Emirates Team New Zealand takes a fifth win in a row to become the America's Cup Challenger. Matthew Sheahan reports
“Boy, I’m glad that is over,” said Terry Hutchinson as he stepped off the boat after the last and decisive fifth race of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Beating their opponents Luna Rossa 5:0 was the biggest one sided match in the history of the Louis Vuitton Cup and launches the Kiwis onto the next and final stage of their campaign, winning the America’s Cup.
“The goal of winning the America’s Cup goes hand in hand with winning the Louis Vuitton Cup. 5:0,” continued Hutchinson, “But it’s not an indication of how close the series was. Today might have been a 22 second race at the finish, but that was really another 8 second race,” he said, emphasising how much pressure the Kiwis had felt under throughout the race.
“You can’t credit Luna Rossa enough for taking every opportunity we gave them. You can’t underestimate the amount of work that’s gone into getting us to this point and you have to give Deano [Dean Barker] the highest marks possible for doing outstanding work,” he said.
Certainly the Kiwis’ start today was the biggest indication of how far this team has come at the right time and where some of the biggest improvements have been made. Less than two minutes into the pre-start, after both boats had dialled up with the Kiwis on the left, Barker managed to screw NZL82 around its keel to get behind the transom of Luna Rossa and take the right hand side. Crews like to call this the ‘Steel Balls’ move and today of all days you could see why. As Barker bore away on port towards a starboard tack boat, he needed to keep his nerve and believe in his boat and crew to prevent a penalty haunting him around the course.
But, for the present at least, those dark days of long legs and flashing lights seem to be behind the team right now. Instead, the manoeuvre was clean and both gained the Kiwis the right hand side and allowed them to decide where they wanted to start. Tight to leeward was the call and tight to leeward worked.
As the start gun went, both bows hit the line at speed and on time but, after Luna Rossa had tacked off onto starboard, the Kiwis followed suit and shadowed the Italians out towards the right hand side of the course. For a while, the Italians, who had spiced up the performance of their boat overnight with a configuration change, looked good by a few metres at times. But when you’re forced out beyond the starboard layline and into the spectator wash, it’s easy to look bad very quickly.
By the first weather mark the time between the pair was 20 seconds. A delta that remained throughout the entire race at each of the roundings. Yet in between, the margin between the pair grew and shrunk as shifts and puffs stirred things up.
By the finish, the Kiwis had hauled out another two seconds to cross the line 22 seconds ahead.
Emirates Team New Zealand took the race, took the trophy and took their campaign onto the next and final stage.
“I’m just rapped! I can’t say enough about the guys on the boat and the whole team.” said skipper Dean Barker. “It’s been a really tough journey, the Round Robins didn’t start well and the team has bounced back and grown as we have come through.
The Semi Final was great, on reflection we will look back and say that racing Desafio and dropping two races to them has actually made us a much stronger and better team. I don’t think anyone on the team ever dreamed or believed that we would get through the LVC Final against a team like Luna Rossa in the way we did. We never ever felt it was a comfortable series, it was always very tight and I think the first and last races showed exactly the type of racing we were geared up for.”
So, two months after the Louis Vuitton Cup started we know all the answers bar one.
Can the Kiwis really take the Cup back to New Zealand?
LOUIS VUITTON FINALS – FINAL SCORE
Emirates Team New Zealand – 5
Luna Rossa – 0
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