Louis Vuitton Cup Semifinals one week away

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28/07/2013 - San Francisco (USA CA) - 34th America's Cup - GMR_AC34JulyD21_0650 GMR_AC34JulyD21_0662 GMR_AC34JulyD21_0683 GMR_AC34JulyD22_0776 GMR_AC34JulyD22_0790 GMR_AC34JulyD22_0838 GMR_AC34JulyD22_0912 GMR_AC34JulyD24_1619

The opening rounds of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challenger Series, draw to a close on Thursday with Luna Rossa Challenge scheduled against Artemis Racing. Luna Rossa has indicated that it will be on the start line, but it’s unlikely that Artemis Racing will show. Skipper Iain Percy said on Sunday that his team is still targeting the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semifinals on Tuesday, Aug. 6, as their first race.

The semifinal series between the Italian and Swedish teams is a best-of-seven, with the winner being the first to score 4 points. After Race 1 on Aug. 6, subsequent races follow on Aug. 7, 9 and 10. If the series extends beyond four races, additional race days are scheduled Aug. 12, 13 and 15.

All races in the semifinal match are scheduled to start at 1:15 pm PT, one hour later than the starts over the past month. Tickets for bleacher seating in the East Grandstands and The Deck at the America’s Cup Village, at Marina Green, are available for purchase. Free viewing opportunities are also available at the America’s Cup Village, America’s Cup Park, at Piers 27/29, and all along the Embarcadero.

The series pits an unknown quantity in Artemis Racing against a quantity that is still in development, Luna Rossa. The Italian team has the benefit of having sailed live competition on the racecourse, while Artemis Racing has been in a struggle against time and emotion since the tragic capsize on May 9 that took the life of Andrew Simpson.

Artemis Racing launched its second AC72, dubbed “Big Blue” for its striking navy blue hulls, on July 22 and has been training since. The team took great encouragement that it could foil with the new yacht on Day 1, but also understands that racing action is far different from training on your own.

The casual observer might readily recognize some differences between the two AC72s. Most notably, Artemis Racing has a wing sail with six flaps as opposed to the four flaps on Luna Rossa. For Artemis Racing, the wing is a third-generation product.

The hull shapes also appear to have differences. The sections on Luna Rossa seem more U-shaped with more rocker, to enhance upwind performance. Artemis Racing’s hull shapes seem flatter on the bottom, which might mean better performance off the wind.

In terms of crew performance it would seem that Luna Rossa has an edge, simply because it has been on the racecourse against live competition. But even Luna Rossa has had troubles staying on its foils consistently through jibes, having its wing sail set perfectly coming out of tacks, and coordinating the precise timing of boards up and down.

“These boats are pretty new. We made probably a 20 percent improvement in boatspeed over the past 10 days. We are still developing our boat every single day,” said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. “For experience, I can say that time on the water is helpful to go around the marks, but Artemis Racing is full of great sailors and I’m pretty sure they will push hard to be ready to race.”

One thing that might work in favor of Artemis Racing is the newness of the AC72. In the grand scheme of things, the AC72 Class could still be considered in its infant stages. It was just one year ago (Aug. 1, 2012) when the world’s first AC72 went for its maiden sail. Great leaps have been made with the development of the wing sails and the introduction of hydrofoils, but the development for every team is still vertical.

“In terms of the performance of our boat, it’s difficult to predict. Even the big questions like foiling were unknowns to all of us for awhile,” Percy said. “In terms of exact performance of your foils or your hull, it is genuinely quite hard to assess. We have our numbers from our first few days and compared them against the numbers we see from these guys out racing. Obviously, they are a long way ahead and sailing the boat better with more efficiency, but we’re doing everything we can to bridge that gap.”
We all get to see how far Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa have advanced beginning Tuesday, Aug. 6.

—Sean McNeill