Luna Rossa sails to 2-0 lead in challenger semis
Looking a bit like spacemen in their silver life vests and crash helmets, the sailors aboard Italy’s Luna Rossa rocketed across San Francisco Bay aboard their high-performance catamaran and took a 2-0 lead over Artemis Racing in the America’s Cup challenger semifinals.
Luna Rossa is halfway toward reaching the Louis Vuitton Cup finals against Emirates Team New Zealand.
The final margin was 2 minutes, 6 seconds. Luna Rossa won Tuesday’s series opener by 2 minutes.
“We sailed a good race, but I know we can sail much, much better than that,” Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper said.
Thursday is an off day. Luna Rossa could wrap up the series by the weekend. Race 3 is Friday and Race 4 on Saturday.
Luna Rossa again showed better crew work and its 72-foot catamaran proved superior on the downwind legs between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
The Italians, backed by the Prada fashion house, trailed at the start but rolled over Artemis Racing rounding the first mark. The Italian catamaran, with its chrome-and-red hulls, lifted onto hydrofoils as it headed downwind and took an unassailable lead early in the race.
Like it did in the first race, Swedish-based Artemis Racing slowed dramatically during its first gybe after turning from the reaching first leg onto the downwind second leg.
Artemis is struggling to catch up following the capsize of its first boat during a training run on May 9, which killed Andrew “Bart” Simpson and destroyed its first boat. Artemis Racing launched its new boat on July 22 and has had limited training time.
“Today was really frustrating. We just need more time in the boat,” helmsman Nathan Outteridge said. “It was a tricky, puffy day today. It was the hardest day to sail this boat, even though it wasn’t that windy. We’ll do some training and get a bit better for the races to come.”
Artemis has struggled to get its catamaran foiling, which is when the seven-ton craft lifts onto winglets on the bottom of the rudders and on the bottom of a daggerboard in the leeward hull.
When the boats foil, the hulls are out of the water, reducing drag and increasing speed.
There was a heart-stopping moment when Luna Rossa’s port bow dug into the waves as the crew attempted to turn the boat while it rode on hydrofoils going downwind. Draper steered the boat out of trouble an on to victory.
Artemis’ May capsize is believed to have been caused when the bows pitched under the waves, although it’s also believed there was a structural defect with the front crossbeam.
In mid-October, defending America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA capsized during a training run after its bows dug into the waves. Although no sailors were injured, the boat was swept under the Golden Gate Bridge for several miles and the churning waves destroyed the 131-foot wing sail.
Luna Rossa also twice committed unforced errors and had to make extra gybes approaching the windward mark
“We really didn’t sail the best we can but we did a lovely job on the first downwind leg,” Draper said. “But it was a bit frustrating at the two leeward marks. It was just so light down at the bottom of the course compared to the top. That’s just the way it goes.”
Luna Rossa led by 2:11 at the fourth mark before Artemis made up 59 seconds sailing upwind toward the Golden Gate Bridge. But the Italians again stretched the lead while sailing downwind and won handily.
The winner of the semifinals advances to face Emirates Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals. The Kiwis were 5-0 against Luna Rossa in the round-robins, including one race that the Italians boycotted due to a rules spat.
The Louis Vuitton Cup winner will face Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup match starting Sept. 7.
Also Wednesday, North Carolina-based African Diaspora Maritime Corp. withdrew its motion in a New York court for a preliminary injunction against Golden Gate Yacht Club seeking to halt the America’s Cup match.
ADM sued GGYC, which holds the America’s Cup, in December 2011 for denying its application to be a defense candidate.
Both sides said they could not comment.