LOUIS VUITTON CUP FINALISTS
Emirates Team New Zealand
Yacht Club: Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
Country: New Zealand
Sail numbers: NZL 84, NZL 92
Team head: Grant Dalton
Skipper/helmsman: Dean Barker
Designers: ETNZ Design Team
Route to final: Top ranked team after the round robin stage with 17 wins out of 20. Beat Desafio Espanol 5-2 in the semi-final
Yacht Club: Yacht Club Italiano
Sail numbers: ITA 86, ITA 94
Team head: Patrizio Bertelli
Skipper: Francesco de Angelis
Helmsman: James Spithill
Designers: Luna Rossa Design Team
Route to final: Third in the rankings after the round robin stage. Beat BMW Oracle 5-1 in the semi-final
Driven by the desire to atone for the 5-0 rout inflicted by Alinghi in New Zealand's lame 2003 defence of their America's Cup crown. Barker, 34, was understudy to Russell Coutts in 2000, taking the helm of NZL 60 in the last match against Luna Rossa to inflict a final victory for the title. He took over as full-time skipper and helmsman in Auckland three years later. Barker is wary of avoiding any traps counterpart James Spithill will set in the pre-start. He told americascup.com: 'Most of their matches have been won on James Spithill's pre-starts. We are therefore going to study it really closely, tack by tack. I have had some really good prestarts but also others were more average, and we are going to work on being more consistent.'
Guided OneWorld USA into the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2003 before his appointment to the post at Luna Rossa. The 27-year-old Australian has been one of the revelations in Valencia, fast earning a reputation for his aggressive and skilful pre-starts, winning all five in his semi-final against American challenger Oracle. Philippe Presti, second helmsman for the Italian boat, spells out Spithill's qualities: 'He is extremely calm on the boat. In moments of stress, when the boats come into contact everyone works around his timing. He has a really good feeling for it, and what is more remarkable still is his ability to work. He works really hard and is very methodical.'
- A best-of-nine match series, with the winner going on to challenge Swiss defender Alinghi for the 32nd America's Cup from June 23.
- The final is the climax of four years of qualifiers with 11 teams now whittled down to just two.
- Four of the six past Louis Vuitton winners have gone on to defeat the defender and capture the America's Cup.
- Prior to the inaugural Louis Vuitton in 1983 no challenger had ever beaten the defender in America's Cup racing spanning 132 years.