SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Emirates Team New Zealand overcame the loss of its jib early in the race and routed Italy’s Luna Rossa on Sunday in just their second head-to-head matchup in the America’s Cup challenger series.
The Kiwis beat Luna Rossa by 2 minutes, 19 seconds and lead 6-3 in the Louis Vuitton Cup round-robins. The team with the most points after five round-robins advances to the Louis Vuitton Cup finals, which will determine the opponent for defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup match starting Sept. 7.
With the Kiwis leading on the third of seven legs, a clip failed at the head of the jib that holds it to the headstay and it started flapping. It took the crew more almost three minutes to detach the sail from the headstay and pitch it overboard. Their chase boat moved in to retrieve the sail, forcing the Italians to tack away.
Skipper Dean Barker and the Kiwis continued on, their 72-foot, high -performance catamaran powered only by the 131-foot wing sail.
“It’s one of those frustrating, annoying things,” Barker said. “We’ve never ever had an issue with the attachment of the jib before, but as is normal, when you start racing things like this happen. The encouraging thing is the guys did a really, really good job to address the situation and deal with it, and we got back into the race pretty quickly.”
Emirates Team New Zealand hardly seemed affected by the lack of a jib, but Barker said they need the headsail to balance the catamaran.
“It’s very hard to get the boat hooked up in gybes. We didn’t gybe as well without the jib,” Barker said. “If you were going to sail with the jib only you’d have different board and rudder positions to balance out the boat better.”
The Kiwis built on their lead and were able to ride on hydrofoils sailing downwind.
Despite the big gap, Luna Rossa was more competitive than eight days earlier, when it finished 5:23 behind Team New Zealand and were officially ruled a DNF because they didn’t meet the 5-minute limit.
“We did a few changes on the boat, increased the aero package and a few changes in the systems to the boards,” Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said. “Today the Kiwis showed really good speed around the course. We sailed well around the course, which was the main goal, but we need to try and improve as a crew and our boat speed in the next few weeks.”
The teams will race each other again on Tuesday.
The third challenger, Artemis Racing, has yet to get its new boat on the water following the capsize of its first boat on May 9 that killed British sailor Andrew “Bart” Simpson.