Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: 3 things we've learned in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals

1. Team NZ are not immune to error

They enjoyed a charmed run through the Louis Vuitton round robin, barely setting a foil wrong as they swept all before them, albeit on most days they didn't actually have any competition. Still, Team NZ's boat-handling and crew-work were virtually flawless - setting the benchmark for their rivals.

But the opening two days of finals racing have shown they too can make mistakes. And in these high-powered but skittish racing machines, one small error can have quite dramatic consequences. It only took a puff of wind at the wrong time to send the bows of their $10 million catamaran plunging into the water in race one. Had Luna Rossa not struck problems of their own before the incident, Team NZ could have found themselves in real trouble, with Barker forced to nurse NZL05 around the course for the rest of the race with the torn carbon fibre of their damaged fairing flapping in the wind.

2. Team NZ look fast

In the little glimpses we have seen of Team NZ before they struck gear problems in the opening two races, they looked to have significantly advanced their boat since we last saw them on the race course in July.

Prior to suffering hydraulic failure yesterday, Team NZ demonstrated blistering upwind speed, which had been considered their boat's Achilles heel. At one point up the first beat they appeared to be close to fully foiling, with their hulls lightly skimming across the surface. It was a shame a malfunctioning battery unit caused their hydraulics to shut down, for you got the sense we were about to see something quite special. Likewise in race one, the Kiwi boat was looking extremely quick before the damage incurred to their fairing slowed their progress around the course. If Team NZ can overcome the mishaps of the past two days it is likely we may see a new speed record set for the regatta during the Louis Vuitton finals.

3. Oracle look fast, too

The Cup defenders have also been out on the race course flexing their muscle this week, putting on a show with some in-house racing prior to the finals races getting underway. They too suffered a minor glitch yesterday, with their rudder on Boat 1, helmed by Ben Ainslie, snapping in yesterday's pre-start. But it is Boat 2 we should really be concerned with and the noise coming off the spectator boats is USA-17 is a very slick package indeed.

Though they are not obligated to, Oracle opted to disclose their performance data from this week's practice races during the official defender access period to the race course, but intriguingly, only from the first of the two races. Once the live broadcast shuts down, the two boats then line up for another race and it seems this is when the real action begins.

Yesterday, Oracle were captured on video foiling upwind for a long stretch, their hulls airborne, in what could be a significant breakthrough for the team.

- NZ Herald

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