Today, August 24, 2013, saw the Emirates Team New Zealand become the winner of Race 7 of the 30th anniversary Louis Vuitton Cup, with a 1:58 victory over Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge. The Kiwis lead the series 6-1 and need one more win to close out the America’s Cup Challenger Series. That chance will come in Race 8 tomorrow.
Today’s Race 7 was sailed in some of the strongest winds recorded in the regatta. The average wind strength was recorded at 18 knots with a maximum gust of 21.4 knots. That enabled Emirates Team New Zealand to set a new Louis Vuitton Cup speed record of 47.18 knots at Mark 3, the windward gate. That’s 54 mph, or 79 feet per second for the 72-foot long catamaran! The Kiwis’ previous 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. The Kiwis led by 4 seconds at the first mark, 27 seconds at the second mark, 1:53 at Mark 3, and 1:51 at Mark 4.
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 racecourse.
“The boat was going well downwind, the problem was that it’s a one way track upwind. The leading boat is going to extend,” said Bruni. “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,” said Draper, the first-time Cup helmsman. “I used to think my Moth (a hydrofoiling dinghy) 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.”
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.
Louis Vuitton Cup Final Standings (first to 7 points wins)
• Emirates Team New Zealand – 6
• Luna Rossa Challenge – 1
Race 7 Performance Data
• Course: 5 Legs/10.25 nautical 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
Upcoming Louis Vuitton Cup Schedule (best-of-13 series)
• Sunday, Aug. 25: Final Race 8 (1:10 pm PT), Final Race 9* (2:10 pm PT)
• Monday, Aug. 26: Final Race 10* (TBD)
(* If necessary)