SAN FRANCISCO — Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) was the odds-on favorite to win the Louis Vuitton Cup, which it did defeating Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge 7-1, Sunday out on the San Francisco Bay.
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The win means the Kiwi boat will sail against Oracle Team USA for the America’s Cup, Sept. 8-21, in a match that is confounding the odds makers.
Unlike the Louis Vuitton Cup, where the the Kiwis lost just once, the upcoming America’s Cup appears to be no cake walk for the Kiwis. Oracle Team USA is a formidable defender, funded largely by billionaire Larry Ellison who has spent between $80 and $100 million to campaign two AC72s (the high-tech, wing-sailed, foiling catamarans selected for America’s Cup).
In comparison, ETNZ is funded by Emirates Airlines and the New Zealand government and has built just one AC72, called Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand).
Both the US and New Zealand boats have done what was inconceivable in sailing. Two months ago, they foiled up wind (sailed up onto their hydrofoils into the wind), though only ETNZ has done it in real competition.
Despite the proven performance of the Kiwi boat and crew, the buzz within Northern California sailing community social networks is that Oracle’s USA 17 is a faster boat.
Both boats have equally accomplished and aggressive skippers. Throughout this summer’s racing, ETNZ’s skipper, Dean Barker, consistently rounded mark one, first. Oracle Team USA’s skipper is Australian yachtsman, Jimmy Spithill, who in 2010 became the youngest winner of the America’s Cup.
As for rivalry, there’s little love lost between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand. The upcoming America’s Cup is even odds to be a battle on and off the water.