by Bob Fisher
Louis Vuitton Cup - Semi-finals - Luna Rossa vs Artemis Racing - Race 2
Already there appears to be an inevitability surrounding the semi-final of the Louis Vuitton Cup. This match between Luna Rossa and Artemis Racing is heavily one-sided in favour of the Italians – the extra time Luna Rossa has spent on the water, compared to the Swedish team, is reflected in superior performance.
Eight hours of sailing in the boat that was built after the tragic accident that led to the death of crewman Andrew Simpson has proved woefully inadequate to the admittedly talented team aboard Artemis Racing’s 'Big Blue'. There is a delicacy in the handling and manoeuvring of the foil-borne AC-72s that only time spent with the boat can provide.
Nathan Outteridge, the Artemis helmsman, is one of the very best time-on-distance judges in catamaran racing and for the second successive day had the advantage at the start. It was a narrow lead with Luna Rossa to windward, and by the time they arrived at the first mark the two boats were bow to bow.
That determined that Artemis must take the first gybe, and with that came her first disadvantage – no opportunity to time it so that the boat could continue foiling throughout the manoeuvre. Luna Rossa’s helmsman, Chris Draper, took full advantage of this and immediately took the Italian boat into the lead.
What followed was largely predictable. Luna Rossa gained downwind through her ability to remain foiling through the gybes, but upwind there were opportunities for Artemis to redress, partly, the balance. By the second mark, Luna Rossa was 1’:22' in front and continued to pile on the pressure on the upwind leg to Mark 3, where she led by 1’:50'.
A bad approach to the leeward mark saw Luna Rossa lose some of her advantage – at one time as much as 880 metres – to round 2':12' in front of Artemis. A big wind shift on the next leg almost brought Artemis back into contention. Luna Rossa was badly caught by a 20-degree lift at the end of a tack that also saw the 15-knot wind drop to just over five knots. The difference between them at the last windward gate was 1’:13'.
These things have a way of balancing out and Artemis fell foul of a light patch downwind so that Luna Rossa was 2’:07' up at the last turning mark and lost only one second on the reach to the finish.
'We need more time on the boat,' declared Outteridge soon after finishing, adding: 'I’m impressed with our group; it’s hard to keep motivated when you can see the other boat sailing away from you.' Even after winning, Draper was critical of his team: 'We know we can sail better than that.'