1-0 to Luna Rossa
Today's race took place in 16 knots gusting to 20, with a 0.2 knot flood tide.
On board Luna Rossa today were: Max Sirena (skipper and pitman), Francesco Bruni (tactician), David Carr (pitman/grinder), Pierluigi de Felice (trimmer), Giles Scott (primary grinder), Chris Draper (helmsman), Xabi Fernandez (wing trimmer), Nick Hutton (bowman), Lele Marino (wing grinder), Marco Montis (freestyler) and Wade Morgan (hydraulic grinder).
On board Artemis Racing were: Iain Percy (skipper/tactician), Nathan Outteridge (helmsman), Curtis Blewett (pit), Andy Fethers (pit), Chris Brittle (grinder), Julien Cressant (grinder), Craig Monk (grinder), Sean Clarkson (grinder), Thierry Fouchier (jib trim), Iain Jensen (wing trim), Rodney Ardern (wing assist).
With Artemis Racing having had so little time to prepare - following the launch of their new AC72 'big blue' two weeks ago, today was just their ninth day sailing the giant complex catamaran, compared to the 80th day of sailing/racing for Luna Rossa - her first competitive outing was surprisingly spirited as she gained the better start than Luna Rossa. The Italian team was hampered when a few minutes prior to the start part of the film plastic 'Clysar' film covering the wing came detached from one of its internal frames requiring Prada posterboy Nick Hutton to be hauled aloft to effect a repair.
Because of this and despite having the port entry where she should in theory have entered 10 seconds before her opponent, the Italian AC72 was late into the starting box, allowing Artemis Racing to cross comfortably ahead of her. The pre-start was fairly tentative, the Italian because of their wing issue, Artemis Racing due to the novelty of it all. However Aussie 49er gold medallist Nathan Outteridge at the helm of the Artemis Racing AC72 surprisingly made a better job of the start, managing to get the leeward berth. Outteridge's opponent Chris Draper attempted to thread the Luna Rossa AC72 round to weather but the Swedish team did a good pull in pulling the trigger and their acceleration out of the start prevent Luna Rossa getting past.
Defying the odds Artemis Racing led into the first reaching mark but on the first run the inexperience of the team started to show through the crew taking much longer to get through the gybes and failing to sail as deep compared to the slick Italian team. Less than a minute into the run and Luna Rossa had pulled effortlessly into the lead. The Italians opened up a 30-second lead at the leeward gate. Artemis Racing fought back on the next upwind leg, a favourable shift allowing her to reduce her deficit to 9 seconds at the third mark rounding. But Luna Rossa remained significantly faster on all three downwind legs - on the second downwind leg the Italian AC72 was an average of 4 knots faster. Much of that came from the Italians pulling off foil-born gybes where they didn’t touch the water.
Ultimately Luna Rossa gained her first semi final point, winning with a two minute advantage over the Swedish challenger, the closest finish delta seen so far in this Louis Vuitton Cup.
Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena observed: “Finally a good race, although we did have our share of cold shivers in the prestart: the damage to the wing clysar just a few minutes before the start of the race definitely did not help us. What is satisfying is to see that the technical effort and the crew work have improved considerably. But we have not achieved our goal yet; our aim is to keep working on our development in order to be increasingly competitive.
“Obviously, we’re happy to have the point, but I’m not happy with what happened to the wing because it’s something we should avoid at this level. But it’s been a good day for us. I think we took some pressure off of us and for sure tomorrow we’ll sail better than today. Touch wood, we’ll have no problems.”
Despite the result Artemis Racing skipper Iain Percy was pleased with how the first day had gone: “We’re really, really pumped in Artemis Racing and super proud. To think that one week after launching we’d be sailing around the race course in 20 knots is beyond my wildest imagination. All the team support boats came over after the race and were cheering and clapping.
“As we knew, the difference between the boats is downspeed downwind and in manoeuvres. We suffer from a legacy of our boat not originally being foiling. The rudder positions and size and the size of the rudder elevators makes gybing harder, but we’ll improve our gybes. When we’re up and running and trucking I think we’re fine. It’s literally those transitions, and practice will help.”
“We’re feeling good as a team. We haven’t come here to mess around,” said Draper. “It’s been hard the past month and today showed we have some skills and have been working hard. I don’t’ think we sailed our best race, but we sailed a nice race and ‘Checco’ (tactician Francesco Bruni) did a nice job up the first beat. We had some issues and can sail a more refined race, and that’s what we’ll do tomorrow.”
Looking at the stats from the race Luna Rossa had a higher average speed, 26.04 knots compared to Artemis' 24.75 knots, but the Swedish boat had a higher peak speed of 40.56 knots compared to Luna Rossa's 39.19.
Artemis and Luna Rossa return to the race course on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for their next Louis Vuitton Cup semi-final matches. The big issue is that while Artemis Racing potentially have the legs to beat Luna Rossa given more time, sadly they don't have this time and unless they get a point on the board, they will be going home on Saturday.
The TV offering is also showing a welcome improvement - in the latest we are getting some sound from off the boats (not enough!) plus some on board video footage.
From Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa