Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) has been confirmed as one of the finalists in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the challenger elimination series which precedes the main event against defenders Oracle Team USA in September.
It was able to elect to advance directly to the final, after finishing top of the standings at the conclusion of the round-robin series.
Skipper Dean Barker said: “We actually thought pretty hard about doing the semi-final, because we wanted to try to get more racing, to do as much racing as we can against another boat.”
“But we’ve also got a fairly large amount of work to do to our boat, and a lot of changes and modifications to hopefully improve our performance, and that obviously takes time. So we’ve elected to go straight to the Louis Vuitton final.”
| Skipper of Swedish challenger Artemis, Iain Percy
The decision came after the Kiwis produced another commanding performance against Luna Rossa Challenge on Sunday, winning its fourth race against the Italians by 3 minutes and 21 seconds.
The margin was an improvement for Luna Rossa against ETNZ – skipper Max Sirena called it “probably the best racing day in the water for us” – but the loss was still significant.
The Kiwis led for the entire 15 nautical-mile race and showed faster boat speed and slicker handling throughout, as they have done for the entire series.
ETNZ’s move leaves Luna Rossa to sail against Sweden’s Artemis Racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup semi-finals, in what will be a match-up of unknown quantities.
Artemis has so far not competed in the Louis Vuitton Cup, because the team’s second race boat was not ready.
Its first boat suffered a catastrophic failure in May – it capsized and broke apart, killing crew member Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson.
Artemis’ new boat has had only three days of sailing time, but has impressed in that short period.
Skipper Iain Percy is however very cautious: “We had a horrendous accident, and the one thing that we’re all very very sure about is that we don’t want that to happen again.
“We need to take baby steps and we need to progress at our own speed, and at the end of that process we’ll be good to get out there and race.”
The semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup begin on August 6.
You can follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE