Team New Zealand keep pedal to the metal

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 20/07/2013
Team NZ
Getty Images
IN THE AIR: Team New Zealand foils during a practice run on the San Francisco Harbour.

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Team New Zealand have shifted the bar on Luna Rossa again ahead of Monday's rematch in the America's Cup.

Much of the focus will fall on the struggling Italians and how much they can improve after copping a 5m 23s hiding from the Kiwis last weekend in the only two-boat race seen in the challenger series.

But any hopes in the Luna Rossa camp of Team New Zealand taking it easy as they head the Louis Vuitton Cup points table will have sunk on Friday as they watched the Kiwis set a new speed record on the San Francisco Bay course.

Forced into another solo race in the absence of Swedish challenger Artemis, Dean Barker's crew got Aoetearoa up to 44.15 knots (that's the equivalent of 81.75 km/h) on the opening leg and kept the foot down to romp around in familiar style.

That bettered the old mark of 43.26 knots they set on July 9 in even stronger winds.

Team New Zealand can wrap up the round-robin series with victory over Luna Rossa on Monday. That would put them straight into the Louis Vuitton Cup final and allow them valuable time to work on development while the Italians and Swedes battle out the semifinal.

Luna Rossa are desperate to see some improvement after being embarrassed last Sunday. They have brought in new appendages and feel they can close the gap.

But Team New Zealand showed that their game is on the improve as well.

"The boats are getting faster and faster. Every month, we're getting quicker. If we had another six or eight months of development we'd probably get another 3 to 4 knots quicker," Team New Zealand wing trimmer Glenn Ashby said.

Meanwhile, Artemis are hopeful of getting their second AC72 on the water next week, perhaps on Tuesday.

It's doubtful they would have enough testing and training to get involve din the last phase of round-robin and the semifinal appears a more realistic target.

"The guys have been working just about around the clock to get it done," Stu Bettany, Artemis Racing's pit man said.

"They've tested pitch-pole loads if the boat goes over, side loads, daggerboards, daggerboard cases ... the boat's been strapped down to some pretty substantial weights and had hydraulic rams pulling and tweaking it in lots of different directions over the loads we should see on the water. It's all gone very, very well."

Regatta director Iain Murray is desperate to finally get Artemis involved after all they have been through, although he maintained the cautious approach they had taken after the fatal capsize was the right one.

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"Everyone's taken a lot of confidence out of the very cautious and comprehensive tests they've done, not only on boat but every single moving part," Murray said.

"I've been over there a number of times late at night. They've done a very thorough job. They've had the nice situation that the other teams have shared the safe working loads needed on the racecourse."

- Fairfax Media

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