x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

ETNZ draw first blood in Louis Vuitton Trophy final

Emirates Team New Zealand came into today firing on all cylinders to see off Azzurra in the semi-final before taking the first leg of the final.

After winning by a whisker yesterday to draw even in their best-of-three semi-final against Azzurra in the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland, Emirates Team New Zealand came into today firing on all cylinders. So did the Italians. But the breeze did not and it was two-and-a-half hours before this do-or-die race could start. It could have gone either way, until the Kiwis took control in the second upwind leg; they went on to win by 27 seconds and join Mascalzone Latino Audi in the final. "Its always a sense of relief to get to the final," said ETNZ skipper Dean Barker. "The semis are quite often the ones where there's more on the line. In the final it's the best of five and we've now got an opportunity to really sail well. We know Mascalzone [have] sailed some really aggressive and strong races and we'll be ready for that." ETNZ stayed on board their boat while the ML Audi crew swapped places with Azzurra on board NZL92 to go straight into the first race of the finals. After a very close start, ETNZ was a length ahead at the first cross and controlled the first leg but ML Audi sneaked through at the downwind mark. With copybook sailing by both teams, the Kiwis slowly clawed their way back to win by just 12 seconds The "petit final" sail-off for third and fourth places, between Azzurra and the Swedish team, Artemis, was packed with incidents. Artemis took a penalty in the pre-start, then another at the beginning of the final run, obliging them to do one of the turns immediately. The game was up - but Artemis raised a red penalty flag in protest at Azzurra's using a different gennaker on the second run. The jury decided it was a legitimate substitution, due to damage to the first kite, thus confirming Azzurra's third place overall. The remaining races of the best-of-five final will be sailed tomorrow, with the start scheduled for 10am local time (1am UAE time). slane@thenational.ae