Thu, Jun 07, 2007 - Page 20 News List

It's do or die for Luna Rossa in LV Cup finals

AP , VALENCIA, SPAIN

Emirates Team New Zealand leads Italy's Luna Rossa on the fourth day of sailing in the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia, Spain, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Staring at elimination, the solution couldn't be any clearer for Luna Rossa.

It has to sail better.

The Italians are one defeat away from a 5-0 sweep by Emirates Team New Zealand -- like at the 2000 America's Cup -- after losing Tuesday's fourth-flight race.

Having rolled past BMW Oracle Racing in the semi-finals, Luna Rossa hasn't made enough correct decisions.

The Kiwis have now edged to within one victory of an America's Cup rematch with Alinghi, while the Italians are a step closer to becoming the first team to be swept in the challengers' series final.

"We've got to go out there with a do-or-die strategy," Luna Rossa sail trimmer Jonathan McKee said. "We've got to go out with a boat set up for the wind, and go out and sail smart and fast."

For the second straight day, the Italians started well -- even leading at one stage -- on the first leg before some questionable calls saw it lose a three boat-length lead halfway up the course.

"This is a very unpredictable place," Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael said. "Sometimes you get it wrong, and sometimes you get it right."

The Italians' gamble on splitting to the right to start paid off as they rolled over onto starboard tack toward the Kiwis fully aware that they had to take the first lap to control the race.

But a left-hand shift saw the Kiwis take back the advantage, pushing the Italians out beyond the right layline before rounding the first marker in the lead.

"With hindsight they might have done it differently, but I understand why they did it," Emirates Team New Zealand strategist Ray Davies said about the Italians' decision to let the Kiwis stay on the left.

"We were confident with the wind that there was more left [shift] to come then what we started with," he said.

After being crossed by Luna Rossa, Emirates Team New Zealand had a tack to port that pushed it higher up the course and into a lead that turned into a 52-second win.

The Italians have trailed around every marker in the best-of-nine series. Only one team -- BMW Oracle Racing -- has won after trailing around the first gate in 17 challengers series matches since the start of the semi-finals.

The winner sails against Alinghi in the best-of-nine America's Cup final from June 23.

Emirates Team New Zealand is looking likely to set up a rematch of the final in Auckland, New Zealand, four years ago that ended in a 5-0 sweep.

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