by Bob Fisher
Louis Vuitton Cup - Race Day 9 - Luna Rossa before the broken rudder incident
Luna Rossa sailed alone around the five-leg course in her scheduled fourth Round Robin match with Artemis for ten minutes.
Then the Race Committee hoisted a black flag, indicating that Artemis had not crossed the start line within the allotted time and the race was awarded to the Italian team, who could add another point to its scoreline.
Maybe just as well, since the rest of the race was not all plain sailing for the Italian team. As skipper Max Sirena put it: 'we were foiling downwind close to top speed when the boat stopped dead in its tracks.' Luna Rossa had hit a big fish. 'It broke the rudder this far from the bottom,' he said, spreading his hands about 45 cms, 'and we took it slowly from there.'
Notably, Luna Rossa didn’t perform the usual fly-by for the crowd on the end of Pier 27 after finishing but sailed off towards her base immediately.
Ironically, Artemis was out in the racecourse area, sailing for her second day since launching. The Swedish boat, dubbed 'big blue', appeared to be enjoying the 18-knot south-westerly breeze, riding on her foils in a stable manner. But the team’s Managing Director, Paul Cayard, has deemed that this boat is far from ready yet to tackle a full-on race. That will probably not come for two weeks.
By then the Louis Vuitton Cup will have reached the semi-final stage. Artemis is then expected to meet Luna Rossa on August 6th to decide which of them will meet Emirates Team New Zealand in the final to decide who will win the Louis Vuitton Cup and race Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup.
There is a possibility of a different scenario, one that would lead the conspiracy theorists a merry dance. What if ETNZ decided to race Artemis in the semi-final, reckoning that it would be easy to beat the newly launched boat, knowing too that, so far, it has held the mastery of Luna Rossa and would be happy to meet the Italians in the Louis Vuitton Cup final?
Tomorrow the Kiwis have a sail-around-alone as they are scheduled to meet the not-yet-ready Swedish team. ETNZ too was out on San Francisco Bay for training today.