Emirates Team New Zealand survived losing one of its sails early in its second contested match of the Louis Vuitton Cup and earned a dominating win over Luna Rossa Challenge to essentially clinch a spot in the finals.
New Zealand was forced to discard its jib during the third leg of the race, running the rest of the course with only its wing to propel it. The sail initially went limp and as the crew tried to repair it. It wound up coming loose before the crew eventually cut it loose and left it floating in the water behind them.
The Kiwis were not deterred by the unfortunate development, and more than doubled the distance between themselves and their competition before completing the next leg of the race.
In the end, New Zealand crossed the finish line before Luna Rossa had reached the sixth gate, with the Italian team finishing 2 minutes, 19 seconds behind New Zealand.
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said after the race that the team was still working to discover exactly what broke, but that he suspected it had to do with the clip that holds the jib in place. He said the team had several options for a response to the situation, but that it quickly became clear they had to ditch the sail.
“It's amazing how stuff like this does have a way of happening when you're racing,” he said. “We've been sailing with this system for 40 or 50 days, way back with the sailing we were doing in Auckland, the whole time we've been here, and never ever, ever had that happen before. But I think the most encouraging thing was the way our guys responded.”
Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said he didn't believe the loss of the jib made much of a difference in New Zealand's performance.
“All the power is coming from the wing,” he said. “They actually sailed with a lot of the power in the wing and they showed how powerful the boat is.”
The match was only the second contested race since the event began on July 7. Artemis Racing has been out while working to repair its AC72 following a crash on May 9 that claimed the life of British crew member Andrew “Bart” Simpson.
The win by New Zealand is its sixth of the round-robin series. While Luna Rossa still has a chance to total seven wins before the end of the round, New Zealand is expected to run an uncontested race Thursday, when it is scheduled to face Artemis. New Zealand can also wrap it up earlier by beating Luna Rossa again when they face off Tuesday.