x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirates Team New Zealand live to fight another day

The local team at the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland win their penultimate semi-final series race against Azzura by one second before fading light postpones the decider until tomorrow.

AUCKLAND // The winning margins said it all: 11 seconds, 18, 21, 24 and one second. Semi-finals day of the Louis Vuitton Trophy produced one gripping race after another, with that one-second victory by Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) saving themselves from elimination at the hands of Azzurra. In the first of their best-of-three races, the local team sailed a brilliant first leg, with an 18-tack duel that ended with ETNZ luring the Italians into a head-to-wind luffing match and landing them with a penalty. But it fell apart for the Kiwis with a misjudged wind shift and a problem with the jockey pole, allowing Azzurra to slip through. Going into the crucial second race ETNZ earned a penalty when the front of their jib grazed Azzurra's safety wands, then went on to produce a heart-stopping finish. With Azzurra charging down on them, they executed a roaring 360º penalty turn right on the pin, scraping through barely a metre ahead of the Italians. "We sailed a good race," said Grant Dalton, the team's chief executive, who was the pitman today. "It's hard to win from a penalty down on these short courses and, especially with an even breeze, you have to sail very well. A very clean kite drop before the turn was crucial." At 7.15pm local time, with a dropping breeze and fading light, the deciding race between the pair was abandoned until tomorrow. The other semi-final, between Mascalzone Latino Audi and Artemis ended with the Italians, who represent Club Nautico di Roma, the Challenger of Record for the next America's Cup, booking a place in the finals with two wins from three races. "We are very satisfied with how we are going," said Flavio Favini, a member of ML Audi's afterguard and a veteran of two America's Cups. "Now, we have to stay quiet, and concentrate on racing well. The true result of our efforts will be seen only on Sunday." Despite Artemis being eliminated, the skipper Paul Cayard, was upbeat. "We're assembling a new team here, we've got a lot of America's Cup experience on board, and we need to get that all glued together. We made a huge step forward here in Auckland, and we're really happy with how we sailed." Training in Dubai ? which included competing in the RC44 series ? before racing in Auckland was one of the keys to that improvement, he added. slane@thenational.ae