Emirates Team New Zealand powered through dense fog and low winds Sunday to finally claim the Louis Vuitton Cup, putting the Kiwis in the America's Cup Finals against Team Oracle USA.
New Zealand went 7-1 against Luna Rossa Challenge in the best-of-13 Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, as its faster boat and more polished team left the outcome in little doubt for much of the series. Its only loss came when a battery pack failed in the middle of the second race, forcing the Kiwis to withdraw.
The team's only real misstep came during the first race, when it took a hard nose dive into the water around a turn, tossing two crew members into the water. Still, New Zealand went on to claim victory thanks in part to Luna Rossa pulling out with damage to its vessel.
The victory is the third for New Zealand since the inception of the Luis Vuitton Cup in 1983. It previously won in 1995 in San Diego and 2007 in Valencia, Spain. It is the second consecutive time the Kiwis have beaten Luna Rossa in the event, including their previous victory. There was no challenger series when Oracle won the America's Cup in 2010.
"The culture of our team is our strength," New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said. "The way our team operates and works is definitely a huge strength it's a great pleasure to be a part of a team that works like that."
The wind stayed around 13 knots during most of the competition — as opposed to a breeze in the high teens during much of the series — and the thick fog on San Francisco Bay limited the teams' visibility.
Though the fog began to clear a bit as the race went on, the conditions did nothing to break the formula that had been established throughout the series: New Zealand taking an early lead and never looking back, ultimately finishing 3 minutes, 20 seconds ahead of the competition.
New Zealand now has about two weeks to prepare for its matchup with Oracle, a best-of-17 series that begins Sept. 7. That series comes with no shortage of bad blood. Team executives have traded barbs throughout the events in San Francisco, and Team Oracle USA over the weekend was forced to forfeit two trophies from last year's America's Cup World Series due to improper adjustments to its boats during those competitions.
Luna Rossa shares in the ill will toward Oracle to the point that Max Sirena and his crew will help New Zealand by racing against the Kiwis in practice over the next two weeks.
"It's sort of interesting sitting here with Luna Rossa guys," New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said. "Normally you'd see the guys you'd beaten as your enemies and your foe, but it's quite surreal really because it's an enormously strong relationship."
Sirena said his team will do whatever it can to help improve New Zealand over the coming weeks. In the meantime, The City will play host to the Red Bull Youth America's Cup from Sept. 1-4.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP FINALSLuna Rossa vs. New Zealand
(New Zealand won series 7-1)
Aug. 17: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Aug. 18: Luna Rossa def. New Zealand
Aug. 19: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Wendesday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Friday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Saturday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa
Sunday: New Zealand def. Luna Rossa