Emirates Team New Zealand is one win away from retaining the Hundred Guineas Jug after the dispute on the sixth day of the 36th America’s Cup.
The first heat of the day was undoubtedly the most closely contested so far, with Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa fighting side by side until the Defender took the lead on the penultimate round and placed the score at 6-3.
Race 10 was supposed to start at 5:45 pm, but a last minute wind change forced the Race Committee to suspend the match and the teams pressed the stop button once again until 4:15 tomorrow morning.
The feeling today was very different. It was the first day the Kiwis were able to win the America’s Cup. It was the opportunity for the Italians to regain their balance after a day in which they had lost two sets after winning the starts and to maintain their advantage in the first stages.
Emirates Team New Zealand entered cleanly through Luna Rossa, which took its time gybing and heading to the right side of the pre-start area. The kiwis were the first to get there, circling as the Italians veered before diving back into the kiwis.
Many movements followed as both boats tried to slow down on their approach to the starting line. With the higher wind speeds, the pre-start zone felt smaller.
The start was even, both to starboard, but with a large gap between the two as they plunged towards the left hand limit at 30 knots.
A critical course was approaching: could Luna Rossa get close to the kiwis and blow the dirty wind at them? The Italians’ height mode was working as they finally forced the Kiwis to tack as they headed for the right layline line towards the top gate, which they had to make two more tacks to get around the top gate. When they came together, the Kiwis lowered the Italians transom to take the mark on the right of Gate 1, while Luna Rossa took the mark on the left, leading by just a second.
When the pair split into the downwind leg, the Kiwis seemed to have a better gust of wind and managed to cross in front of the Italians and when they rejoined there was a lead change. Now they had switched sides, had traveled the entire width of the field and were about to return to each other by another cross. This time it was the Italians leading the way, another change of leadership. At the lower gate, a perfectly executed maneuver by the Italians protected their position and forced the Kiwis to follow them through Gate 2.
As the second half continued, the battle remained close, but at the top of Gate 3 the Italians had protected their advantage once again. The same happened with the fourth round with even tighter boards. At the bottom, Luna Rossa circled the mark on the right of Gate 4 and went 3 seconds ahead as Emirates Team New Zealand took the mark on the left. The Italians had thrown their cover on the Kiwis, although they held the lead on starboard tack. When they got back together, Luna Rossa was still ahead.
But the big change came towards the top of trail 5 when the pair teamed up once more. Now it was the kiwis’ turn to return to starboard. But Luna Rossa was just ahead when they crossed and tacked in front of the Kiwis, forcing the defenders to veer to the right side of the field. Was this another risk? The Italians would be on the port side when they returned.
But there were problems when the wind shifted to the right, benefiting the kiwis.
By the time the pair returned through Gate 5, the New Zealand team had taken the lead, rounding the mark on the left by 18 seconds ahead.
A section to the finish line with a distance of 400 m between them, was a long distance for the Italians to react. By the time Emirates Team New Zealand reached the finish line, they had won race 9 by 29 seconds.
A dramatic and close race to put Emirates Team New Zealand just one win away and take the 36th America’s Cup.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism