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Team New Zealand Needs Just One More Win

Press release no. 109
1 March 2000

Luna Rossa Gives Up Early Lead

Team New Zealand Needs Just One More Win

After Race Four was postponed twice, the third attempt today (on what had been scheduled as a lay day) was successful. The sky was overcast all day, and thick clouds looked threatening throughout the afternoon. Although the dark sky didn’t translate into strong winds, by 13:15 there was enough of a breeze for racing.

Race Four started on time Wednesday in a 6-9 knot Northeasterly. The wind velocity varied from 5-11 knots throughout the afternoon.

America’s Cup 2000 – Race Four

Team New Zealand beat Luna rossa – Delta 01:49

Team New Zealand continues to dominate the America’s Cup Match, today earning its fourth consecutive victory over the Prada Challenge. The Kiwis are up 4-0 in the first to five series, and look very confident of making New Zealand the first nation ever to successfully defend the America’s Cup outside the U.S.A.

Team New Zealand (NZL-60) skipper Russell Coutts unveiled another weapon in the pre-start for Race Four, this time using a Code Zero headsail to gain extra speed and separation from the Italian boat. The Code Zero is a masthead sail, built of an extremely light material, with a high clew (short leech). The sail is measured as a spinnaker, and thus may not be used on upwind legs of the course (legs one, three, and five). It is set on a roller furling mechanism in front of the headstay. From there it can be unrolled when needed, and set outside the genoa. The sail must be furled in before the boat starts. The sail is designed to give extra speed on the downwind entry into the starting box and is thought to be especially effective in light winds.

Francesco de Angelis, skipper of Luna Rossa (ITA-45) held the starboard tack advantage entering the start box. But, after the dial-up, when he circled around to try and gain a controlling position behind Team New Zealand, Coutts unrolled the Code Zero and sped away. Luna Rossa couldn’t stay close enough to force a mistake, and Team New Zealand went on to win the start to the left of the pair. Coutts judged his arrival at the start line better than de Angelis and crossed seven seconds ahead at the pin end of the line. Italian tactician Torben Grael also called for the left side of the start line but, with just one minute to go, it was too late for de Angelis to win that position.

Shortly after the start, the wind went right, and Luna Rossa gained on the Kiwis. When de Angelis tacked, the black boat couldn’t cross, and Coutts tacked into a safe leeward position. The Italians went back to the right and on the next cross moments later, had gained a few more metres and again, Team New Zealand tacked to the left. At this point, Luna Rossa looked to be set up for a good first beat. But on the third cross, Butterworth and Coutts elected to duck behind the Italians, switching sides for the rest of the beat. Luna Rossa tactician, Torben Grael, decided to allow the switch, instead of protecting the right and this would be his undoing. At the time, Luna Rossa was in a very strong position, having leveraged a small lead into an increasing advantage by holding starboard tack right-of-way when the boats converged. By giving up the right, Grael abandoned what had been favourable in terms of wind shifts, and also gave up the starboard tack advantage. He must have been very confident about something on the left side of the course. However, shortly after Team New Zealand split to the right, the wind shifted to the right, and the Kiwis had moved into the lead. With over 700-metre of separation, Coutts pressed that small shift into a big advantage and carried a 45-second lead around the top mark. The Italians could only watch as their early lead evaporated.

On the first run Luna Rossa worked hard to make up the deficit, forcing a gybing duel in hopes of gaining an advantage. But despite seven gybes, de Angelis could only nibble six seconds out of the lead, and Team New Zealand was well in control of the race after the first lap of the course.

The wind dropped at the top of the second beat, and Team New Zealand added one minute to its lead as Luna Rossa lost speed in a wind hole. With a 1:39 lead midway through the race, Coutts was safely ahead and stretched a further seven seconds on the run.

The final beat was Luna Rossa’s best leg, the Italians taking advantage of a 30-degree shift to eat 16 seconds out of the lead. But de Angelis still trailed by 1:30 beginning the run to the finish line. Coutts sailed a strong downwind leg, positioning Team New Zealand between Luna Rossa and the finish line to gain 19 seconds for another convincing win.

Looking back to 1995, Team New Zealand has now won nine consecutive races. Skipper Russell Coutts has been at the helm for all those wins, equalling a century old record. Scottish born, American resident, Charlie Barr defended three America’s Cups by scores of 3-0 at the turn of the century. Coutts could break the record by winning Race Five, scheduled to start at 13:15 on Thursday. Today (Wednesday) was Russell Coutts’ 38th birthday.


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