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Rough Start for Luna Rossa at Cup

February 22, 2000

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ The America’s Cup turned into a bloody contact sport for Italy’s Luna Rossa.

Down one crewman and its hull splattered with his blood, Luna Rossa came to practically a full stop Tuesday while another sailor went into the water to try to clear a plastic bag that snagged on the keel.

Already behind because of a vexing move by New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts at the start, the Italians could only watch helplessly as Black Magic sailed toward an overwhelming victory Tuesday and a 2-0 lead in the 30th America’s Cup.

New Zealand, trying to become the first country other than the United States to defend the Cup, won by 2 minutes, 43 seconds. Race 3 is scheduled for Thursday.

As the yachts sailed into the wind on the fifth leg, the Italians had a problem with the mechanics that control the sheet used to trim the jib. Unable to tack, Luna Rossa sat in bad air coming off Black Magic while the crew feverishly worked to fix it, allowing the Kiwis to add 27 seconds to their already insurmountable lead.

Someone aboard Luna Rossa muttered that their luck couldn’t have been any worse.

The most disastrous part of the day came with the boats sailing upwind on the first leg. Bowman Massimiliano Sirena suddenly leaned over the rail, a towel being held to his head by a crewmate. Sirena pulled his hand back, and it was covered with blood.

Soon, the starboard side was stained with blood, right where Luna Rossa (Red Moon) is painted on the silver hull.

Sirena apparently was hit in the head by a carbon-fiber pole being used by another crewman trying to remove a plastic bag from one of the winglets on the keel bulb.

A tender raced in to pick up Sirena, who according to preliminary reports suffered a three-inch gash. That left the Italians to sail with 15 crewmen compared to 16 aboard New Zealand’s Black Magic.

The Italians first tried to clear the plastic bag by using the pole, then had a man suspended over the side of the boat trying for better leverage. They finally brought the 75-foot yacht almost to a full stop and had Piero Romeo in the water to try to clear the bag. The bag apparently cleared when the boat stopped.

Black Magic rounded the first mark ahead by a whopping 2:19.

The Italians’ spirits were lifted when they gained on the second and third legs, but they would have needed some sort of catastrophic breakdown aboard Black Magic to have a chance.

Black Magic, which won Sunday’s first race, took control just a minute into the pre-start maneuvers when Coutts, one of the world’s best match-racing skippers, made a brilliant move against Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis, an America’s Cup rookie.

After about a 30-minute delay to allow the breeze to fill in on the Hauraki Gulf, Black Magic entered the starting box from the left side while Luna Rossa came in on favored starboard tack.

Coutts wanted the right side of the course, figuring the wind would shift that way. He made a hairpin turn, let Luna Rossa go past and then ducked underneath to get the position he wanted. Black Magic crossed the starting line 18 seconds ahead.

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