Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Emirates Team New Zealand go one up

AP , VALENCIA, SPAIN

Uncharacteristically, Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill didn't put up a fight at the start.

Spithill gave up the favored right-hand side despite coming in on starboard and Emirates Team New Zealand took it -- and the advantage -- as it sailed to a narrow win on Friday in the first flight of the Louis Vuitton Cup final.

Emirates Team New Zealand took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-nine America's Cup challengers series final that will decide who advances to race defending America's Cup champion Alinghi from June 23-July 4.

With moderate wind shifting across the right-hand side of the course, Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Dean Barker just followed instructions.

"We told Dean it would be difficult to get around the other guy from the left-hand side. Dean did a great job of getting us the right," Emirates Team New Zealand strategist Ray Davies said. "There were moments where we all had to pick up our game. Today it was difficult to keep the boat moving quickly."

The Kiwis and the Italians were even to start. Holding the right-side advantage, the Kiwis used a long port tack up the first leg to search out the shift that would propel it past the Italians.

As they neared the layline, they found it and tacked back to find themselves in the controlling position from there on.

"It's a question of timing; if it had been further away, they could have got nervous on that corner," Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael said. "It could have been a different story, but they were patient enough to wait for it."

Their patience paid off as the Kiwis rounded the first marker with a 12-second lead after a start that lacked the fireworks of the semi-finals. Then, Spithill had given the Italians the lead in every flight on the way to a 5-1 rout of American entry BMW Oracle Racing.

Luna Rossa trailed around a marker for the first time since a round-robin loss to the Kiwis on May 7 -- a span of nine races.

The Kiwis stretched their lead to three boat-lengths on the first downwind lap before Luna Rossa gybed to engage the Kiwis, with the NZL-92 boat matching the ITA-94 yacht's move.

With the race committee shifting the course twice to the right to match shifting conditions over the final two legs, Barker defended his favored position as the Kiwis came in on starboard with a clean spinnaker drop to lead by nine seconds around the second marker.

Luna Rossa tacked immediately to split before the two boats converged with the Kiwis' lead down to one boat-length.

The two teams tacked a total of 24 times up the second upwind leg as the Kiwis pushed their lead back to three boat-lengths and came around the final marker with an increased lead of 11 seconds.

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