by Richard Crockett
‘The great show down’ between Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA evaporated into something of a damp squib as Emirates Team New Zealand littered the race with errors.
This was a huge let down for Kiwis fans as they were wanting to see their team deny Oracle Team USA that bonus point in the finals.
And then to add to the let-down, the first day of the semi-finals was postponed due to the lack of wind.
So with just 4 boats in the semi-finals now, the leader of the qualifiers (Emirates Team New Zealand) earned the right to choose who they raced against first up.
Peter Burling and his Emirates Team New Zealand have decided to take on Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR as their opposition in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-finals.
Faced with the opportunity of taking on Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing, Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan or Land Rover BAR, Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling finally ended the anticipation by revealing his answer at the final press conference of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
“We have sat down as a team and decided we would like to pick Land Rover BAR,” said Peter Burling, who also took the opportunity to pass on the condolences of Emirates Team New Zealand to the family of New Zealand native Mary Elizabeth McKee, who passed away in Bermuda on Thursday night.
Turning back to his team’s choice of Land Rover BAR, Burling explained that, “We believe with the forecasts over the coming week that it represents our best chance of progressing through.”
In response, Land Rover BAR helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie, whose team finished third in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers standings on six points, is prepared for the challenge ahead.
“It is going to be a close race, but to win the America’s Cup you have to beat all the teams,” said Ainslie.
“Emirates Team New Zealand have certainly proved through this qualifying round to be sailing really well. They are very fast and so for us it will be a real battle.
“However, we are up for it and looking forward to it.”
Emirates Team New Zealand’s decision to face Land Rover BAR means the remaining two teams to have progressed from the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, SoftBank Team Japan and Artemis Racing will face off in the other Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-final.
“We’ve done a lot of racing against Artemis Racing over the last 18 months and we’ve had some great battles,” said SoftBank Team Japan helmsman Dean Barker, whose side finished in fifth place with three points in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
“We know they are a very strong team, I’m sure the racing is going to be very close and it will be interesting all the way through,” said Barker.
Their opponents Artemis Racing head into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs in good form, with a final day Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers victory over Groupama Team France leaving them in fourth position on five points in the final standings.
“We are excited to be here,” said Artemis Racing’s helmsman Nathan Outteridge.
“We know that to go and beat Oracle Team USA (in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton) we now have to beat SoftBank Team Japan and Emirates Team New Zealand.
“We are up for the challenge and excited to go and do that. We’ve beaten them (SoftBank Team Japan) twice in the qualifying races and that gives the team some confidence moving forward.”
Both of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-finals will be decided by a first to five points race format, with the winners of each Semi-Final then facing each other in the Finals of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs.