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Team New Zealand In Firm Control - Kiwis Up 3-0

Press release no. 106
26 February 2000

Team New Zealand In Firm Control - The Kiwis Go Up 3-0

After a frustrating delay on Thursday due to light winds, Race Three of the America’s Cup Match between Team New Zealand and Prada’s Luna Rossa started on time at 13:15 on Saturday. Over 1500 spectator boats surrounded the race course on the Hauraki Gulf and watched Team New Zealand solidify its Match lead. Racing started in a Southerly breeze of 10-13 knots, and the windspeed varied from 7-16 knots throughout the afternoon.


The boats started with a lot of separation in Race Three. Francesco de Angelis, the skipper of Luna Rossa (ITA-45) started on starboard tack at the pin end – taking advantage of a slight pin end bias – while Russell Coutts, to windward, had the bow of Team New Zealand (NZL-60) right on the starting line as the gun fired. Again, Coutts was able to turn very sharply into the pre start dial-up, almost immediately stopping his boat, and gaining a controlling position from behind as Luna Rossa kept drifting forward. But de Angelis showed good acceleration when the black boat was following closely, and the Italians were able to get away to start at the left side of the line. The Kiwis, with good speed, started near the Committee Boat.

Immediately after the start, Luna Rossa tacked, and the Italians were already behind the black boat. An intense tacking duel ensued, with the boats reeling off 12 tacks in the first eight minutes of the race. As the Italian silver bullet tacked in towards the middle of the course, Coutts would tack in an aggressive position, protecting the right hand side. Although the wind shifted left early in the leg – favouring the Italians – Luna Rossa never gained a lead, and was unable to break through to the right. About midway up the leg, the two boats settled in for a long tack out to the starboard tack layline, with Team New Zealand ahead and to leeward. For the long tack into the mark, the black boat was able to sit three boatlengths to windward, and Coutts tacked around the mark with a 19-second lead.

The first run saw the Italians try to attack by positioning Luna Rossa between the wind and the New Zealand boat. But Coutts was very protective, squeezing up to windward when he felt his clear air was threatened, and gaining a position clear ahead for much of the run. De Angelis was able to cut two seconds out of the lead, but trailed around the mark by three boatlengths.

On the second beat, Team New Zealand simply pulled away from Luna Rossa. The Kiwis were positioned on the inside of a left shift, and with each minute that passed, appeared to gain a metre or two. Coutts carried a 1:11 lead at the halfway point of the race, so boatspeed, as well as the windshift was likely a factor in the 54-second gain on the second windward leg.

Team New Zealand experienced a little bit of drama on the second run when it’s asymmetrical spinnaker tore near the foot of the sail. For the first time, voices were raised as the team scrambled to get another sail ready. But tactician Brad Butterworth was calm, and decided that as the black boat was on the final quarter of the leg, and the sail appeared stable with the foot tape holding the bottom of it together, they would not replace the sail. The crew skilfully executed the final gybe, with sail trimmer Robbie Naismith easing the sheet just as the sail filled to avoid excess strain along the tear. The boat might have been a little slower for the final part of the leg as the Italians closed 11-seconds to trail by one minute around the mark.

With Team New Zealand in firm control, holding a 14 boatlength lead, the final lap of the course saw Coutts careful to cover loosely, ensuring de Angelis couldn’t find a shift or puff of wind that would put him back in contention. On the beat, Team New Zealand stretched another 43-seconds, and on the run lost just four seconds. The Kiwis made it look easy – Coutts treated himself to a smile on the final run – and take a very impressive 3-0 lead in the best of nine America’s Cup Match.


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