AC World Series Match Racing Championship in San Diego.
Artemis Racing has advanced into the Semi Final beating a red-hot Aleph team to join the final four.
Artemis Racing prevailed in the last match of the day was but the result was in doubt until the very end.
'It was never over, until it was over,' said a relieved Terry Hutchinson, the skipper of the Swedish boat after racing. 'It was dicey out there… We had to hang tough. It’s a testament to the team that we were able to get through.'
'We did a good job in both starts, had a nice lead, but it really didn’t count for much,' agreed Artemis tactician Iain Percy, speaking about the conditions. 'You don’t always get dealt a good hand.'
The day dawned with a thick fog enveloping San Diego Bay but it had burned off by mid-morning, allowing a light 7-10 knot sea breeze to build. By early afternoon however, the fog settled in again, dropping the temperature and keeping the wind light and shifty in the bay.
Aleph skipper Pierre Pennec led his crew into battle five times on Thursday (although only four counted), bullying his way through the fleet from the lowest seeded pair. After dispatching China Team, Team Korea and ORACLE Racing Coutts, Aleph ran out of magic in the match against Terry Hutchinson and Artemis.
The final result was heartbreaking for Aleph, who saw the first attempt at the match against Artemis Racing abandoned just as Pennec and crew had overcome an early penalty to take the lead. An external technical issue had caused the race course boundaries to disappear, affecting the race on the water and giving the Race Committee no choice but to abandon the contest.
In the second start sequence for the match, Hutchinson and crew were again able to put a penalty on to Aleph in the pre-start, gaining an early advantage they would need to fight to protect all the way around the course. The final race was sailed in extremely light, variable and shifty winds, meaning the early lead Artemis Racing had built was never safe. In fact, on the final upwind, Aleph drew even during one cross, passing just inches behind, but Hutchinson held his nerve, and protected his narrow advantage to the finish.
'We were leading in the first match before it was abandoned,' said an exhausted Pennec, after completing his full dance card of races. 'In the second start we had a penalty, but we did well with the windshifts to match them right up to the last mark, so it was a good day for us. I really wanted to beat Artemis, but it’s normal (they’re a strong team, higher ranked).'
By losing the opening match to Aleph, China Team finishes in ninth place. The other teams to fall today, Green Comm Racing, Team Korea, ORACLE Racing Coutts and Aleph will race again on Saturday for places eight through five. On Friday, the four Semi Finalists will race in ‘best of three’ matches.
Results – San Diego Match Racing Championship – Qualifying Matches
Q1. Aleph beat China Team
Q2. ORACLE Racing Coutts beat Green Comm Racing
Q3. Aleph beat Team Korea
Q4. Aleph beat ORACLE Racing Coutts
Q5. Artemis Racing beat Aleph
Artemis Racing qualifies for the Semi Finals joining Energy Team, Emirates Team New Zealand, and ORACLE Racing Spithill each of whom previously qualified via the seeding races on Wednesday.
Friday's Semi Final Matches (first to two)
SF1. Emirates Team New Zealand vs. ORACLE Racing Spithill
SF2. Energy Team vs. Artemis Racing
America's Cup website