For the first time in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, both boats finished a race with their boats in one piece and the weather permitted two races in one day. Emirates Team New Zealand was the beneficiary, taking both races and a 4-1 lead in the America's Cup challenger series.
A poor start and an out-of-bounds penalty squashed any hopes Luna Rossa Challenge had of upsetting Emirates Team New Zealand in the first race of the day on San Francisco Bay. The Italian team was more competitive in the second race, but in the end fared no better as New Zealand took control of the best-of-13 series that will decide which team challenges Team Oracle USA in the America's Cup Finals next month.
"That was nice," New Zealand grinder Chris Ward said of the tighter races. "I guess we've been a little bit concerned with if we get through further on, we need some good, hard racing because Oracle are having it within their team. That was great to have some good hard racing today."
New Zealand got off to a quick start at the opening gun. With that early deficit already a tough hill to climb, the Italians on the third leg crossed out of bounds, forcing them to slow down and give up an even bigger lead to the Kiwis, reaching the finish line 2 minutes, 18 seconds behind.
The teams got off to a much more even start in the second race, and Luna Rossa was within 100 meters of New Zealand midway through the third leg. The Kiwis pulled ahead at the end of the leg and took off upwind after passing through the third gate. In the end, New Zealand finished 1:28 ahead, claiming a commanding lead in the series.
"We believe, and I think everyone understands that, we believe we have a slower boat than them," Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said. "To beat them, we need to do everything 200 percent perfect, and probably they need to make some mistakes."
The series resumes Friday with one makeup race, followed by the usual two-race days Saturday and Sunday. New Zealand can close out the series as early as Saturday if the weather allows all races to be run and it can manage to sweep the rest of the way.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP FINALSLuna Rossa vs. New Zealand
(New Zealand leads series 4-1)
Saturday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Sunday: Luna Rossa def. New Zealand
Monday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Wednesday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa; New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Friday: Race 6, 1:10 p.m.
Saturday: Race 7, 1:10 p.m.; Race 8, 2:10 p.m.
Aug. 25: Race 9*, 1:10 p.m.; Race 10*, 2:10 p.m.
Aug. 28: Race 11*, 1:10 p.m.; Race 12*, 2:10 p.m.
Aug. 30: Race 13*, 1:10 p.m.