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Team New Zealand Beat Luna Rossa

Article courtesy of http://www.lvcup.com/

After a one day delay due to light winds, the America’s Cup Match between Team New Zealand and Prada’s Luna Rossa started in front of over 1600 spectator boats on the Hauraki Gulf. The forecast was for light winds again, but by race time, an 8-12 knot Southerly had filled in across the race course, and Race Committee Chairman Harold Bennett started the race on time at 13:15.

Team New Zealand Beat Luna Rossa – Delta 01:17

The 30th America’s Cup started in 8-10 knots of Southerly wind. Team New Zealand (NZL-60) and Luna Rossa (ITA-45) finally lined up in a highly anticipated race. The pre-start was fairly active, with Kiwi skipper Russell Coutts forcing a first and then a second dial-up, holding his counterpart Francesco de Angelis, on Luna Rossa, head to wind near the starting line, never giving up the right hand side. But with 30 seconds to go before the start, de Angelis was able to force Coutts to tack away. He soon tacked back, and both boats started on starboard tack, with Luna Rossa having to pinch up to clear the starting pin.

With Team New Zealand in a strong position slightly to windward, the boats raced out towards the left side of the course. But Luna Rossa showed good height, and was able to creep up close to leeward of the black boat, so Coutts tacked away. De Angelis followed him, Luna Rossa now in the windward position. As the wind shifted left, the Italians slowly lifted to a position of advantage. When Coutts tacked and the boats converged, Luna Rossa was able to tack directly in front of the Defender. Team New Zealand was forced back to the right. But Coutts kept tacking back at the Challenger, and the boats would separate and then converge. On each split, Team New Zealand was able to make small gains. After the fourth tack, Coutts held the lead and the Italians couldn’t get back to a leebow position, tacking a boatlength to leeward and abeam of the black boat. Team New Zealand leveraged that small advantage by sitting to windward of Luna Rossa, pushing the Italians to the left layline. Twice, de Angelis attempted dummy tacks by luffing into the wind before falling back on his course. But Coutts wasn’t fooled. By the time the boats reached the top mark, the black boat was 22 seconds ahead.

At the windward mark, Team New Zealand did a bear-away set with its asymmetrical spinnaker. Luna Rossa looked sure to follow as de Angelis set his spinnaker pole on the port side for a bear-away set, but the Italians executed a gybe set, a dummy that is possible with asymmetrical spinnakers. The gybe set allowed Luna Rossa to gain separation early on the downwind leg, but the Italians had to sacrifice some distance to get it. Coutts gybed shortly after Luna Rossa rounded the mark, and held position to leeward of the Italians. When de Angelis gybed, Team New Zealand gybed directly in front of the silver boat to protect its position, six boat lengths ahead. The black boat displayed good pace downwind, and Coutts held a 36-second lead after the first lap of the course.

On the second beat, Team New Zealand used its lead to pick windshifts and stretch even further. Luna Rossa tacked around the leeward mark and Coutts tacked to cover as both boats pushed out to the right. De Angelis and his tactician, Torben Grael made a few attempts to tack out of coverage, but Coutts held firm, and slowly exerted a push to the layline on the Italians. Both boats overstood the starboard tack layline to the mark and Team New Zealand led a long parade into the mark, rounding 1:03 ahead.

On the second run, Luna Rossa found an opportunity to close the gap a little bit. Both boats pressed out to the right side of the course, and the Italians gybed first near the layline. Coutts gybed at the same time, but because he was positioned to weather he found himself in less wind pressure. De Angelis was able to sail deeper and halve the lead before Team New Zealand found similar wind again. Grael called for another gybe and Luna Rossa crossed behind the black boat before Coutts gybed to cover. Both boats extended across the layline for the mark and Team New Zealand held a much smaller 25-second lead when the boats eventually rounded the bottom mark.

The final beat was a great leg for Team New Zealand. Coutts’ position of coverage gave him the inside on a long, slow left-hand shift as the boats raced out to the right. De Angelis tried a couple of times to escape, but Team New Zealand covered tightly and the Italians were again pushed out to the starboard tack layline early in the leg. The long starboard tack up to the mark also worked in the black boat’s favour as Team New Zealand exploited better pressure to again point a little higher. Coutts gained 41-seconds to take a stranglehold on the race.

The last run to the finish saw Team New Zealand stay between Luna Rossa and the finish line. Coutts and his tactician Brad Butterworth never let the Italians split very far before gybing to cover and their big lead was never threatened. Team New Zealand won the first race of the best of nine America’s Cup Match.

- Peter Rusch

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