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Laurence Scott reports on Friday's Louis Vuitton Race that put Team New Zealand solidly in the driver's seat.
Emirates Team New Zealand closed in on an America's Cup match against Oracle Team USA, cruising past Italy's Luna Rossa again Friday to take a 5-1 lead in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals.
Foiling fast on foggy San Francisco Bay, skipper Dean Barker and his crew completed a repeat of past performances.
The Kiwis moved over the top before the first marker, leaving Luna Rossa difficult air in its path before sailing smoothly the rest of the way to win by 1 minute, 57 seconds.
Emirates needs two more wins in the best-of-13 series to set up a match with defending champion Oracle starting Sept. 7.
The Kiwis can wrap up a spot as soon as Saturday, when two races are scheduled. About the only thing that could prevent Emirates from making the America's Cup match might be a breakdown.
The only race Luna Rossa has won in the finals of the challenger series came in the second race, when the Kiwis withdrew because the electronics system that controls the hydraulics failed.
Emirates tactician Ray Davies called that an odd occurrence and promised his team wouldn't be beat by a mechanical mishap again, and so far that's held true.
Sailing in lighter air and on a stronger flood tide than past races, the Kiwis crushed the current and the competition. Both teams started evenly, and just like every other race, Emirates popped up on its foils quickly and led at the first marker.
The biggest reason the Kiwis are winning besides a better boat is because they're foiling far better and far faster than the Italians on the high-performance 72-foot catamarans.
Foiling is when the boat is going fast enough to pop up onto the daggerboard in the leeward hull and winglets on the bottom of the rudders and ride over the tops of the waves, its hulls out of the water.
That reduces drag and increases speed.
Once again, Emirates even foiled upwind considered far more difficult than downwind in a heavy current.
The Kiwis also have pulled off several foiling gybes when a boat changes direction while sailing downwind and stays on the foils, without the hulls touching the water in every race, clearly trying to get ready for Oracle and not sail down to its current competition, no matter the lead.
Emirates has a second-generation boat, while the Italians are still working out the kinks of their first boat, which they've said is similar to the Kiwis' original prototype.
Luna Rossa entered the competition about 18 months behind and has said since this summer is about building toward the next America's Cup series.