Today was the first race of the fifth and final Round Robin series, matching New Zealand against Italy. The result was predictable and the same as in the past. New Zealand (9-0) emerged unassailable and undefeated. Italy too remained consistent (4-0), never beating the leader and only winning points against Sweden by sailing solo. So, in addition to four wins putatively against Sweden, they had nine losses to New Zealand (1-Did Not Start; 2-Did Not Finish (>5 mins. behind winner); and 2 losses <5 mins ó2 mins last time and 3 this time (so no real progress). The previous race was closer because New Zealand dramatically ripped and had to jettison its jib at seaóeven that they handled masterfully.
New Zealand consistently was first out of the starting gate against Italy. It always went faster, setting newer speed records regularly. They foiled more frequently, for longer, and more consistently and they mastered foiling while tacking or jibing, most notably around the markers for each lap. Finally, throughout the five races, they continually put distance between themselves and Italy (at one point more than a kilometer), often by paralleling Italy so as to throw ďdirty windĒ their way to slow them down. For their part, Italy seemed to add to this effect by doggedly pursuing the same route as the leader, rather than splitting from them to seek out better wind and current. Almost all of their races were done against a flood tide (the ocean current rushing into the bay at the Golden Gate).

Later in the day the three teams held a press conference. Stephen Barclay, CEO, ACEA, noted how the crowds were picking up with each duel and now with the LVC SemiFinals to determine the sole Challenger, the crowds were quickly buying premium seating to see the elimination duels. The Authority was erecting huge stadium seating along Marina Green to accommodate these paying customers, while there was still plenty of free viewing along the Green.
But everyone was waiting to hear New Zealandís decision. As decisive winner of the Round Robins it could advance directly to the Finals or choose to race one of its challengers. Skipper Dean Barker conservatively chose to go to the Finals (beginning August 17) and let Italy and Sweden compete to meet it there. They wished that they could do more racing to stay in top form, though there was always the chance of mishap; however, they were using the half month of the SemiFinals to modify their boat further and to study their opponents (Oracle and challengers). Neither New Zealand nor Sweden will race Tuesday, and it seems pointless for Italy to race solo yet again against Sweden. Instead, Artemis and Luna Rossa will race each other in the best of seven races during the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finals (Aug. 6-17).


With that determined, the press questioned the skippers. Italy indicated that it would not protest Swedenís extra weight on its boat because it had followed all the new rules. Sweden was asked about its concern in racing Italy that had so much more practice. Skipper Iain Percy replied that while itís difficult for the team to fight its natural competitive instincts, they have brutally learned to respect the risks of sailing these new boats from their horrendous accident. They intend to be competent before being competitive by continuing to respect safety. With the teamís focus upon safety to prevent any more accidents, Artemis would proceed at its own speed by walking before running.
While Italian Skipper Max Sirena admired how the Swedes were up and foiling on their first day, Percy indicated that it was unlikely that Sweden would race before the SemiFinals. He graciously appreciated the camaraderie from all of the competitors, which they had extended to his team under these circumstances. And he repeated that all of the credit went to Artemisís superb shore team, for their incredible achivements which made it possible for their sailors to even compete at this late date.
In comparing Artemisís two long boats, Big Red and Big Blue, Percy stated that the obvious difference is that Big Blue foils and can speed downwind. This hadnít been considered in the earlier design. And he acknowledged how all competitors admire and have learned from New Zealand, which has mastered foiling to such an extent that they are even able occasionally to foil upwind. Percy acknowledged that time and experience on the water racing is the big factor, but because his team works so well together, he hoped that would give them an edge in learning vicariously.
Since the fastest boat wins, the press wanted to know how fast Big Blue was and if its crew would be ready by the August 6th start of the SemiFinals. Percy acknowledged that each teamís boats and crews were competitively different, so that only by racing against opponents can determine a winner. In the case of Big Blue, the crew was just finding out its handling and limits; so, the matter is unpredictable and hard to assess. Racing for the Vuitton Cup will determine the best Challenger to compete against the Defender from September 7-21.

On Wednesday, July 24, Artemisí Big Blue took to the Bay again: Artemis flies on San Francisco Bay

Ted Olsson
San Francisco