LVC Finals: Both Teams Agree the Starts Will Be Key

The coin toss goes the way of Luna Rossa. Will the first start follow suit? Are the two remaining challengers ready for their best-of-9 series to determine who gets to face Alinghi?

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Bob Grieser/louis Vuitton

VALENCIA, Spain-The American syndicate is no longer in the chase for the 32nd America's Cup, but there is still plenty of American influence left in the regatta. That fact was brought home today during the coin flip to decide which team would start where for the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals.On the stage was Andy Horton, the pride of Shelburne, Vt., representing Luna Rossa Challenge. Standing opposite Horton, wearing the black and grey of Emirates Team New Zealand was Terry Hutchinson of Harwood, Md. And to ensure that everything was done properly was Connecticut's Peter Reggio, the principal race officer for America's Cup Management.One could've said that there were more Americans on stage than seated among the 75 odd press members listening to the press conference-mainstream media interest having tailed off with the demise of BMW Oracle Racing-and it wouldn't have been far from the truth.The other thing that was made abundantly clear during the press conference was how much respect each team has for the other. "Obviously Luna Rossa is an excellent team," said Hutchinson. "They've got great sailors throughout. From our perspective we take one start, one beat, one leg, one race at a time and look for opportunities within those races to capitalize on subtle mistakes that they might make. If we're behind on the first cross you look for the opportunity to keep the race close and hope that an opportunity is presented to you to capitalize."While no team wants to provide the other with any extra incentive, the numbers bear out how even these two teams are. When both sailing Version 5 boats, the teams have split four meetings right down the center. Luna Rossa Challenge has had the slightly more impressive wins, with an average finishing delta of 58 seconds, while ETNZ has the most recent win, coming on May 7, flight 9 of Round Robin 2. One interesting anomaly is that the boat entering from starboard has won all four of the races. When informed of that fact, Horton, who won the coin toss and elected to enter on starboard in the first race, smiled. "I'm glad I won the coin toss," he said. "I think [the 100-percent success rate of the starboard boat] is coincidence. It's usually a little bit of an advantage; I think everyone knows that. Hopefully we'll use it tomorrow."Hutchinson noted that ETNZ has placed a lot of emphasis on its starting during the break between the semifinals and now. Of the 13 races in the semifinals, there was really only one come-from-behind victory. The team that won the first cross won the vast majority of the races. "We've put a lot of emphasis on things to ensure us the first cross," he said, "and early control of the race, knowing that both teams are sailing at a high level"Emirates Team New Zealand even went as far as to schedule a day of practicing with Alinghi. While Hutchinson declined to comment on the relative performance of either boat-citing an agreement made with the defender-Horton offered up his opinion."It looked like it was some close racing," he said, "and Alinghi won both of them from our perspective. But it was hard to see."The press conference closed with an interesting question for both sailors from former BMW Oracle Racing navigator Peter Isler, who's made a seamless transition from one side of the press room to the other. He asked about what goes into getting the first cross, how the teams decide how badly they want one side or the other. The replies were quite interesting and provide some great insight into how the afterguards on an America's Cup boat work. To hear Horton's reponse, click here. For Hutchinson's reply, click here. (ed. note: Clouds is the nickname for ENTZ's weather guru, Roger Badham.)The first race of the Louis Vuitton Finals is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.