Yachting: Next-step decision for Kiwis

By Paul Lewis

The emergence of Artemis from the boat shed to start foiling their 72ft (22m) catamaran on San Francisco Bay means Emirates Team NZ may have a decision to make this week.

They have three races left in the Louis Vuitton round robin - a series they have already won with an unassailable points lead. They also have options under America's Cup rules:

• They can cease racing and go straight to the Louis Vuitton final; they would face the winner of the Luna Rossa-Artemis semifinal.

• They can keep racing in the round robin, continuing to polish their crew work and boat handling, generally reckoned to be the best on show at this point.

• They can surrender their place in the final to the second-place getter (Luna Rossa) and take on Artemis in the semifinals.

Option 1 gives them time to develop and re-fit the boat. Team leader Grant Dalton has estimated that they lost a month in boat development because of delays caused by the fuss over safety recommendations made after the Artemis capsize that killed crewman Andrew Simpson in May.

All the sailing in Auckland and San Francisco has produced an enormous amount of data.

Suggested changes to build speed have been assessed and fine-tuned in the hi-tech, computer-driven system that changes design into development almost instantly these days.

In previous campaigns, changes to the boat would have to be painstakingly tested in facilities such as wind tunnels to make sure they worked. That could take weeks. But the computerised design and testing produces such accurate amendments that they can be applied much more quickly.

Option 2 is the most likely - the team are working hard when the boats are off the water to develop them further.

Option 3 would be a tactical decision - if Artemis surprise everyone and show some pace, Team NZ may be better off covering them in the semifinals and then meeting Luna Rossa (whom everyone is sure they will beat) in the final.

That may be considered preferable to letting Artemis gather more pace against Luna Rossa through the best of seven semifinals series.

There is another tactical consideration - Artemis are the challenger of record. But once they are eliminated, Team NZ would move into that position, giving them more power if any further changes are proposed in the protocol.

The team have always given the impression they will continue racing but later statements have made it clear that nothing is off the table yet.

• Yesterday Luna Rossa sailed alone - Artemis were again training and chose not to race.

Skipper Max Sirena said they sailed well and were happy with changes made to the rudder elevators and daggerboards which he hopes will close the gap with the Kiwis when they next race on Monday.

An August 23 date has been set for a New York Supreme Court hearing to decide whether the injunction sought by the black sailing group African Diaspora Maritime will be granted.

- NZ Herald

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