Saturday saw the start of the finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup on the San Francisco Bay. Italy's team Luna Ross raced against Emirates Team New Zealand.
Last weekend Luna Rossa advanced to the finals by beating Sweden's Artemis Racing four wins to zero. The Kiwis, New Zealand had defeated Luna Rossa in the round-robin series in July, thus letting New Zealand forgo the semi-finals and instead focus on continued development of their catamaran until the finals.
This first day of finals was plagued with problems. Shortly before the race Luna Rossa had issues with their starboard daggerboard out on the course. Officials delayed the start for 15 minutes which gave the Italians time to remedy the issue.
The race started and the New Zealand got an early lead. Two minutes into the race Luna Rossa slowed down considerably, again struck by the same daggerboard problem, which this time left them limping along the course. Minutes later they accepted aid by having members of their support team climb aboard. The Italians withdrew from the race.
This left New Zealand to finish sailing the course and win. Several minutes later the Kiwis had their own trouble when they faced a sudden gust of wind. Emirates Team New Zealand reports they were heading into a turn going from 40 knots down to 13 knots in just seconds. When the wind hit the bows of their catamaran it dug into the bay.
The result of this was the boat pitching forward and a enormous spray of water that swept two of the crew off the boat. There was also damage to the fairing but this was later deemed to not be a threat to the structural integrity of their boat.
"I held on for dear life,” Emirates Team New Zealand grinder Chris McAsey said. “We got a big puff at the wrong time. I'm on the very forward pedestal, Jeremy Lomas (bowman) was in front of me and I'm right behind him. We were the first two guys to go under."
He described it as pretty extreme. “To be honest it's sort of hard to know exactly what happened, it's just a blur really."
"I was just holding on, the next thing I know there was a wall of water coming at me and somehow I felt an arm linking behind me, it was Derek Saward (grinder) he was holding onto Rob Waddell who was on his way over and behind him Chris Ward who unfortunately who no one was holding onto," McAsey said.
“I didn't realize two guys had gone over until a little bit later on. First of all we make sure everyone is okay and then checking on the guys that went over that they were picked up alright and then immediately then it's just assessing the boat making sure it's nothing structural and that we can keep racing,” McAsey said.
He said their shore crew will “have a big night tonight getting the fairings ready but I mean we were fine to go and race that second race today if it hadn't been blowing out for the wind limits. We were ready to go, we're ready to go now."
Instead of races three and four on Sunday, races two and three will be held unless high winds occur again."
With Luna Rossa having improved their sailing and speed during the semi-finals against Sweden's Artemis Racing, the Louis Vuitton Cup finals should be exciting.