Emirates Team New Zealand Wins Louis Vuitton Cup

It's a rematch. Emirates Team New Zealand will challenge Alinghi for the 32nd America's Cup. This time, however, it's the New Zealand team that will have the advantage of weeks of hard racing in the challenger series.

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Stuart Streuli

VALENCIA, Spain-For three and a half minutes, the fifth race of the Louis Vuitton Cup teetered on the edge of a knife. Both teams on starboard, a minute or two off the starboard-tack layline, halfway up the first beat. Luna Rossa Challenge to windward, slightly bow aft of Emirates Team New Zealand, but carrying a 10-meter lead according to Live Sailing. The lead grew to 11 then 12 meters. Could they roll over the top of the New Zealand boat? Unlike in the previous four races, ITA-94 appeared to be almost a match for NZL-92, having held its own after an even start. If Luna Rossa could get a few meters further forward, it would be able to power down over Emirates Team New Zealand and take commanding control of the beat. The lead started waning, dipping into single digits. Eight meters, seven meters, six meters. The backwash from NZL-92 was getting into the sails of ITA-94. Then Luna Rossa blinked and tacked away. To learn about this pivotal moment, we have three perspectives: Luna Rossa skipper James Spithill, Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael, and Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Terry Hutchinson.They'd never get that close again. Emirates Team New Zealand followed suit 30 seconds later and had built, by the time NZL-92 settled on to starboard tack, a lead of 15 to 20 meters. Once again, when the Kiwi team needed it, NZL-92 gave it a decisive advantage. From there it was simply a matter of carrying Luna Rossa out past the starboard layline and then tacking for the mark and the New Zealand team would lead around the first mark, a huge advantage in America's Cup sailing.Luna Rossa was able to keep the race close all the way to the finish line, something it hadn't be able to do in the two previous races. On the final run, the Italian boat took advantage of a little separation and closed the gap considerably, forcing Emirates Team New Zealand into a mouth-drying jibing duel. How close was it? Well let's listen to Hutchinson tell us how he was, at times, afraid to look back. But the New Zealand crew wouldn't be rattled, and won Race 5 by 22 seconds, sweeping the series 5-0 and becoming the first team to hoist the Louis Vuitton Cup for the second time. Dean Barker, who was behind the helm when Team New Zealand was swept by Alinghi in the 32nd America's Cup, talks about what this achievement means is in this audio clip.It was an impressive performance, with Emirates Team New Zealand displaying a comprehensive package: great tactics, flawless crew work, fabulous boat speed, and extreme confidence under a tremendous amount of pressure.Match Notes, Race 5A light seabreeze built during the early afternoon. A rather nice day, with a few high clouds. For a while it seemed like the breeze was on the edge and the race committee postponed for 25 minutes before rolling into a sequence. Luna Rossa entered on starboard, Emirates Team New Zealand on port, LR timed it perfectly, ETNZ a fraction behind, and both teams went into a dial up midline. James Spithill of Luna Rossa seemed slightly tentative, allowing a bit of extra separation between the two boats. Dean Barker used this for the infamous "Steel Balls" maneuver. Using the sails perfectly, Barker was his team swing the boat back down onto port tack, and then sail behind LR's stern. It's a gutsy move, fraught with peril, but one that ETNZ pulled off perfectly.ETNZ led toward the starboard aft corner of the box, then set itself up to leeward of Luna Rossa with 1:30 remaining. From here Spithill did a nice job of pushing ENTZ down the line, carving out enough space, and then hitting the line perfectly with pace. Once again Barker did a great job of not giving Spithill, who can be quite an opportunist in the starting box, anything to work with. This was, says ETNZ tactician Terry Hutchinson, part of the team's plan. Spithill confirms that it made is very difficult for him to do anything significant in the starting box.LR was able to live on the hip of NZL-92 for a minute before peeling off. ETNZ followed 30 seconds later.For over 12 minutes the two boats paralleled each other on port tack, the lead swinging back and forth. Whatever changes LR had made to ITA-94, they appeared to have made a difference as the boats were quite even. Finally the wind went right enough and LR tacked and put the bow down for the first cross. ETNZ tacked into a leebow position, but LR was able to sheet in and power into a quasi-comfortable position on ETNZ's hip. The lead was 10 meters in favor of Luna Rossa, it built to 12 and then started to slip. At 6 meters, LR tacked away. Amazingly, when ETNZ followed the lead was now 15 meters in favor of NZL-92. LR had little choice but to sail past the layline and match tacks with ETNZ. The delta around the windward mark was 20 seconds, the lead, once the two boats had settled into the run was 75 to 80 meters. It steadily grew to over 100 meters when ETNZ jibed away, giving LR a bit of separation. By four jibes later the boats converged with LR having closed the lead to 50 meters. NZL picked the right-side gate and LR followed, two boatlengths between the two boats. NZL herded LR to the left side and a long tacking duel ensured. Initially LR made quite a gain cutting the lead to a boatlength. But then a right shift gave ETNZ back what it had lost. The delta at the windward mark was, remarkably 20 seconds. On the final run again, ETNZ allowed LR to split and it cost them part of the lead. LR engaged ETNZ in one of the more active jibing duels in recent memory and was within 50 meters, but ETNZ again was strong when it counted, holding off the Italian team for a 22-second win.Emirates Team New Zealand def. Luna Rossa Challenge by 22 seconds.Emirates Team New Zealand wins Louis Vuitton Cup 5-0.