Luna Rossa: Wing 1 and port entry for Race 1

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Race 1 of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semifinals is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 1:15 pm PT, between Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa Challenge. Race 2 follows on Wednesday before a break on Thursday.

The race will be broadcast live on the America’s Cup YouTube channel, subject to territorial restrictions. You can also follow the action via the official America’s Cup app or Virtual Eye.

Today, Luna Rossa Challenge said that it will use Wing 1 and enter the pre-start on port tack. Helmsman Chris Draper on Friday alluded to the fact the team might use its first wing.

“We had a bit of damage on Wing 2, the most recent wing we have,” said Draper. “We’d like to use Wing 2 because it is more refined, but Wing 1 is just as good and we’ve spent a lot of time working on that, making it good and reliable.”

The racecourse is expected to be the seven-leg course, meaning a race of approximately 45 to 48 minutes, and the Italian team has chosen to enter the start box on port for Race 1.

The new pre-start format used in the 34th America’s Cup shortens the period to two minutes from five minutes, and allows the port yacht gets to enter the start box 10 seconds earlier than the starboard yacht. Depending on whom you speak with, this may or may not provide an advantage to one or the other.

An informal poll of experts associated with the America’s Cup produced different answers, none that were compelling. One school of thought says that if you’re comfortable with your time and distance software, entering on port would allow you to line up for a rip-roaring start after making your tack or jibe to approach the line.

Counter to that thinking is that the starboard yacht will be able to watch your maneuvers and line up its entry to tack on top or gain a late hook.

We’ll let Ray Davies, tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand, offer the final word. “There aren’t too many moves you can pull off in this type of start. It’s a short time period, enough for one or two maneuvers,” Davies said.

Perhaps the semifinals will afford a clearer understanding of the value of entering on port or starboard.

On the racecourse, it’ll be a case of the practiced versus the non-practiced, or those with little practice. Luna Rossa heads into the race with 74 days of training on its AC72. Artemis Racing has seven days of practice in “Big Blue.”

Both teams were off the water today, but both spent the weekend on the water. Yesterday Artemis Racing hooked up with Emirates Team New Zealand for some pre-start practices when Luna Rossa headed back to base early (see video at bottom of story).

“They were happy to get into it,” Kiwi skipper Dean Barker said of Artemis Racing. “They got their act together, were throwing it around the start line, and were sailing quite aggressively. It was good to sail with them and see they were right into it. In the end we did four or five pre-starts and first reaches. It was good to go through that and get as much practice as we can.”

Practice aside, the two designs have some differences that make this match up far from certain. Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa both have two-element wings, but Artemis Racing has six flaps as opposed to four for Luna Rossa. Theoretically, the extra flaps would mean greater control of the twist of the wing and the power in the sail.

In the water, Artemis Racing’s hull shapes are slightly different from Luna Rossa’s.

“I think Luna Rossa has a slightly higher-volume hull shape with more rocker profile through the mid-section. We’re probably a slightly lower volume, slightly lower freeboard shape. That’s probably main differences between the two,” said Adam May, Artemis Racing’s Foiling Adviser and member of the Performance and Analysis Team.

“Off the wind you’re hopefully foiling, so hull shapes are less relevant for that. I think they may have a shape that benefits more maneuvering, the rocker profile and volume are helpful for maneuvers and tacking well. Our’s is probably happier in straight line, top end speeds. The contribution of the hull shape is quite a small factor now relative to the foils. That’s the biggest difference. If you want to change the mode of the boat in any way, the foils are the big ticket item,” May said.

The semifinal series is a best-of-seven, meaning the first team to score 4 points wins. If it is extended to the limit the series would last until Thursday, Aug. 15.

—Sean McNeill

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