With more than five weeks of racing remaining in the Louis Vuitton Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand is sailing to near perfection while Luna Rossa Challenge struggles to catch wind.
New Zealand continued its dominance over Luna Rossa on Tuesday, beating the Italian boat by seven minutes, 14 seconds on the regatta's 15.4-nautical mile (17.7-mile), seven-leg course. The Kiwis completed the race in 46 minutes, 53 seconds, earning their seventh point in the round robin portion of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Once again, the Kiwis cruised through the course, hitting a top speed of 41.2 knots (47 miles per hour) in winds averaging 15 knots.
"Their boat handling is very good, their jibes are pretty exceptional and their boat speed keeps on creeping up," Luna Rossa grinder Giles Scott said of New Zealand. "They're looking awfully strong."
With seven points, New Zealand has clinched first place in the round robin, giving it the option of advancing straight to the final or choosing its opponent in the semifinal.
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said he's still deciding which path to choose.
"There's value in going out there and racing," Barker said. "But we do have to balance it up against [making] improvements to the boat, so we haven't completely ruled it out."
Luna Rossa confronted adversity before Tuesday's race started. The team launched its boat during low tide, causing one of the rudders to scrape the mud. With the 72-foot catamaran in the water, the rudder needed to be removed and taken to shore to be cleaned.
"The hard bit was getting it back in the boat," Scott said. "It took the diver a fair amount time with the tide."
The Italian boat's problems continued in the race's pre-start. As the boats moved into position, Luna Rossa got caught in New Zealand's dirty wind and wound up being roughly 20 seconds late to the starting line.
"We're struggling, you know," Scott said. "We're not as quick, but we're trying to stay as positive as we can and just move forward."
Scott said the rudder issue did not impact the race.
"It just affected our preparation time," he said, adding: "Obviously, it's not ideal."
Luna Rossa has earned three points in solo races scheduled against Artemis Racing, which is unlikely to join the competition before the semifinal.
Artemis' new boat took its first splash in the water on Monday and the team is aiming to race in the next seven to 10 days. The Louis Vuitton Cup semifinal is scheduled to kick off Aug. 6.
New Zealand grinder Chris McAsey said Artemis is facing an uphill climb.
"It'll be [difficult] to put a big boat in the water and be able to race it straight away," he said. "If they can, it's amazing."Upcoming races
Thursday: Artemis Racing vs. Luna Rossa Challenge
Saturday: Emirates Team New Zealand vs. Artemis Racing
Sunday: Emirates Team New Zealand vs. Luna Rossa Challenge
Tuesday: Artemis Racing vs. Emirates Team New Zealand
Note: Artemis isn't expected to be ready for racing for another 7-10 days.