Victory for Emirates Team New Zealand
In a fitting finale for the America's Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand, racing in its second home, won the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai, defeating the USA’s BMW Oracle Racing in two closely-fought races.With BMW Oracle Racing going into today’s finale as the favourite, clear winner of the Round Robin series, the Kiwi team's victory concluded a strong performance which over two years has included winning four of five Louis Vuitton Trophy events and finished second in the other.
Adding extra lustre to their performance, Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand came from behind to win their last four races in Dubai, including today's two.
In race one, New Zealand’s Dean Barker landed the opening punch, giving the BMW Oracle Racing skipper James Spithill a dose of his own medicine. Just over two minutes before the start, with both boats stalled and on starboard in a dial-up, the stern of Kiwi boat to leeward collided with the port side of BMW Oracle Racing, causing the American team to be penalised for failing to keep clear.
The American boat went up the right side of the course, shutting out New Zealand attacks until the weather mark where Barker turned inside and drew almost level. The Kiwis kept the pressure on all the way down the run but made a slow leeward mark rounding with their spinnaker momentarily in the water.
On the beat, the New Zealanders went out to the port layline while the Americans worked the shifts up the middle of the course. With a 150 metre lead, Spithill unwound his penalty just short of the top mark, but slow out of their turn Barker piling in on the port layline was able to get the inside overlap at the top mark. BMW Oracle Racing remained a nose ahead by a masterful call by the Kiwi afterguard to take the right side of the run saw the Kiwis greatly benefit from a shift as the pressure dropped on BMW Oracle Racing's side of the course, causing Barker and his team to overtake and claim their first win by a final margin of 17 seconds.
In Race Two, The Kiwis coming in from the right, ended up claiming the pin end of the start with BMW Oracle Racing also making a strong start on starboard. Once again BMW Oracle Racing enjoyed the rights of the right side and overtook to lead by 11 seconds at the top mark. However at the start of the run their spinnaker got stuck coming out of the hatch during the hoist. Barker was able to get right and stalked the Americans, helped further when they had to shed a ripped spinnaker in a gybe peel. With better pressure on the right, Barker kept closing on the run and crossed clear ahead on port tack just before the leeward mark. New Zealand covered their opponent and worked the shifts for the next two legs to finish 350 meters in front with a delta of 1:37. Their victory confirmed Emirates Team New Zealand as the winners of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai.
Serenaded by boat horns and sirens the Kiwi crew were hugging, cheering and hi-fiving for a minute and a half before the American boat finished.
As Yves Carcelle boarded their boat with the obligatory celebratory magnums and jeroboams of Moët & Chandon champagne, the New Zealanders hoisted a giant national ensign in their foretriangle.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” said Grant Dalton, the managing director of Emirates Team New Zealand who also races on the boat, his normally serious face split by a huge smile.
“We kinda saved our best ‘til last. Oracle have been the form boat for the whole regatta. We came out today with determination knowing that on our day we are good enough but we would really need to produce. The guys in the back of the boat did a real nice job today. The Oracle guys are a class act and they sailed really well.
“It was shifty today. Both times we got the side we wanted and bless me, it went the other way. It happens a bit that way. We launched in that first race straight into a great big right shift. It wasn’t our intention. But we never let go. It’s a hallmark of this side.”
Asked about the secret to his team’s success, Dalton said: “It’s a team that lives on the smell of an oily rag. Everyone buys into the culture and the way we operate. We’re not frivolous at all. You can’t spend a hundred dollars without a requisition order for me. And in a funny sort of way that helps to build our culture.
“We’re proud that we represent New Zealand and we’re good mates. We’ve built that over the years. It takes a long time to get those combinations. Its jelling for us now. In the new era if we can hold onto that culture, and we will and we can, we can take it into our new projects.”
James Spithill said: “We’re obviously disappointed. Ripping a spinnaker and having a problem when it didn’t hoist, helped put us on the back foot. But full credit to Team New Zealand. They did a good job and all we can do is take our hats off to them.”
The finish gun today signaled the end of 20 years of competition in the America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup and Louis Vuitton Trophy for the America’s Cup Class. Introduced 20 years ago, the boats competed in five America’s Cup events.
From Chris Cameron/Emirates Team NZ/www.chriscameron.co.nz
From Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing/www.martin-raget.com