Shosholoza out, Team New Zealand on hold for the final. Matthew Sheahan reports
Had the recent dispute distracted us from another pressing issue? Namely, that of Emirates Team New Zealand’s recent performance.
As the Kiwis trailed BMW Oracle across the finish line in the last race of Round Robin 2 today, the scoreboard made for uncomfortable reading. While the Kiwis had two points, they had only really beaten one team on the water in this round, Luna Rossa. The match between the Kiwis and the Swiss was the controversial one that Alinghi decided not to show for.
In addition, the fact that Barker and his boys’ defeat today started with very similar opening play off the start line to their loss yesterday against Team Origin, must have also been of concern.
In the pre-start Barker had the early advantage, coming in from the right, but as both boats rolled into a dial up, Russell Coutts snuggled up towards Barker, forcing the Kiwis to peel away to the right. From here little of interest really happened until 30 seconds from the start, at which time Coutts started to exercise control once again, burying Emirates Team New Zealand and forcing them to tack off at the start.
Coutts got the start he wanted on starboard while Barker was forced to put his faith in the right hand side of the course. It didn’t pay off. Within just a few minutes, Coutts had a 50m advantage that only went one way, up.
After the first weather mark, the distance between the two continued to stretch out reaching 160m at one point.
After the breeze shifted right, Barker was forced to take the same leeward mark, so heavily was it favoured, offering few if any options to recover. And so the pain continued for the Kiwis.
On the plus side, this match counted for nothing in the final seeding for the next rounds. The host team, Emirates Team New Zealand would progress to the finals anyway, so where was the big problem?
Perhaps there isn’t any, but to see the Kiwis beaten in the their own boats by someone who freely admitted to finding them tricky to steer just a few days and stalling out several times in the process, must surely have been of concern. If the pair ever get to sail head to head in the near distance in their own machines, just how confident will the Kiwis feel?
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the fleet there was another team shuffling around, looking at its feet by the end of today. In its play off for last place against the Greek Challenge, Team Shosholoza had won the wooden spoon, beaten in a match that was no fluke for the Greeks.
The match may not have been at the top of the bill for most of those following the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, but the pre-start at least turned out one of the best for Greek supporters.
Who, in the build up to this event, would have thought that a brand new America’s Cup team, with no previous experience of Cup boats among its Greek crew members, could take points off teams with a track record and proven talent? But in their last race of Round Robin 2, the Greeks didn’t just win the start but command it from the outset, pinning their opponents, Team Shosholoza above the line then into coffin corner before abandoning them shortly before the start gun went. From there it was all over as the Greeks sailed a perfect race and stretched out a healthy margin.
For the other matches, Team Origin looked good in its match against Damiani Italia Challenge until Ainslie and his crew poked a couple of metres of the bow on the wrong side of the start line before the gun was fired. OCS, oh my goodness, or words to that effect.
Dealing a 100m advantage to a tough opponent at the start on a short course proved to be the first nail in a solid defeat at the hands of the Italians. The rest came with a flawless performance on the part of Vasco Vascotto and his crew.
Elsehwhere, Alinghi dealt a confident blow to Luna Rossa, dismissing Peter Holmberg and his crew with ease.
Questionable weather for later in the week has meant that the schedule from here on in has been subject to change, starting with an attempt to run the sail offs and quarter finals tomorrow (Tuesday). Here, the quick fire knockout round will see five teams sent packing.
Auckland’s waterfront is about to get quieter, at least with teams.
Damiani Italia Challenge (ITA) beat Team Origin (GBR)
Alinghi (SUI) beat Luna Rossa (ITA)
BMW Oracle Racing (USA) beat Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)
Greek Challenge (GRE) beat Team Shosholoza (RSA)
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