Two races down and on match point, Emirates Team New Zealand won the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena today in an action-packed afternoon of match race sailing.
The New Zealand boat that won the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland in February prevailed 3-2 against the SYNERGY Russian Sailing Team that had put the Kiwis on the ropes 2-0 after the first race today.
"In the end it comes down to confidence in our team,” said Dean Barker, skipper and helmsman of ETNZ. “It's hard to believe. It was a long way back from 2-0 down. But the guys stuck with it and they gave us an opportunity that we jumped on. After that we sailed more like we expect to and it feels fantastic to win another event.”
Grant Dalton, CEO of Team New Zealand put it slightly differently: “This regatta has been about the emergence of these teams that are putting us under pressure. We need someone to put a blow touch on us before we start performing. That’s not good enough. someone’s going to knock us off our pedestal if we carry on like that. I would have been incredibly hacked off if they hadn’t won.”
It was the first time in America’s Cup history that a Russian-flagged boat has reached the final of a Louis Vuitton-sponsored event and her mixed Russian and international crew led by Polish skipper Karol Jablonski came very close to clinching the series.
After the finish, boats crowded around the Kiwi winners and a fireboat sprayed water high in the air as Barker and his crew hosed each other down with champagne from two jeroboams and a methuselah of Moët & Chandon presented on board by Louis Vuitton chairman and CEO Yves Carcelle.
The start for the last race of the day set a new record for race turnarounds. The cutoff for competition was 4:00 pm and Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio and his team hustled to setup and signal the start of the last race, less than five minutes after the finish of race three.
A shifty easterly breeze that built slowly in speed provided excellent conditions on a warm, sunny final day of racing. Because there was no wind early, the petit final for third and fourth places was abandoned and the French/German team All4One was confirmed in third place, with Sweden’s Artemis fourth.
Final, Race Two: SYNERGY Russian Sailing Team def. Emirates Team New Zealand, 01:22 – ETNZ had the starboard entry advantage but after a long dialup Jablonski claimed the committee end with the Kiwis to leeward in the middle of the line. ETNZ and Barker were bow out as Jablonski carried them all the way out to the port layline. A right-hand shift carried both boats below the mark and an unsuccessful last-minute effort by Barker to punch through to leeward in a flurry of tacks saw the Kiwi boat make a down-speed rounding 20 seconds astern. Synergy sailed away. Rod Dawson, tactician, Synergy: “It was really satisfying. We wanted the right and Karol did a fantastic job. We felt it was going to shift that way and we controlled the race from that side. The shifts were up to 20 degrees, very tricky conditions…”
Final, Race Three: Emirates Team New Zealand def. SYNERGY Russian Sailing Team , 01:05 – ETNZ trailed by 26 seconds at the first mark but crisper, faster gennaker sets and gybes, and a tactical call half way down the first run, pulled the Kiwis within six seconds at the gate. Under pressure, SYNERGY’s crew fumbled the gennaker takedown bringing the boat almost to a standstill. Minutes later ETNZ led by 156 metres. At the start, Jablonski had conducted a master class in starting tactics, leveraging a starboard entry and controlling a long dialup that led above the line before taking off at the pin on port, with the Kiwis tucked away 22 metres to leeward. Davies said: "It was won down the first run for us. The right side was very, very strong. We managed to pull back close and the pass was down the run. He had a bad rounding but I think we were going to be ahead and on the favored side of the course." Jablonski said: "That's the game of mistakes. We gybed on the first run a little bit too early and TNZ had an edge, that's why we decided to go to the other mark.”
Final, Race Four: Emirates Team New Zealand def. SYNERGY Russian Sailing Team, 00:04 – The Kiwi boat prevailed in a muscular tactical battle punctuated by a flurry of protest flags in 14 knots of breeze. After a spirited pre-start the boats split with the Kiwis on starboard before quickly tacking onto port to control. Barker led by seven seconds at the top mark but the Russians overtook on the run, only to be penalized after contact when ETNZ closed up again. The action was furious and the flags frequent on the last run as Synergy fought to land a penalty on their opponent but Barker kept clear and broke through to win by four seconds with the Synergy penalty still outstanding.
Final, Race Five: Emirates Team New Zealand def. SYNERGY Russian Sailing Team, 01:23 – Synergy claimed the committee end on starboard with ETNZ to leeward and immediately tacked away. The Kiwi boat tacked to cover and it was a replay as they went out to the starboard layline with the Russian boat forced to follow. Barker led by 12 seconds after the run and held off Jablonski in a spirited tacking duel up the second weather leg. Synergy’s hopes were shattered on the run when their gennaker shredded as they trailed by three boat lengths. Davies said: "It was a tough one. But we got there in the end. It was a tricky venue and tough competitors. It was tough to win and we're pretty darn proud of it. The turning point was on that final run when their spinnaker blew out! In the end, the team keeps backing itself. It was stressful, but like all of these regattas, you just have to win the last race, and we peaked at the right time. Synergy sailed really well as did all of the top boats. It's been a really close regatta, the closest of these we've had…It's hard to keep people behind us, that's for sure."
1. Emirates Team New Zealand
2. SYNERGY Russian Sailing Team
5. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team
8. Luna Rossa
9. BMW Oracle Racing Team
10. ALEPH Sailing Team