Team NZ win despite broken sail

By Paul Lewis in San Francisco

It took two weeks but at last there was some real drama in the America's Cup racing even if the outcome was the same - New Zealand dominance.

New Zealand hearts were in mouths as a halyard broke early on the first upwind leg against Luna Rossa, letting the jib flap about in ungainly fashion. The crew struggled to control it, eventually giving it up and dumping $20,000 worth of sail in the drink.

It looked bad. The Emirates Team NZ crew have long warned against over-confidence, saying that these tough-to-sail 72-foot catamarans were only an accident or a breakage away from disaster - and the loss of the headsail could have precipitated that.

Aotearoa had shown its speed when catching up and passing the Italians after their good start - but the broken halyard looked to be a real opportunity for Luna Rossa.

It never happened. In 17-18 knots of breeze, the Kiwis made light of having no jib; one sail against the Italians' two on the longer 7-leg course.

At the bottom mark, before the halyard broke, the Kiwis were about 270m up on Luna Rossa but that looked a much slimmer margin as Team NZ slowed down with its flapping headsail. With Adam Beashel painfully hauling it down, hand over hand, the race for a moment looked poised for an upset.

Not a bit of it. The jib wasn't missed upwind - the Kiwis increased their lead to about 280m round the next mark in spite of the missing sail affecting their tacking. The real test was bearing away without a jib - a situation which can make the bows dig deeper in the water, a feature of both the Artemis and Oracle capsizes before this regatta.

Again, not a bit of it. Skipper Dean Barker managed the boat superbly, bearing away without any trouble and by the third mark, Luna Rossa were 42 seconds down, about 380m behind. From there, the Kiwis sailed smoothly, foiled well, held their foiling gybes and demonstrated better boat speed - even without the missing jib.

Luna Rossa did not help themselves with a couple of slow gybes and they somehow strayed over the course boundary, copping a 'go slow' penalty. By the end of the race, Emirates Team New Zealand had cleared out to win easing up, 2m 20s ahead of the Italians.

It wasn't all beer and skittles. The ETNZ chase boat ducked in to pick up the abandoned jib but got in the way of a closing Luna Rossa, making the Italian boat tack away. It looked likely to cause a protest or some form of redress even though it looked unlikely to affect the out come of the race.

And although some were positive about the Italians doing better than their five-minute defeat to ETNZ last time, the unspoken question was: if they can't beat Team NZ with a gear breakage, when can they beat them?

- Herald on Sunday

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