The comeback Kiwis are into the final of the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series, Emirates Team New Zealand knocking out Britain’s Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing with a combination of pace and poise in their rebuilt boat.
The poise was required at the start of the first race of the day when a foil problem saw the Kiwis stranded behind the line with Ben Ainslie sprinting off to lead by 26 seconds at mark one.
Then came the pace. Foil problem sorted and back up to full speed, Peter Burling climbed into the chase. The Kiwi boat ate steadily into the British lead before swooping past on the second upwind leg en route to a 31”win and a 4-1 lead in the first to five series.
But with their backs to the wall and facing elimination the British fought back. Sir Ben had the better of the start and set off on what would be BAR’s best race of the regatta. With two less tacks and sailing 500 fewer metres the British completed what they called a super-clean race to go to 4-2.
Burling’s response was to discard his earlier conservative approach in the start box and take the game to Ainslie. The young Kiwi cleaned him out and Emirates Team New Zealand streaked off around mark one 8” up.
The lead kept on growing right around the track and the British had no response, the Kiwi boat flying over the finish line and into the final 5-2.
Then in a great act of sportsmanship Ben Ainslie and his crew sailed close up to Aotearoa, New Zealand, to salute the Kiwi sailors.
In turn the Kiwi sailors saluted their shore crew, a place in the final both a thank you and a reward.
Before returning to a big welcome from friends and family at their base, the sailors held a training session before enjoying a day off tomorrow.
There’s no rest for the other semi-finalists, with Softbank Team Japan and Artemis from Sweden still in a 3-4 scrap. They sail the decider tomorrow before the final starts on Saturday with Burling ready for more very close racing.
“We’re under no illusions it’s going to be a big fight in the final, ”Burling said. ”But we are happy with the way our boat is going and delighted to have it back in one piece.”