SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – Rebounding from a shaky start and damage to its wing sail, Italy’s Luna Rossa sped ahead of Artemis Racing of Sweden to win the opening race of the America’s Cup challenger semifinals Tuesday on San Francisco Bay.
The chrome-and-red Italian catamaran, sponsored by the Prada fashion house, won by a comfortable 2 minutes to take the lead in the best-of-seven series.
Artemis Racing made its debut in the Louis Vuitton Cup nearly three months after Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed when the syndicate’s first boat was destroyed in a capsize during a training run May 9. The Swedish-based syndicate launched its second 72-foot catamaran on July 22 and missed the round robins.
Artemis Racing led Luna Rossa across the starting line and around the first reaching mark onto the first downwind leg. But the Swedish catamaran slowed dramatically during its first gybe and Luna Rossa, riding above the waves on hydrofoils, easily overhauled Artemis.
Luna Rossa led by 29 seconds around the downwind mark near Alcatraz Island. Artemis’ blue-hulled cat made up eight seconds sailing upwind toward the Golden Gate Bridge, but the Italians proved to be superior sailing downwind and pulled away.
Shortly before the race, Luna Rossa had to hoist a crewman up the wing sail to repair a tear. Then the Italians were slow at the start, giving Artemis the advantage.
It didn’t matter. Once Luna Rossa popped up onto hydrofoils sailing downwind, its advantage over the blue-hulled boat became apparent. The Italians had several nice foil-to-foil gybes, with the hulls never touching the waves as the boat zigzagged going downwind.
This America’s Cup could be determined by which crews foil better. When the boats hit a certain speed, they pop up unto winglets on the bottoms of both rudders and a daggerboard on the bottom of the leeward hull.
The winner of the semis advances to face Emirates Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals starting Aug. 17. The winner of that series faces defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup beginning Sept. 7.
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