.

So was the Italian choice of sail plan a bold call, an inspired choice or a knee jerk reaction to find greater pace over the Kiwis?

In the event they chose not to use it leaving us all none the wiser. All we could see was that the Kiwis seemed perfectly happy not to rig theirs and looked far from being spooked.

When the pre-start got under way the Italians appeared to have taken a step backwards from the progress they had made in their second race. Although the breeze was slightly lighter, around 13-17 knots, the Italian performance was jittery and lacked confidence both in boat handling and in tactics.

During the pre-start Luna Rossa’s helmsman Chris Draper hesitated as he bore down from to windward onto Dean Barker’s bows as he tried to gybe onto starboard to get the upper hand. From the aerial shots the Kiwis looked like they could have forced the issue with Luna Rossa to weather, but appeared to take avoiding action and let the Italians off the hook as Barker headed up across their stern.

With a few seconds to go before the start, Draper had got the pin end of the line, a perfect position from which to put his foot to the floor and accelerate to the first mark, yet the Italian boat seemed to stutter in its final push, allowing the Kiwis to blast out in front and take the lead from mark 1.

From there and for the next 40 minutes or so the distance between the two only got bigger as the Kiwis creamed into the distance.

Was something wrong with Luna Rossa? She certainly looked to be trimmed bow down when she was on her foils. Had the rudder trim slipped before the start? The adjustment to the T-foil that controls the fore and aft trim of the boat when foiling has to be set by the warning signal and cannot be adjusted afterwards. Had this been the problem?

Getting the wrong angle of attack on the T-foils would also provide unnecessary drag when the boat wasn’t foiling which may have accounted for the slowest performance we’ve seen from the Italians.

Meanwhile the Kiwis were scorching around the course, demonstrating a further build in confidence and ability as they pulled off even more super slick foil to foil gybes, perfect mark roundings and slippery tacks.

Winning this race would put Barker’s team into the Louis Vuitton finals no matter what the outcome of the subsequent races against Luna Rossa and Artemis. Stage one of their Cup mission had been established as Barker and Co fired their beast across the line.

Today’s data confirms the clear difference in pace on the race course but what we don’t yet know is why Luna Rossa was so slow. The average true wind speed experienced aboard each both was the same at around 15 knots as were the peak gusts of 21 knots and the true wind direction of 257 degrees. All of which points to a problem with the boat.

LV Cup – Race 10              ITA           NZL
Distance Sailed (km)        34.923     35.191
Average Speed (kts)         21.99        24.41
Max Speed (kts)               36.60        41.16

The next match is on Thursday between Luna Rossa and Artemis and while the Swedish boat is afloat it is unlikely that she will be racing just yet. If that’s the case there will be no TV, just Virtual Eye and mark I eyeball to tell the tale.

1. Emirates Team New Zealand 7-0 – 7 points (3 races remaining)
2. Luna Rossa Challenge 3-4 – 3 points (3 races remaining)
3. Artemis Racing 0-6 – 0 points (4 races remaining)