After two more races Emirates Team New Zealand have taken a 5 – 3 lead over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in the 36th America’s Cup match in Auckland, New Zealand.
Tuesday is going to be a key day. After three days of tit-for-tat results, the deadlock was finally broken broken and it’s advantage ETNZ with the Kiwis now poised to complete their defence of the Auld Mug.
The momentum is with the Kiwis and the Italian team have now to win and keep winning to stop ETNZ playing out the match and winning the 36th America’s Cup.
In the first race of the day (R7) we saw the first major rig change with Luna Rossa hoisting a bigger jib, apparently anticipating a dropping breeze, compared to the smaller J3 of ETNZ, set for stronger breeze.
At the start Pete Burling crossed below and ahead of Luna Rossa, but Jimmy Spittle sailed Luna Rossa over them, ignoring a late luff and protest (denied) to take a 70 metre lead at the lefthand boundry tack, building it to 150 metres.
From there it was a classic match race with Luna Ross covering ETNZ, who cut their lead and at Gate 1 Luna Rossa rounded with an 8 sec advantage.
By Gate 2 the Italian’s had a 10sec lead. But on the second beat ETNZ sailed free to the right and at the cross Luna Rossa had to tack under ETNZ who rolled over them and took the lead.
That was game over and the Kiwis sailed away to a 58 second win, taking back the advantage.
The stats showed that ETNZ was faster upwind and downwind and despite sailing further a clear winner.
In the second race (R8), with the breeze dropping, Luna Rossa stuck with the bigger jib, would it work this time?
An even start with Luna Rossa to leeward and forcing ETNZ to tack away. At the first cross Luna Rossa had an 80 metre lead, and at Gate 1 the Italian’s rounded with a 16sec lead.
Then the breeze dropped and ETNZ dropped off the foils as Luna Rossa sailed away at 30+ knots to round gate 2 with a 4:08 lead, and it looked as if we were going to see another all-square finish to the day . . . but it was all about to change.
As Luna Rossa sailed back up leg 3, ETNZ were still struggling to get back on their foils on leg 2.
But at Gate 3 after Luna Rossa rounded they came off the foils with no breeze after the mark.
Then came the news that the race would be shortened to 5 legs, finishing at gate 5, the final upwind leg.
Meanwhile ETNZ were finally up and flying after the Italians.
They rounded Gate 3, 4:27 behind on time, but only 100 metres behind Luna Rossa on the water, and staying on their foils swept into the lead to revese the situation by Gate 4.
The Kiwis rounded with a 4:06 lead and then sailed carefully up the final windward leg to a 3 minutes 55 seconds finish for their second win of the day.
For Jimmy Spithill on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Race 8 was a tough result, “we were out in front, but it was never in the bag – we came to the top of the course, it went light, we fell off the foils and were stuck for some time…”
To be behind at both starts and win two races was a phenomenal effort from Burling and his crew onboard Emirates Team New Zealand who head into Tuesday with a 5-3 lead to Race 9 & 10.