America's Cup: Team NZ win Louis Vuitton Cup

By Dana Johannsen, in San Francisco

Team New Zealand emerged through the fog to book a showdown with Oracle in the America's Cup final, wrapping up the Louis Vuitton challenger series over Luna Rossa 7-1.

With thick fog blanketing San Francisco Bay, Team NZ couldn't sight their rivals for most of the match, creating the most difficult conditions of the regatta so far. But the Kiwi team kept them composure, sailing a conservative race as the Italians battled in the light and shifty conditions.

Knowing the real job is still ahead of them, the celebrations from Dean Barker and crew on board were fairly low key as they crossed the finish line over three minutes ahead of Luna Rossa to jubilant applause from the Kiwi fans crammed on the edge of the pier at the America's Cup village. The champagne - or sparkling wine as it were - flowed on board a short time later as for the first time in the regatta we saw Team NZ cut loose.

Tactician Ray Davies said the team will have a party tonight and then switch their attention to the America's Cup.

"We came here to win the America's Cup and it's all part of the preparation," he said.

"We'll have a party tonight and then we'll just be in for a mellow few days off before we build-up for the Cup."

"We've got a long-distance travel ban so none of us are allowed to go to Vegas."

A Team NZ v Oracle America's Cup match has seemed an inevitable occurrence since the opening day of the regatta, with the Kiwi team far more advanced with their development programme than the other challengers. Luna Rossa had improved significantly since the round robin stages of the competition, when Team NZ twice beat them by margins of over five minutes, but they were still outclassed in the finals - the speed differential between the boats obvious.

It is the third time Team NZ have won the Louis Vuitton Cup, following victories in 1995 and 2007. An official presentation of the Cup will be held at the America's Cup village later today.

After that it will be straight back to work for the Kiwi team, with further tweaks planned for their boat over the next couple of days as they look to eke as much speed as they can out of this new class of boat.

Luna Rossa meanwhile have agreed to stay on and help Team NZ tune-up for the America's Cup match - an impressive gesture given the cost involved in putting these boats on the water each day.

The Italian team have brought plenty of passion and colour to the event, and the organisers owe them a great debt for their participation.

- NZ Herald

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