Another Day, Another Win for Emirates Team New Zealand

Luna Rossa Challenge wins the first cross, but the power and speed of NZL-92 in light air is too much and Emirates Team New Zealand is now one win away from the 32nd America's Cup. Audio quotes from Torben Grael, Ray Davies, and Jonathan McKee.

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Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-Emirates Team New Zealand is one win away from the opportunity to avenge the loss to Alinghi in the 2003 America's Cup match. The New Zealand team dominated Race 4 of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, beating Luna Rossa Challenge by 52 seconds and now leads the best-of-9 series by 4-0. Jonathan McKee says that the New Zealand boat is a rocket in the lighter conditions and that a change could be in order for ITA-94.What makes this loss a little more painful than the previous three for Luna Rossa Challenge, is that the Italian team finally appeared to get the break it needed and was convincingly ahead at the first cross.The advantage line on Live Sailing, which isn't always exactly right, stood at around 80 meters as Luna Rossa tacked from starboard to port and forced Emirates Team New Zealand back to the left side. Ray Davies gives full credit to the Luna Rossa afterguard for nailing the first shift in this this audio clip. The boats came back together a couple of minutes later and Emirates Team New Zealand had closed the gap a bit, however the 60-meter lead on Live Sailing appeared to give Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael the ability to do whatever he wanted. His choice, which will be second-guessed for some time, was to tack to leeward of Emirates Team New Zealand's line. The Italian boat didn't appear to be close enough to leebow NZL-92 and force it away. But it was a strong position nonetheless, especially if the team was expecting a right-hand shift to come in.Just seconds after Luna Rossa tacked, however, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to put the bow up and sail for a minute on a course that was higher and faster than Luna Rossa. The lead went from 60 meters before the tack to 40 to nothing to a 20-meter lead for Emirates Team New Zealand in the space of a few minutes. It was a remarkable turnaround. For the Italian team and its fans, it was heart-wrenching. Torben Grael analyzes the key moment in the race here. In this clip, he gives another view on why he tacked into the leeward position when he could've crossed.As the boats charged toward the starboard-tack layline the lead went to as much as 45 meters before Luna Rossa was able to close the gauge and reduce the lead under 20 meters when the boats tacked simultaneously. At this stage there was little doubt that NZL-92 would round the mark first, but Luna Rossa seemed poised to be able to round right on its tail. On the long starboard tack however, NZL-92 pulled steadily away, building a lead that, after the tacks and hoists by both boats, would settle in at 80 meters, too much for the Italian team to attack downwind. McKee explains that Luna Rossa actually did as well as it could on that final tack to the mark.Any hopes of a comeback for Luna Rossa faded in the late stages of the first run as Emirates Team New Zealand doubled, then nearly tripled, its lead, rounding with a 55-second delta. McKee says that the fact that the run was heavily weighted to port tack made life difficult for Luna Rossa.Race 5 is scheduled for tomorrow. If the conditions are similar, there doesn't seem to be any hope for Luna Rossa Challenge, they just don't have the speed in the lighter winds. Match Notes, Race 4A front passed through Valencia last night bringing rain both last night and this morning. Racing looked questionable with just 5 knots on the course at midday. But while the sun never really came out, the wind picked up to 7 to 9 knots and held steady enough for Peter Reggio to send Luna Rossa Challenge and Emirates Team New Zealand off after a short delay.Luna Rossa entered on port tack, ENTZ on starboard. Both boats were a touch late, with LR getting into the box first. The Italian team was able to cross easily to leeward and take over the starboard advantage. After some lazy circles, both boats set up for a class starboard-tack approach to the line, ETNZ in front, PR pushing from behind. It was pretty clear that James Spithill of LR wanted the right, so he pushed Dean Barker to the middle of the line, then tacked for the boat. It was a split tack start with LR on port at the boat and ETNZ on starboard at the pin. LR seemed to have better pressure on the right, but ETNZ had the early lead on Live Sailing. LR tacked after 2:50 of sailing. ETNZ tacked to go for the cross after 6 minutes of sailing. LR slowly developed a slight lead, then with about a minute until the cross, caught a beautiful right shift and wound right up, creating a lead of 80 meters and enabling the Italian team to tack comfortably to cover ETNZ.The second cross, at 12:20 showed a gain to ETNZ and LR decided to tack into a leebow position. Here NZL-92 showed some amazing performance, lifting off ITA-94 and quickly vaulting into the lead. The lead went to 40 meters, but as the boats approached the layline, Luna Rossa closed gauge with the New Zealand boat and the advantage line dropped to less than 20 meters.On the long starboard tack to the mark-both boats were overstood-ETNZ developed a critical advantage of 50 to 70 meters. The delta at the windward mark was 19 seconds, the advantage as the boats settled in on the run was 80 meters, just 20 to 30 meters more than what most people think you need to be able to strike easily downwind.Luna Rossa tried to soak low, but a right shift appeared to lengthen the port-tack on the run and eventually they rode high of ETNZ. Both boats jibed simultaneously; with ETNZ able to keep it's air clear.The lead continued to build toward the bottom of the run. LR put in two jibes late in the run to set itself up for the left-side gate, but this seemed to really hurt, with the lead around the leeward mark ballooning up to 55 seconds. ETNZ was able to round, get up to speed, and tack to cover before LR cleared the mark.With ETNZ in a commanding position there was little LR could do, save for tack and pray for either a breakdown on ETNZ or the wind fading so much that the leg couldn't be completed within the 43-minute time limit.Neither happened. LR gamely engaged the New Zealand boat in a tacking duel, but this only served to build the advantage for ETNZ, which was an even 1 minute around the windward mark.LR finally gained a bit of redemption back on the final leg, getting down the final run 8 seconds faster than ETNZ, but it was far too little too late. Emirates Team New Zealand def. Luna Rossa Challenge by 52 secondEmirates Team New Zealand leads the best-of-9 series by 4-0.