I think we are going to witness a great Louis Vuitton Final. I expect the series between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand will go 8 or 9 races. I expect the two boats to perform fairly evenly. It will be a battle of nerves and pressure. Team unity and strength will play a role in races 7-9. It will be great for the spectators and especially the fans of these two America’s Cup living nations. This will be a rematch of the 1992 Final when Il Moro came back from 4-1 down to win!
If Italy is second to any country in terms of per capita interest in the America’s Cup it is only New Zealand. However, as New Zealand is such a small country, Italy certainly has the highest number of sailing fans in absolute number.
If the boats are even, I think James Spithill, the young Australian helmsman of Luna Rossa, may make the difference. He dominated Chris Dickson in the semi finals. I don’t expect Dean Barker to be as easy to dominate but none the less, “Jesse” James Spithill is the best starting helmsman left in the Cup, and that includes the Alinghi helmsmen.
The crews are both solid. We come to expect that from Kiwi teams but this Luna Rossa team is very solid…different to their previous teams. They look cool under pressure, something that both teams will feel a lot of through out the next 10 days.
The after guards; Luna Rossa sails a bit freer, always with an eye out for more wind or a better shift. Team New Zealand will race tighter, very closely matching their opponent. Even if behind, I doubt Team New Zealand will make a large split. They will look to keep the racing tight and put the leader under pressure. If ahead, they will be happy to win by one meter.
Winning by one meter may be required. Often in close series, it is the team that wins the close ones, that prevails. In 1992, with Il Moro di Venezia, we won two races in the Louis Vuitton Finals against New Zealand, by 1 second. Getting the leader trapped on the lay line to the finish, then slowing the race down by sailing off target angles while working on taking their wind, and then timing the final acceleration to the finish line is how those races are won by the boat behind. Taking those races away on the finish line can be a crushing mental blow. On the last run of race two, of this year’s semifinal between Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle, Luna had BMW trapped but made a mistake and sailed too low which allowed BMW to luff and get their apparent wind forward and sail free to the finish. I am sure that experience will prove useful in this Final.
So for us spectators, it is time to prepare for a visual feast of action, drama and emotion. For the sailors on each team, this is must win territory. Both teams have been in the Cup before. Neither will be satisfied with ending their campaign here. It is all on!