by Bob Fisher
Artemis Racing salute their fans, Louis Vuitton Cup, Semi-Finals Race 4; Artemis Racing vs. Luna Rossa Challenge
High-level aggression was evident in the pre-start of the fourth semi-final of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Sufficient to bring the umpires into play and the blue lights at the back of the boats flashing as Luna Rossa and Artemis Racing came into close contact. And contact it was that saw Artemis penalised for a port/starboard infraction.
It could have gone either way as obviously the crew of the Swedish boat believed as they had long rounded the first mark with a seven second lead before they slowed the boat to take the penalty. 'We simply didn’t see the [penalty] light,' said skipper Iain Percy, possibly because they were certain that it was Luna Rossa that had been penalised.
Then, soon after, Artemis was awarded a second penalty; this time self-inflicted, for going outside the course boundary. That was unnecessary – pure carelessness.
Luna Rossa, with Chris Draper on the wheel, took every advantage offered and went into the lead, so that by the end of the first downwind leg she was 20 seconds ahead going through the leeward gate. Previously, Artemis, steered by Nathan Outteridge, had displayed a potential speed edge upwind, but another boundary infringement put paid to any chance of that happening on this leg.
Yet there was no giving up by the Artemis crew; it knew its very survival depended on winning this race. Luna Rossa, however, wanted to seal its place in the final and didn’t relax its drive. Draper and tactician Francesco Bruni picked a left-hand shift along the City Front and increased the lead, rounding the third mark 1’:12' in front.
Excellent foiling gybes by the Italians helped to retain the lead, but it must be said that the Artemis crew, on only its 13th day on the boat, had also begun to master this technique and was not losing so much as before, going through the leeward gate 1’:30' in arrears.
On the second beat, Draper stretched the lead for the Italians, opening a gap of 650 metres to be just over two minutes ahead at the start of the final downwind leg, on which he stretched it to 2’:27' in the 15-knot south-westerly breeze.
It was all over bar the shouting (and there was plenty of that to come from the crowd at the end of Pier 27 watching the finish); Luna Rossa was almost in cruising mode, ensuring that nothing could go wrong, as her silver-clad crew braced themselves for the gun to mark their entry to the next stage of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Artemis Racing was fast but made mistakes - Challenger Semi-Final action at San Francisco
The cheers were just as strong for Artemis Racing when she finished 2’:11' after the Italian boat. Reflecting on the team’s performance, skipper Percy said; 'I’m hugely proud of this team. It has been a terrible period for all of us [following the fatal accident on May 9th in which Andrew Simpson was killed]. It was a huge achievement [by the entire team] to be here at all.'
For the record, Artemis Racing improved her performance against Luna Rossa on every day and in the fourth race she was just over 99% as good as the Italians. In addition, Artemis had the best top speed of 42.05 knots compared to 40.82 by Luna Rossa during the 15.49 mile course.
Will Artemis continue to be part of the America’s Cup? According to the team’s owner, Torbjorn Tornqvist, the log-term answer is in the affirmative. Iain Percy, viewing the immediate prospect, declared that the team was tired after round the clock working for the past three months and that all deserved a break.