And Then There Were Two

The Louis Vuitton semi-final ended on a very different sort of day

It started off cloudy, cooler, blowing 18-20+ knots at the masthead, with a big lumpy sea. It was much more like an early summer day in the Hauraki Gulf than the Mediterranean, and the New Zealanders looked a lot more comfortable out in it. They finally crushed the spirited Spanish resistance, controlling the pre-start, shutting-out Desafio Espanol at the committee boat and extending on every leg to win by 1 minute 18 seconds. And so Emirates Team New Zealand goes through 5-2, to meet Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Final on 1st June.

ETNZ had the committee boat entry, and Barker elected to dispense with the dial-up. He scooted behind Desafio and then headed deep into the pre-start box, eventually leading into a circle. Jablonski slammed it into a tighter turn and prevented the Kiwis from tacking to port, and we effectively had our dial-up, but way down in the box with three minutes to go. And with Desafio on the right, it looked like ETNZ had given up the advantage. But Jablonski had got himself too close, and as he became windward boat, the pressure came on. Desafio bailed out to the right, onto port tack first, but it was Barker and his trimmers that got the boat moving faster with a big jib backwind. Jablonski found himself with Barker on his tail and the Kiwi boat in control.

Barker was able to prevent Desafio from either tacking or gybing with some great boat-handling in tough conditions, and it may well be that Jablonski was struggling for control of his steed. The on-board audio picked up Desafio tactician John Cutler admitting defeat, and telling Jablonski to minimize the loss. And so the pair slowly eased their way out past the starboard tack layline for the committee boat, and Desafio eased out of the competition. ETNZ finally tacked when they were both late, leading Desafio to the line and starting a couple of lengths in front.

In scenes reminiscent of the first America’s Cup race in Auckland in 2003, the buckets came out to clear the scuppers of water on the first beat – but this time it was not on the Kiwi boat. The Spanish eventually got it settled, and the breeze eased down, but by then the lead was insurmountable and ETNZ just had to keep the rig in the boat to win it.

It should be added that John Cutler’s been the only afterguard member prepared to wear the microphone through this regatta, and the coverage will be a lot poorer for his absence – it makes a massive difference to the commentators when they’ve got the thinking of the afterguards to chew over, rather than just the visual of two boats sailing... Paint, and drying spring to mind.

But in the end, a great semi-final series ends with everyone happy. The Spanish achieved their goal - more than their goal - in reaching the semis and taking a couple of races from ETNZ. The Kiwis took three more days and one more race than the Italians, but now they too march onwards towards their goal – taking the Cup back to Auckland. Ahead lie Luna Rossa, and one hell of a final…

Louis Vuitton and America's Cup Live Race Commentary at:

Mark Chisnell ©