Three to Emirates Team New Zealand, zero for Luna Rossa. Matthew Sheahan reports on the third day of racing in the Louis Vuitton finals

 The third day of racing in the Louis Vuitton finals saw a different set of weather conditions but the same result prevailed, another Kiwi victory. But this isn’t just a third win for Dalton’s team, this is a crushing blow from a team that is getting stronger by the race. A team that has not only led around every mark of the finals so far, but one that has inflicted a bigger finishing delta each time.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s one and only weak move today was a slight lack of pace at the start after an impressive recovery from a pre-start that had been controlled by James Spithill for the entire five minutes.

Indeed, so strong was Luna Rossa’s position in holding the Kiwis above the line, that it was a surprise to see Spithill let the Kiwis off the hook in enough time to return to the line themselves, gybe around and wind themselves up to make a clean start at pace. Maybe this is just the way Spithill likes to sail, winning the start then getting off the line quickly. But there’s a school of thought that says he could have inflicted more damage.

As it was, the Kiwis were left having to make the best of a tricky situation as they headed back to the line, tacked and started at the committee boat end. A move that left them slow when the gun went and potentially exposed to a return on port and possibly a cross, by Luna Rossa.

Yet despite their slow start, three minutes later the Kiwis were sailing higher and faster and the 20m Italian advantage had reduced to zero before extending in the Kiwis favour. A look at the plots off the line showed two very different tracks, the Kiwis higher and faster for most of the long fetch out to the left.

But the Italian team saw things differently.

“I think they just got a little bit of right hand pressure,” said Luna Rossa afterguard member Ben Durham speaking at the press conference shortly after the race, . “We expected the breeze to go right, but not as soon as it did.”

By the time the boats got to the top mark the Kiwis had already stretched out a 26 second lead. The breeze had not made a significant enough shift to the right for the race committee to have re-aligned the course.

On the downwind leg the Kiwis hauled more distance to take a lead of 48 seconds over the Italians. Still the committee saw no reason to re-align the course, confirming that the breeze had not yet made a significant step to the right. Only by the second weather mark rounding was the course adjusted, but by this time the Kiwis were a healthy 1min 13 seconds ahead.

From there on the distance between the two boats only got bigger with a finishing delta of 1min 38 seconds. Their biggest loss this year and a crushing defeat.

Pointing the reason for the Kiwi lead at the weather with shifty conditions was simply not on. Despite the diplomatic and strategic line adopted by both teams, the speed between these boats is not even. Not even at all.

With an off-day tomorrow (Monday) the Italians have time to reflect on how they are going to put a win on the board.

“It’s pretty simple, we’ve just got to sail better,” said Durham. “I don’t think we’ve sailed as well as we can in this series so far and I’m looking forward to the next chance to get out there and do it again.”

Presumably he didn’t mean lose, and yet with the Kiwis’ lead increasing both on the water and on the score board, it’s difficult to see how they can avoid another loss and what they can do from here.

Referring to the Kiwis performance once again Durham said, “They’ve been sailing and controlling the race well. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, we took the bias and were hoping we were going to be able to take over. Our crew work is very good; we are very proud of it and have put a lot of time into it. I think over the last three days Team New Zealand has done a better job of getting off the line, getting it up to speed well and getting the first shift. I think we can do better in all of those areas.”

Indeed, their boat handling around the marks and through manoeuvres is excellent. Unfortunately ITA94 doesn’t appear to have an excess of speed in any direction that can be traded for speed in another. The bottom line is that she’s quick all round, but not quick enough.

Rummaging around in the toy box for some speed enhancing add-ons seems unlikely too, surely if they had any to use, they would have fitted them from the start.

The truth is surely that Luna Rossa are being despatched in a similar manner to that with which they applied to BMW Oracle in the semi finals.

Other than that, the lessons so far appear to be:

a) Kiwis have a faster boat even if they won’t/can’t say so.
b) Kiwis have learned how to extract an advantage from a less than best scenario
c) The Kiwis’ boat performs as well in 14-16 knots as it does 8-10
d) Luna Rossa is simply short of speed
e) BMW Oracle were even slower than we thought
f) Despite earlier predictions, this match might be more one sided than anyone dared to imagine.

Meltdown or head down, we will have to wait until Tuesday before we find out how Luna Rossa have coped with three consecutive losses and how they might come back into the series.


Emirates Team New Zealand – 3

Luna Rossa – 0

Related/previous features:

Kiwis Take Second Win 
Kiwis Take First Win 
America’s Cup Match Preview? 

America’s Cup Shopping Spree Starts 
America’s Cup Double Whammy 

Dickson Off America’s Cup Boat 
America’s Cup Confidence Trick 
Wheels Coming Off America’s Cup Dream? 


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