x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Spithill set for rematch

The battle between the Oracle skipper and Team New Zealand's Dean is an interesting subplot.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Mascalzone Latino compete in the semi-finals in Dubai yesterday.
Emirates Team New Zealand and Mascalzone Latino compete in the semi-finals in Dubai yesterday.

DUBAI // Two of sailing fiercest rivals are to go head-to-head again today in the final of the Louis Vuitton Trophy on inshore waters off the Dubai International Marine Club.

MW Oracle Racing, the America's Cup winners, beat the French/German team All40ne yesterday their way to the final. They will face Emirates Team New Zealand who defeated Italy's Mascalzone Latino Audi.

And that brings a showdown between James Spithill, the Oracle skipper, and his old rival Dean Barker of Team New Zealand.

The two raced the Louis Vuitton Cup 2007 final in Valencia, Spain - which Team New Zealand won - and Spithill is looking forward to the rematch. "I'm convinced we haven't seen our best yet, so I'm looking forward to [today]," Spithill said.

"Dean is a fantastic sailor, calm and with a good temperament. He and I have had some great racing over the years. I don't expect tomorrow to be any different."

Oracle, who won the 33rd America's Cup in February, defeated All4One 2-0 in their semi-final yesterday while Team New Zealand, also ran out 2-0 winners against the Italians.

Yesterday's winning formula for Oracle was pretty much as it has been throughout the regatta that began 13 days ago.

John Kostecki, the tactician, and Murray Jones, the strategist, called the windshifts with aplomb and trimmers Dirk de Ridder (mainsail), Ross Halcrow (headsails) and Joey Newton (spinnakers) kept the boat moving fast, while the sail handling at the turning marks was flawless.

"It's nice to have the option to put the boat where you want and the guys take care of the rest," Spithill said.

"We've got the option to go toe-to-toe or, if JK [Kostecki] and Murray see a shift, we can speed to that. The guys have been spot on throughout the regatta."

Today's final is a best-of-three race series and Barker is cautiously optimistic.

"There have been five Louis Vuitton Trophy events and we've been in the final of all of them," he said. "Here they've [BMW Oracle] been the form team and we'll have to sail well to beat them."

Spithill's team spent much of the intervening years that followed the 2007 Cup in legal limbo preparing for and winning their catamaran challenge for the 33rd America's Cup.

The American team have been major supporters of the Louis Vuitton Trophy competition, racing in several events, but without much success.

"I feel we're back at the level that's required now," Spithill said. "Obviously these Team New Zealand guys have been sailing monohulls and racing together for a long time.

"It's been a big push from us to go back to work and get back to this level. I'm happy with how the guys have really taken the challenge on.

"We've put ourselves into the position now where we can win the regatta. It's just going to come down to [today] and I think it will be a pretty tough series."