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Artemis have their backs to the wall again

Chasing shadows: this manoeuvre by Artemis Racing drew an unrequited penalty from Emirates Team New Zealand, but the Kiwi boat went on nevertheless to take the race (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/&Copy; ACEA 2017)

Emirates Team New Zealand placed themselves firmly in the driver’s seat in their Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Play-off Final series against Artemis Racing on the Great Sound yesterday.

The Kiwis got their boat set-up, boat handling and tactics in the light and shifty breezes spot-on, posting a 2-1 record on the day to take an overall 4-2 lead and move to the brink of clinching the best-of-nine series and progressing to the 35th America’s Cup Match.

“We are really happy to walk away 4-2 up,” Peter Burling, the Team New Zealand helmsman, said.

“We definitely were expecting it to be lighter than what it ended up being out there. Full credit to the whole team to get that boat around the track the way we did and get those couple of wins.”

The day could have ended rather differently for the Kiwis, who nearly blew a commanding lead approaching the final mark to set up a nail-biting finish. However, thanks to the efficiency of their radical cycling grinders, they managed to pump just enough hydraulic fluid back into their boat’s system to elevate on to the foils and hold off the charging Swedes.

“Pretty nervous and probably giving everyone a heart attack, that last mark,” Burling said. “That was really my mistake.

“I missed the layline to the other gate, but the way the boys got the board down is full credit to the design we’ve got with the bikes to be able to get that power to get it down and just hold on to the lead.”

Artemis’s weekend also did not go without drama, as helmsman Nathan Outteridge slipped crossing the aft beam and fell overboard in Saturday’s final match, leaving his team-mates to fend for themselves the rest of the way.

“It was disappointing falling overboard,” Outteridge said. “These boats turn quite quickly and we sprint across.

“Just as I was crossing, we straightened the turn, which had me sliding down the aft beam.

“I tried to grab some net or a bit of the boat and just missed everything and ended up in the water.

“Once I resurfaced, I looked up, made a little prayer and wished the guys the best of luck.”

Artemis are now staring straight down the barrel of elimination and must sweep today’s remaining three matches of the series.

But having bounced back from a 3-1 deficit in the Challenger Play-off Semi-finals to beat SoftBank Team Japan, Outteridge is cautiously optimistic of the team’s chances of keeping their Cup hopes alive.

“We’ve done it before, so we are full of confidence,” Outteridge said. “We saw in the semi-final that anything is possible and so we just keep chipping away.”