Dubai: Emirates Team New Zealand drew first blood in the final of the Louis Vuitton Trophy being held on the Viaduct Basin in Auckland yesterday.
The hosts ended the penultimate day of sailing with two positives: their qualification for the final with a narrow 2-1 semifinal win against Azzurra earlier in the day and then taking a 1-0 lead against Mascalzone Latino Audi Team after the first match of the final later in the evening.
The best of five series of the final will continue today against the second Italian challenger Mascalzone Latino who are representing Club Nautico di Roma — the Challenger of Record for the America's Cup.
With everything at stake after Emirates Team New Zealand beat Azzurra by one second to draw level 1-1 on Friday, the hosts used the shifty winds to their maximum advantage to register a comfortable 26 second win when Kiwi skipper Dean Barker chose the right side of the course and never looked back.
With their berth in the final safe, Barker next had to get ready for a challenge from the second Italian team, Mascalzone Latino in the only match sailed later in the evening.
After his close miss, Barker coolly controlled the pre-start, pushing Gavin Brady above the committee boat before returning and speeding off on starboard with the Italians trailing on his hip. Emirates Team New Zealand's first mark lead was 14 seconds but the Italians got on their wind on the run to round ahead at the leeward mark.
Brady took his boat out to the right but this move did not pay as the boats got widely separated on a long port tack and the lead changed again as Barker found a more favourable breeze on the left to help Barker lead by 12 seconds at the third mark and also at the finish. Italy's Azzurra made up for their disappointment with a win in the Petite Final.