Kiwis on top, Russians into the semi-final of Louis Vuitton Trophy in Nice

There's one match outstanding to complete the round robin at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d'Azur, but the four semi finalists are confirmed.

Emirates Team New Zealand will win the round robin and have the opportunity to select its opponent in the semis. Team New Zealand didn't race today and has one match remaining, against upstart Synergy Russian Sailing Team, but the veteran team led by skipper Dean Barker has a 9-1 record and cannot lose the top spot.

The Kiwis will pick their opponent from a group including TeamOrigin (8-3) of the U.K., Azzurra (7-4) of Italy or Synergy. After starting the regatta 0-3, the Russian crew today won its fifth consecutive match and sixth out of seven with a hard-fought victory over Azzurra. Synergy now stands at 6-4.

The second half of the leaderboard has Artemis (5-6) in fifth, BMW Oracle Racing (4-7) in sixth, All4One (3-8) in seventh and TFS – PagesJaunes (1-10) in eighth. These four teams will race a knockout round to determine places 5th though 8th concurrent with the semi finals.

“We're getting stuff done, but it hasn't been easy,” said Peter “Luigi” Reggio, principal race officer for the regatta. “The last two days have been very similar to each other, unlike the eight or so before that; every day was different. In the last race we had 13, 14 knots. In the second flight we started to see whitecaps. We haven't seen those since last Tuesday.”

After the morning northerly blew itself out today the wind shifted to the east and built. Synergy ensured its advance to the semis with the win over Azzurra in a classic match race.

The two crews were rarely separated by more than two boatlengths, but there was only one “Y” flag requesting a ruling from the on-water umpires. It was in the pre-start and it was green.

Synergy again got the right-hand side of the start line and Azzurra started at the pin. The Italians quickly tacked to port once on the racecourse and a tacking duel ensued up the 1.4-nautical mile leg to the windward mark with Synergy protecting the right side of the course.

There were stretches where the two yachts sailed overlapped on the same tack for up to 2 minutes, with neither showing a real speed edge. During one stretch on port tack Synergy, to leeward, was able to foot out and force Azzurra to tack away. Synergy then covered in a windward position and drove the match to the port layline to round the windward mark with an 8-second advantage.

The delta was down to 5 seconds at the leeward gate, but Synergy bumped it back up to 15 seconds at the second windward mark.

Azzurra was making a charge on the run to the finish, having closed to within one boatlength. But after a jibe to port Azzurra hardened up to roll over the top of Synergy. Then, with the asymmetric spinnaker loaded, the sail split from luff to leech just below the head patch. Race over.

“I think Synergy was strong on us but by pushing to edge we thought their spinnaker might blow. It was a 50-50 chance,” said Francesco Bruni, Azzurra skipper. “That was one of best races I've ever sailed in Cup boats. I really enjoyed it. Every leg was close and each crew did a fantastic job.”

Despite the closeness at that stage of the race, Synergy skipper Karol Jablonski felt in control of the match. He was positioned to leeward and ahead and it would've been a long way around for Azzurra.

“These spinnakers are more for downwind sailing so when you heat up you don't go faster. The sail just loads up,” Jablonski said.

Although the leaderboard is determined, the pairings for the semi finalists and knockout round won't be announced until after tomorrow's race. The match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Synergy is scheduled to start at 1210 CET.

Other matches today included BMW Oracle Racing defeating Artemis by 36 seconds, TeamOrigin beating All4One by 48 seconds, Azzurra beating BMW Oracle by 1:01 and Artemis defeating TFS – PagesJaunes by 1:03.


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