SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — Italy’s Luna Rossa ended Artemis Racing’s emotional attempt to advance in the America’s Cup trials, finishing a four-race sweep in the challenger semifinals Saturday when the Swedish-backed boat made too many errors.
Luna Rossa benefited from three penalties against Artemis Racing, including a big one just before the start, and sailed its high-performance, 72-foot catamaran to a victory of 2 minutes, 11 seconds on San Francisco Bay.
The stylish Italians — they are, after all, backed by the Prada fashion house — are moving on to the best-of-13 Louis Vuitton Cup final against powerhouse Emirates Team New Zealand beginning next Saturday.
The Italians and Kiwis were training partners in Auckland, New Zealand, in the months leading up to the regatta, and they share a pier that sits between the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and AT&T Park.
“We had a bit of a shaky race today,” Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper said. “We all were a bit nervous, but I still think we’ve improved tons in the racing against Artemis. I’m sure it’ll be valuable for us going forward.”
The Italians certainly stand out. Their boat’s twin hulls are chrome and their silver sailing gear, including crash helmets and life vests, make them look a bit like spacemen.
But they’ll have to pick up the pace against the Kiwis, who went 5-0 head-to-head in the round-robins, including the opener that Luna Rossa boycotted because of a rules dispute. The Kiwis twice beat the Italians by more than 5 minutes, and the closest margin was 2:19.
“We learned tons in this series. It’s been invaluable for us,” said Draper, who added that it was tough losing the way they did to the Kiwis. “Our team was a little down. Our upwind speed has improved a lot and our general handling has improved.”
The Louis Vuitton Cup winner advances to face defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup starting Sept. 7.
History is on the Kiwis’ side. They beat Luna Rossa 5-0 in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup final and 5-0 in the 2000 America’s Cup match.
Artemis Racing’s campaign is finished after only four races. The syndicate never caught up after a capsize on May 9 killed British sailor Andrew “Bart” Simpson and destroyed its first boat.
“I’m hugely proud of our team. It’s been a terrible period,” said Artemis Racing skipper Iain Percy, who won gold and silver Olympic medals with Simpson in the Star class.
“First and foremost at this moment, my thoughts go to my teammates and to `Bart’ and his family. He would’ve been so proud of us, considering this is something that none of us thought we’d be able to do two months ago when we lost him. We’ve enjoyed every second because we knew what an achievement it was just to be out here.”
Artemis helmsman Nathan Outteridge appeared to control Luna Rossa in the prestart maneuver, but his starboard bow hit the chrome cat’s port hull. Since Italy had right of way on starboard tack, Artemis was penalized.
“I told you he’s a punchy Aussie,” Draper said of Outteridge. “We knew they might bring it. It was a little bit marginal, and I’m pretty sure it went our way.”
After leading Luna Rossa around the reaching first mark, Artemis Racing had to slow down on the downwind second leg to clear the penalty.
Artemis also was penalized twice for crossing the course boundary lines later in the race.
Artemis had to miss the round-robins because its second boat wasn’t launched until July 22.
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