More of the same. 4-0 for Team New Zealand

Luna Rossa did everything correctly today. The weather team asked for the right and James Spithill got it. Not only that, the right hand end of the line was favored by a boat length. Emirates Team New Zealand seemed strangely happy with the left. At the first cross, Luna Rossa was ahead 4 boat lengths. Luna tacked on TNZ and forced them back left. The next cross was going to be about three boat lengths but Luna Rossa tacked short of the Kiwi track. This allowed the Kiwis to “live” on port and stay in the same wind as Luna Rossa. From there, the Kiwi machine took over. Sailing closer to the wind, the three boatlength lead for the Italians shrank steadily and eventually the Kiwis grabbed the lead. At the first windward mark it was a three boat length lead for TNZ.

On the first run, Luna Rossa stayed close waiting for their chance to pounce on the first gybe of the Kiwis. But by the time the gybe occurred the Kiwis had stretched out to a four boat length lead and that was enough to keep the Italians from taking their wind. The second half of the race was a procession.

Is it all over? Pretty much. The forecast for tomorrow is more of the same. Kiwi weather. I would be looking for Jesse James Spithill on the starting line tomorrow. Luna Rossa will have the right on the entry and this needs to be leveraged to the max. I would be looking for some blood to be spilt. It’s now or never. No point in holding back. If Luna Rossa lets the Kiwis sail on their own, it will be over. They need a penalty and a shut out on the start, then they need to tack all over the Kiwis and finally take the favored side. Then maybe.

If not, it will be party time in New Zealand and we will be heading to a rematch of the 2003 America’s Cup finals with roles reversed…Alinghi defender and Emirates TNZ challenger.

Up to now, the only country that has won the Louis Vuitton Cup twice is Italy; 1992 and 2000.

Tomorrow, New Zealand may join Italy in that statistic.

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More of the same. That’s good news for the Kiwis and bad news for Luna Rossa and the Italians.

Kiwis lead 3-0. Today was “hump day” for them.

Jesse James Spithill appeared today for the first four minutes of the prestart today. With the advantage of the right at the 5 minute gun and 8 knots of wind, he managed to keep Dean Barker off to the left, blocked from maneuvering. Then with 1 minute to go and his opponent trapped above the line, he mysteriously gybed away and went for the left end of the line. It was very hard for us spectators to understand this final minute of the prestart. In fact, Team New Zealand said after the race that they thought they were done for and suddenly found themselves getting the start they wanted at the right side of the line, albeit a bit slow. Pretty good considering they should have been shut out if not forced to take the left.

At the start, Luna Rossa was in fact going 10 knots and Team New Zealand was going 6. I fully expected to see Luna Rossa taking advantage of this small lead and tacking to take the right at that instant. But they opted to stay on starboard and a long straight line ensued. After 3 minutes, it was already too late for Luna Rossa to tack and cross. The lead was gone and TNZ was ahead and to the right. It only got better for TNZ from there. Race over.

I don’t want to minimize the fact that Team New Zealand is sailing very well. Terry Hutchinson is doing a masterful job. He keeps the clamps on Luna Rossa constantly, only splitting the necessary amount downwind to keep his air clear. Upwind his matches Luna Rossa’s every move and leaves no hope, no daylight, for Luna Rossa. The boat is fast and the crew has been perfect in every maneuver.

Then there is the speed part. It looks to me like Team New Zealand is a bit fast than Luna Rossa. I would say the advantage was more pronounced today in the 8 to 10 knots range. For me, this is 25% of the problem with 75% of the problem being the starts and getting the correct side of the course. Certainly the races are winnable for Luna Rossa. The start and the correct side are worth that much here in Valencia.

Another thing I noticed yesterday is that Team New Zealand heels 3 degrees more than Luna Rossa. A boat carries a certain amount of heel (power in the sail plan) if it can. The fact that TNZ can carry 3 degrees more heel without having helm problems tells me that the center of effort of the sail plan is more forward relative to the keel. This would help in accelerating after tacking as well. To make more power, you make your sails differently, maybe a bit fuller. You are able to keep the traveler up longer and therefore the boats just heels more which is ok because they are balanced for that.

Anyway these are just my suppositions from inside a box (TV studio) watching TV monitors. The guys on each team know the real story. Hopefully, for Luna Rossa, they have analyzed things and can make a few adjustments both tactically and performance wise. Otherwise this may be a very short series.

It was all over at the start really. Luna Rossa wanted the right and Dean Barker made them pay for it. Luna came off the line to the right but very thin on the hip of Team New Zealand and slow. Luna tacked immediately and TNZ matched them. A long port tack ensued with TNZ to windward. Both boats fairly even through this. As Luna realized they were not going to get enough right shift to overcome the 1 length they game up at the start, they began tacking. TNZ match every tack until one when Luna Rossa tacked so thin on their hip that they were comfortable staying on starboard and heading toward the mark.

It was a 25 second lead at the first mark, 29 seconds at the gate, 35 seconds at the second windward mark and 40 at the finish. Nothing spectacular happened after the start and first 5 minutes on port.

For me, the boats are fairly even, at least in 13 knots of wind. Certainly either boat can win tomorrow’s race. Big changes are not necessary. The start is all important.

Jesse Kames Spithill made a desperate move to get the right with 45 seconds to go. He got flagged by TNZ but no penalty was given. It was the correct call by the umpires but still, a risky move for Luna Rossa. But the move was very telling. Was James feeling some extra pressure to play a meaningful role? Did he feel a little underachieving after yesterday’s race. Both teams wanted the right today. It was the right that paid yesterday. But there is the; “We prefer the right” and the, “Must have the right”. What was the call from Torben and the Met team on Luna Rossa? What came out at the start was; we got the right but had to pay one boat length for it. The right never paid them back that length and that was all she wrote for Race 2.

Now Luna Rossa has another thing to manage? The pressure. The pressure they put on themselves first. Of course every person on that team wants to win. They did not expect this but this is their reality. They don’t need to make big changes. The races are very winnable. They just need to get a slightly better start than TNZ and life will be much easier. Even an even start will be ok, they have the speed and skill to win a dog fight race. There will also be pressure from the media, families, etc. Managing all this, channeling it and turning it all positive requires, maturity and experience. Now is when Francesco de Angelis and Torben Grael need to kick in, tonight and tomorrow morning, before the team go on the water. Over reacting would be just as bad as not reacting enough. They will need to have just the right balance in order to put on their best performance tomorrow.

If they can reverse the trend tomorrow, anything is possible.