Emirates Team New Zealand won race 7 today with a 1:58 victory over their Italian opponents, taking the scoreline to 6-1 in this first to seven series.
Today's race was sailed in some of the strongest winds recorded to date in the regatta with the average wind speed 18 knots, with a maximum gust recorded of 21.4 knots. In the stiffer breeze Emirates Team New Zealand to set a new Louis Vuitton Cup speed record of 47.18 knots as its AC72 powered into the windward gate, Mark 3. The Kiwi AC72's previous race record was 44.15 knots.
“We’ve hit those speeds before - we’re getting used to it,” said Kiwi bowman Adam Beashel. “It’s a shame we didn’t hit 50. It’d be nice to be the first ones to do that. We’ll keep pressing on and get that before this event’s over. We’ve gone close in practice, so hopefully we’ll crack it.”
Beashel may have been matter-of-fact about the speeds, but helmsman Dean Barker usually has a wider stance and tighter grip on the steering wheel when the wind gets stronger.
“When the speeds increase the margin for error steering and trimming becomes less; you have to work hard to keep the boat in balance,” said Kiwi skipper Dean Barker. “It’s cool sailing; you’re not going to have better sailing than this. Today was dead flat water, nice strong flood tide and good solid breeze. That’s about as good as it gets.”
The race started similarly to yesterday’s Race 6, with Emirates Team New Zealand to windward and slightly ahead, powering past their opponent. The Kiwis led by 4 seconds at the first mark, 27 seconds at the leeward gate mark. On the beat, with the Kiwi AC72 foiling at times, the lead grew quickly and the delta at the third mark was 1m 53s and 1:51 at Mark 4. Game over.
Luna Rossa tactician Francesco Bruni said that he would’ve liked to start to windward of the Kiwis, but they couldn’t get to that position. Once the race started, he noted that the wind was so far to the left that there were few tactical options on the race course: “The boat was going well downwind, the problem was that it’s a one way track upwind. The leading boat is going to extend. I still see a bit of difference in performance upwind, but downwind we are more competitive. Definitely we were better today than yesterday.”
While the Kiwis topped 47 knots in the race, Luna Rossa also set an in-race record of 43.46 knots or 50 mph. Helmsman Chris Draper spoke of the insanity sailing the AC72: “It’s impossible to convey to the public what it’s like to sail these boats. I used to think my Moth was full on, but these boats are just insane. Most of the time it feels in control, but there are a lot of things you have to keep aligned to stay in control.”
Of today's conditions Draper added: “This was definitely the most windy race we have had in the entire series. In these conditions we finally had a chance to see the incredible progress made in these last weeks. Unfortunately time has run short; we would require at least three more months of development to reach our goals. And time is, as we know, the crucial element in the America’s Cup.”
Emirates Team New Zealand can clinch its second consecutive Louis Vuitton Cup championship tomorrow in Race 8, scheduled to start at 1:10 pm PT. Race 9, if necessary, would start at 2:10 pm PT.
Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton commented: “It’s frustrating not to be racing again today – but that’s yachting and that’s how it is. We will be back again tomorrow. Should we get through to the Cup match, we will be sailing in these conditions. It’s the top end .... but the boat feels fine, it’s responding well and we were able to work a bit on upwind foiling. As always the key is to get away at the start and lead comfortably at the first mark which closes down the following boat’s options. Today the Luna Rossa crew did all they could do to get us, but in the end we were going a little bit faster.”
Race 7 Performance Data
Course: 5 Legs/10.25 miles
Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 23:38, LR – 25:36
Delta: ETNZ +1:58
Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.4 NM , LR – 11.5 NM
Average Speed: ETNZ – 29.24 knots (34 mph), LR – 27.27 knots (31 mph)
Top Speed: ETNZ – 47.18 knots (54 mph), LR – 43.46 knots (50 mph)
Wind speed: Average – 18 knots, Peak – 21.4 knots