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NZ into Louis Vuitton Cup final
Team New Zealand will meet Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Cup final.
Last Modified: 23 May 2007 17:30 GMT

Team New Zealand defeated Desafio Espanol to set up a Louis Vuitton final with Luna Rossa [AFP]

Team New Zealand will face off against Luna Rossa in the June 1 to 12 final of the Louis Vuitton Cup after ending Spanish challenger Desafio Espanol's America's Cup dream in Valencia on Wednesday.
The Kiwis, who comfortably won the seventh race against the hosts to seal their berth in the final with an unassailable 5-2 lead in the best of nine semi-final, will take on Italy's Luna Rossa who knocked out one of the favourites, BMW Oracle of the United States, 5-1 in their semi-final on Sunday.

The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup will earn the right to challenge Swiss defender Alinghi in the best of nine match series for the America's Cup which starts on June 23.

Desafio Espanol had breathed new life into their challenge by winning Sunday's sixth race to take the series score to 4-2 down, but were swept away by a commanding performance by the Dean Barker-skippered New Zealand boat off the choppy Valencia coast on Wednesday.

Barker executed a near perfect shut-out in the pre-race bout of shadow boxing to cross the start line two boat lengths up on the Spaniards, with the former America's Cup holders then maintaining the advantage to lead by 38 seconds at the first mark and 50 seconds at the halfway mark.

Desafio, with Poland's Karol Jablonski at the helm, slipped to over a minute adrift at the third mark to cross the line one minute and 18 seconds behind.

The home boat shipped a lot of water in the early stages requiring two of the crew to reach for the plastic buckets in the most testing conditions seen yet as the rival crews battled 15 knot winds.

Tough conditions

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Kiwis either with one of their crew unceremoniously washed back down the boat after the foredeck crew failed to get the spinnaker pole attached.

Despite their 2007 America's Cup adventure coming to an end the Spaniards were proud of their achievement in getting further in the competition than many had anticipated.

"They deserved to win today and they deserved to win the semi-final," said Jablonski.

"I'm very happy with the performance of the team.

"We're happy with what we achieved."

50-50

The result challenged the theory sweeping the purpose built America's Cup port that the New Zealanders were not as slick as the Spaniards in strong winds.

The New Zealanders were however predicting a tight contest for the upcoming head-to-head series against the Prada-backed Luna Rossa.

"They have a fast boat and good sailors," said Team New Zealand's American tactician, Terry Hutchinson.

"To me, it will be 50-50," he added.

Source:
Agencies
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