Kiwis confirm their place in the finals where they will meet Luna Rossa. Matthew Sheahan reports
On the breeziest day, with the biggest swell that we’ve seen since racing started at the beginning of the Louis Vuitton Cup in early April, the Kiwis sailed a flawless race against Desafio Espanol to take their fifth win. Emirates Team New Zealand won the race by 1min 18seconds, a victory that secures their place in the finals that start on Friday 1 June.
With 18-20 knots of breeze and a 1.5m swell running down the race course, conditions were difficult for both boats. Given the potential for serious damage to boats and crew, few expected to see much in the way of engagement in the pre-start. How wrong we were.
The entry was pretty tame with no dial up, but with a few minutes to go before the start the game moved out towards the right hand side of the start box and included some pretty hairy looking down speed gybes.
But most impressive was the Kiwi’s performance in the last two minutes as they pinned the Spanish out to the right hand side of the committee boat and held them there by the throat until they were ready to tack back to the line. When they did, the risk of stalling out either before, through or after the manoeuvre was high and yet Barker and his crew made a perfect execution of the manoeuvre and smoked back to the start line to take a three boat length advantage over their opponents.
To be fair, the Spanish did a good job here too, but following your opponent into the start line is not the best way of beginning your race. From there on the Kiwi advantage just grew and grew in a race that involved precious few tacks and just a handful of gybes.
Drama was not on the menu for the Kiwis today, (aside from a slight crew injury at the first weather mark), nor on display throughout the semi finals. Instead, Barker’s crew have been a model of conservative play, covering their opponents and making sure they didn’t slip up on their way to the finals.
“It seems that we were the only ones who believed they [the Spanish] could take races off us,” said tactician Terry Hutchinson after the race .
With the task of making it through to the finals now complete, did he feel that with the benefit of hindsight the team had picked the right opponents?
“If we had known how the whole thing would play out I don’t know if we did. We chose what we thought was the right thing for us. We were aware they were sailing a fast boat with good sailors that were going to get better with every race that we sailed against them and that was surely the case in this regatta,” he said.
“We were fully expecting to be punched and have to get back up from it and sail good races.”
A good indication of what appears to give the Kiwis an edge.
For the time being it’s rest time for the teams. Racing resumes with the first match of the Louis Vuitton finals between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand on June 1.
SEMI FINAL SCORE
Emirates Team New Zealand v Desafio Espanol: 5 – 2Match Complete
BMW Oracle Racing v Luna Rossa: 1 – 5Match Complete
HOW TO WATCH, LISTEN AND FOLLOW THE ACTION
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