June 26, 2007 Emirates Team New Zealand won its second consecutive race in the 32nd America's Cup Match here today, beating Alinghi by 25 seconds in a thrilling race that will go down in the books as one of the most exciting matches in Cup history. With difficult weather conditions which saw massive windshifts over much of the race course area, the Team NZ built a massive lead early, only to see it disappear during the middle portion of the race. The final run to the finish in a dying breeze gave them a second chance, and this time skipper Dean Barker and his afterguard were up to the task, finding more wind on the right side of the race course and streaking past Alinghi for the win just metres from the finishing line.
Racing was postponed for over two hours on a day of difficult weather conditions on the waters off Port America's Cup. The wind was light, but at 7 to 9 knots it was generally strong enough to race in. However there were massive windshifts over much of the race course area. Finally, just ahead of the 17:00 cut-off for a race start, the Race Committee was satisfied the conditions were as good as they were going to get, and the start sequence commenced.
Match 3 - Emirates Team New Zealand beat Alinghi - DELTA 0:25
It was another aggressive pre-start between Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi, but Dean Barker managed to claim the right-hand side - albeit at a big price. Ed Baird forced Barker to tack away with 10 seconds to the start, the Kiwis starting very downspeed and a full 8 seconds behind Alinghi who launched off to the left-hand side of the course, 60 metres up in a very short time.
However, the slow start proved to be a price worth paying, as the Kiwis found much better breeze on the right side of the race course. Alinghi, still far to the left, had no answer, and could only sit and watch as their opponents stretched to a lead of more than 300 metres. Around the first mark, the Defender trailed by 1 minute 23 seconds.
The Swiss pulled back some distance down the run, and then at the leeward mark the Kiwis made a very messy spinnaker drop. The red cloth got jammed in the jib sheeting system, and trimmer Grant Loretz could not sheet the jib in. Alinghi rounded the right-hand mark behind the limping Kiwis, and sailed up inside their track.
Eventually the Kiwis sacrificed the spinnaker to tack and get across to Alinghi, now just two boatlengths behind. The Kiwis didn't close cover, perhaps due to the fickle conditions or due to ongoing equipment problems. A battle of nerves ensued, with massive separation opening up, Alinghi to the left, and the Kiwis to the right. When they met again in the middle, they were neck and neck. Barker lee bow tacked underneath Baird, and eventually bounced Alinghi off to the left again.
The close fight continued, but at the top of the course a late left-hand shift gave Alinghi the lead, 15 seconds ahead at the final mark. Down the run, Alinghi first protected the right, then gybed to the left, allowing the Kiwis to take the right.
Here, again, the massive separation of more than a kilometre put Alinghi at huge tactical risk. It was down to who would find the best of the dying breeze. The wind on the right came good, NZL 92 sneaked into the lead, and when the boats met again just metres from the finish line, the Kiwis were ahead by just two boatlengths. They gybed in front of SUI 100 and crossed the line 25 seconds in front of the Swiss boat; a breathtaking finish to an extraordinary race.