x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirates Team New Zealand shock Oracle to win LVT

Emirates Team New Zealand stage back-to-back victories to win the Louis Vuitton Trophy over defending America's Cup champions BMW Oracle Racing.

Emirates Team New Zealand stage back-to-back victories to win the Louis Vuitton Trophy over defending America's Cup champions BMW Oracle Racing.
Emirates Team New Zealand stage back-to-back victories to win the Louis Vuitton Trophy over defending America's Cup champions BMW Oracle Racing.

DUBAI // Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) staged back-to-back victories yesterday to win the Louis Vuitton Trophy over defending America's Cup champions BMW Oracle Racing.

The New Zealand team, who fly the UAE flag, staged a dramatic run in the final minutes of the first race as skipper Dean Barker erased a nearly 150-metre lead by James Spithill's Oracle team.

In the second race in the best-of-three final, New Zealand closed in when the Americans' spinnaker became stuck in the hatch for several seconds during a hoist in light northwesterly breezes in the Gulf. ETNZ crossed the line 350m in front.

The race came after the New Zealand team paid tribute to the 29 coal miners killed in an explosion last week at the Pike River coal mine.

The race was a rematch between the two captains - Barker and Spithill - who raced the Louis Vuitton Cup 2007 final in Valencia, Spain, when the Kiwi team also came out on top.

The victory concluded a dominant performance by the team from Auckland who over two years won four of five Louis Vuitton Trophy events and finished second in the other.

Serenaded by boat horns and sirens, the crew were hugging, cheering and high-fiving for a minute and a half before the American boat finished.

"It's been a tough couple of weeks," said Grant Dalton, the managing director of ETNZ who also races on the boat, his normally serious face split by a huge smile.

"We kind of saved our best till last. Oracle have been the form boat for the whole regatta. We came out today with determination knowing that on our day we are good enough but we would really need to produce.

"The guys in the back of the boat did a real nice job. The Oracle guys are a class act and they sailed really well."

Asked about the secret to his team's success, Dalton said: "It's a team that lives on the smell of an oily rag. Everyone buys into the culture and the way we operate. We're not frivolous at all."

Spithill conceded that the result was "pretty disappointing" to the team that had looked best for two weeks. "We had our opportunities in both races, but they beat us fair and square," he said.

The final marked the last series for America's Cup-class boats as sailing moves into the multi-hull era of 72-foot, wing-sail catamarans.

It is the end of 20 years of competition in the America's Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup and Louis Vuitton Trophy for the boats.

Hosting the race was an important step for the UAE in increasing the country's profile on the international sailing circuit, especially after this year's America's Cup, originally planned for Ras al Khaimah, was shifted to Spain after Oracle Racing raised safety concerns about the venue's proximity to the Iranian coastline.

Next up, Abu Dhabi will be the first Middle East stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race, which begins in October next year in Spain.

The races

Race 1, Emirates Team New Zealand def BMW Oracle Racing, 17secs


New Zealand’s Dean Barker landed the opening punch in his race with James Spithill. Just over two minutes before the start, with both boats almost stalled in a dial-up, Barker turned sharply away. The New Zealand boat’s stern struck the side of the Oracle boat and Spithill was penalised for failing to keep clear.

The American boat went up the right side of the course, shutting out New Zealand attacks until the weather mark where Barker turned inside and drew almost level. Emirates Team New Zealand kept the pressure on all the way down the run but made a slow mark rounding with their spinnaker momentarily in the water. On the beat, New Zealand went out to the port layline while the Americans worked the shifts up the middle of the course. With a 150-metre lead, Spithill unwound his penalty but left the door open for Barker to again get inside at the top mark and claim the right side of the course on the run to the finish. The Americans had it won until Emirates Team New Zealand gybed into a wind shift and more pressure to overtake and win.

Race 2, Emirates Team New Zealand def Oracle, 1min 37secs

Emirates Team New Zealand claimed the pin end of the start and had a small lead up most of the course, but Oracle enjoyed the benefit of the right side and overtook to lead by 11secs at the top mark.
Oracle lost ground when their spinnaker was stuck in the hatch for vital seconds during the hoist. Barker stalked the Americans, helped further when they had to shed a ripped spinnaker in a gybe peel.
With better pressure on the right, Barker crossed clear on port tack just before the leeward mark. New Zealand covered their opponent and worked the shifts for the next two legs to finish 350m in front.