Kiwis win Louis Vuitton Cup

Jun 6, 2007 - 6:20 PM VALENCIA, Spain (Ticker) - Luna Rossa Challenge showed the sailing world its mettle Wednesday, but ultimately it was not enough to prevent Emirates Team New Zealand from completing a 5-0 whitewash and lifting the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Four times, the Italians, on the brink of elimination at the start of the day, clawed back hefty deficits to sit within two boat lengths of their Kiwi rivals.

And a further three times they spotted minor wind shifts that propelled them towards the positive result eluding them since this best-of-nine final began six days ago.

But, every time the unlikely looked possible and Italian optimism seemed to grow, the superb Kiwis quickly quelled the uprising and covered their way to a 22-second win.

Dean Barker's crew will now get the chance they have battled four years for - revenge and a shot at Alinghi's America's Cup crown.

The Swiss team humiliated the Kiwis in the 2003 cup when, as challengers, they entered Auckland and won 5-0. Now, however, it is Team New Zealand heading into the showdown with momentum on their side.

In addition to the consistently high standard of strategical calls and weather interpretation, the Kiwi's yacht was generally believed to be getting faster throughout their humbling of a team that crushed BMW Oracle 5-1.

Whether such improvements, honed in the intensity of Louis Vuitton Cup racing, prove to be better preparation than the in-house practice undertaken by Alinghi remains to be seen, but Barker refuses to lower his guard now.

"We have never underestimated Alinghi," Baker said. "They showed throughout the Acts (which Alinghi won convincingly) how strong they are, but we are pleased with our own form. We have improved with every race and are a good team. We are right in this. But while we will enjoy this win and what we have achieved the biggest test is still ahead.

"When we all started out on this, the ambition was to lift the America's Cup. We are a still a long way from that."

Ray Davies, the Emirates afterguard, also seemed upbeat.

"When you think back to the last cup and what happened, not many people would have wanted to be associated with Team New Zealand," he said. "It's pleasing that we have righted some of those wrongs."

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