Team New Zealand crush Luna Rossa in first race

By Dana Johannsen, in San Francisco

The first two-boat race of the Louis Vuitton Cup looked a lot like the one-boat races.

Team New Zealand exposed their massive speed advantage over Luna Rossa, blitzing the Italians by over five minutes to easily claim their third point of the regatta today.
In a disappointing end to the highly-anticipated first proper showdown, the final delta between the two teams was so large Luna Rossa will be officially marked down as a DNF.

Under racing rules of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the race officer stops the race five minutes after the first boat has finished. Luna Rossa crossed the finish line 5 minutes and 23 seconds after the Kiwi boat.

Team New Zealand skipper Ray Davies said after out-manoeuvring the Italians in the pre-start, the race was "pretty much meat and potatoes" from there.

"Once we got around the bottom mark and we were able to stretch quite quickly up that first beat and from there on you do have to race yourself, you can't worry about covering the other boat - it's important that you just sail your own race, so it was very much like sailing ourselves from that point."

Some clever work by Dean Barker in the pre-start saw Team New Zealand win the leeward position, trapping the Italians in the start-box and leaving them with no room to manoeuvre. The Italians boat speed dropped right down to four knots, while Team New Zealand accelerated, flying over the startline at over 30 knots.

Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper said while the error in the pre-start was "painfully embarrassing", it wasn't to blame for the equally embarrassing final margin.

"In the grand scheme of things it was very, very small potatoes compared to the losses we had around the course," said Draper.

The affable Brit said poor boat-handling around the course and some rusty manoeuvres resulted in them slipping well off the pace of the slick Kiwi crew. Luna Rossa had problems with their rake system that controls their daggerboards, which caused them to lose a lot of speed on their gybes.

But Draper said the encouraging thing is they know they can improve on this for the next race.

While the Italian team struggled with their manoeuvres today, Team New Zealand were impressive around the course having perfected the art of pulling off flying gybes, where they are able to remain up on foils all the way through the gybe.

Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies said the presence of another boat out on the course proved strong motivation to ensure the team kept pushing hard.

"We're always trying our best and today it just felt like we clicked better than the other two days again and we've just got to work on improving all the time," said Davies.

"It's a huge gain if you can manoeuvre well, and we've obviously been pushing that very hard."

After a series of false starts to the regatta with three one-boat races held over the first week, there was some concern before the race that the weather could yet intervene to
spoil the highly-anticipated opening race.

With winds of up to 20 knots forecast, today's race flirted with the new wind limit that has been imposed for the regatta. It was only the tidal conditions that saved race organisers from another embarrassing delay, with the flood tide giving an effective wind limit of 22.8 knots.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton summed up the situation at the dock out show:
"Wouldn't it be a balls-up if it gets cancelled?" he said.

The wind did spike above 22 knots on a couple of occasions, but once the race starts the wind is measured on a five minute rolling average, allowing more chance for wind gusts to level out.

- NZ Herald

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