Emirates Team New Zealand into Louis Vuitton final

Updated: May 23, 2007, 3:04 PM ET
Associated Press

VALENCIA, Spain -- Emirates Team New Zealand wanted a challenging race. Desafio Espanol gave it one.

With Luna Rossa of Italy already in the final, the Kiwis were pleased to get a tough contest from their Spanish opponents, taking the best-of-nine Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals 5-2 in a series many expected the two-time America's Cup winners to sweep.

"There's a sense of relief. The Spanish were always a very dangerous team to pick," Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Terry Hutchinson said Wednesday. "The series we had with them was a really good test for us. They sailed a good series and it'll help us prepare for the next round."

The Kiwis disposed of the Spanish in the seventh flight by 1 minute, 18 seconds with some aggressive controlling from helmsman Dean Barker.

Barker had some shaky starts in the series, but in a matchup where the team that came off the line with the lead always won, Barker locked counterpart Karol Jablonski out to the far right in the dial-up and crossed the start with a two boat-length lead and a 13-second advantage.

Barker's aggressive pre-start jousting was in contrast to his usual manner, which was reflected in the way the Kiwis celebrated after crossing the line -- like it was just another day at the office.

"We try to be as flatline as we can be whether it's a win or a loss," Hutchinson said. "The feel on the boat was the same as it was two days ago when we lost. We've got a lot left to get through. It'll be a daunting task."

After the seventh flight was postponed from Tuesday after strong wind and choppy sea conditions were deemed likely to damage the boats, Wednesday's conditions weren't much better.

White caps were prominent and the wind reached some of the highest levels since the start of the America's Cup challengers series, reminding all of racing conditions at the 2003 Cup off Auckland, New Zealand.

"We gave it our all, but it wasn't enough to them and they have obviously spent many more hours sailing with similar conditions," Jablonski said.

The Kiwis start racing against Luna Rossa in the final on June 1 after the Italians moved into the final with an easy 5-1 series win over BMW Oracle Racing, the sole American entry.

Hutchinson said the team was ready for another fight.

"We expect every single race to be a nail-biter. Both teams are going to have their chances I suspect and whoever flinches last will be the last one out of here," said the American, who was on the losing end of the 2000 Louis Vuitton Cup final when Luna Rossa beat AmericaOne 5-4 to reach the America's Cup.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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