Sun, Mar 21, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Team New Zealand draw first blood in Louis Vuitton final

AP , AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Team New Zealand beat Mascalzone Latino of Italy by 12 seconds yesterday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five race final at the Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta for America’s Cup teams.

The New Zealanders established a lead on the first beat which endured for most of the race, although the Italians, skippered by New Zealand-born Gavin Brady, closed and almost headed their rivals after two of four legs.

The remaining races of the series are scheduled to be sailed today.

Earlier yesterday, Team New Zealand rallied for a 2-1 win over Italy’s Azzurra in their best-of-three semi-final.

Azzurra won the first race on Friday by 18 seconds and New Zealand squared the series in a thrilling second race that they won by an official margin of a single second. In the deciding race yesterday, Team New Zealand gained the lead on the first beat and held it to win by 27 seconds.

“It’s always a sense of relief to get to the final,” Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said. “The semis are quite often the ones where there’s more on the line. When you’re in the final, it’s the best of five and we’ve now got an opportunity to really sail well.”

Azzurra, skippered by Francesco Bruni, went on to win the one-race petit final against Artemis of Sweden, that decided third place at the regatta.

Artemis, skippered by Paul Cayard of the US, incurred two penalties during the race and was convincingly beaten.

Bruni, skipper of the Azzurra team, said his crew had regrouped well after the disappointment of their semi-final loss to New Zealand.

“Yesterday was tough to digest, losing by one second, or a meter. It was very close, but I think it’s all part of the excitement,” he said. “I think Azzurra just confirmed we are a top-level team.”

The Louis Vuitton regatta provides racing for America’s Cup teams locked out of the latest Cup regatta between US syndicate Oracle and Switzerland’s Alinghi.

Oracle beat Alinghi 2-0 in a best-of-three series off Valencia, Spain, last month.

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