Emirates Team New Zealand has won the first race of the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland final, beating Mascalzone Latino by 12 sec.
It was the team’s second good performance of the day. Earlier in the afternoon, Dean Barker and his crew sailed an impeccable race to beat the Italian Azzurra by 27 sec in the third and deciding semi-final match.
Going in to today’s semi-final against Azzurra both teams were level on one win. Today race was sudden death – lose it and it was a ticket to the petite final and a battle for third or fourth place in the regatta. Barker got the results he was looking for.
Barker paid tribute to the crew. “The afterguard got the calls right. The foredeck, grinders and mast worked flawlessly all day. We needed that to get a solid result against Azzurra and then we had to lift our game another notch against Mascalzone Latino.”
In the semi-final Barker got the start he wanted. “We split to the right and got a good shift. At the first cross we had a lead of 1½ boat lengths and we worked at extending it but still keeping in touch.”
With Barker and the trimmers on song, the outcome was never really in doubt. Azzurra never let up. Barker: Barker says, “It may have been a good solid win but conditions on the course were very tricky.”
Strategist Adam Beashel called the wind from up the mast for the entire semi-final race, and tactician Ray Davies picked his way through the shifty breeze with precision.
The covered Azzurra comprehensively from the front and left the Italians with no passing opportunities.
The first race of the final was close all the way, with two lead changes, the first at the second mark and the second towards the top pf the second beat. ETNZ sailed well, and covered hard throughout.
Barker won the start and controlled the first beat, rounding the mark 14 seconds ahead. Mascalzone Latino rounded the second mark marginally in front.
They yachts split, giving ETNZ an opportunity in the left. Mascalzone Latino’s five boat-length lead was quickly eroded and at the first cross they passed clearly ahead and maintained the lead to the third mark, rounding 12 seconds ahead.
Mascalzone Latino got some better pressure on the first run and closed, then rolled over ETNZ at the mark. Dean Barker: “We were able to keep it close and we got a great shift in the left on the second beat and reclaimed the lead.
Mascalzone Latino fought on, giving Barker and crew some anxious moments. But they held the Italians off and finished with a delta of 12 sec.
Light winds again delayed the start of racing. The yachts were held at the dock for two hours beyond the scheduled departure time of 8.45am.
Then came the patient wait on the water as the race committee looked for the south-west breeze to fill in and settle a little. The re-scheduled start time on noon came and went and it was not until 12.45 that racing started.