America’s Cup 2021: Luna Rossa make fast start with semifinal wins over American Magic

Win the start, sail a clean race and take the win.

It might not be as easy as it sounds, but that was how things played out on the opening day of the Prada Cup semifinals.

Getting the better of the start in both races on Friday, Luna Rossa took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against American Magic in convincing fashion.

In his live blog of the races for the Herald, AUT’s sailing expert Mark Orams said Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill made all the difference in the Americans’ first competitive racing since sustaining serious damage to Patriot following their dramatic capsize two weeks ago.

“It was always a risk with so many repairs and replacements that the boat would go into the racing today not fully cocked, and without the confidence of the crew,” Orams said.

“So while people might criticise their poor starts, right from entry they did not want to engage with Luna Rossa. they did all they could to stay away from them, and that just saw Jimmy Spithill’s eyes light up.

“He just crucified them in those starts.”

The races followed an eerily similar script; Luna Rossa got the better of the start, held or slightly increased their lead through the first five gates, before a slower leg on the fifth from American Magic ended with a splashdown coming around the gate, essentially taking them out of the race.

The turn around the right-hand marker at the end of the upwind leg was a problem for American Magic in both races – with a costly splashdown in the first race followed by two more in the same spot in the second race.

In race one, Luna Rossa won by 2:43, with a 3:07 win in the second race.

While American Magic looked good at times and had plenty of speed, Luna Rossa put pressure on the Americans from the start and showed their intentions with two well-sailed races in high winds.

While the wind speed dropped from about 19 knots to 15 knots between the two races, both teams consistently sailed above 40 knots, while both surpassed 49 knots in the opening race.

With a two-race lead, Luna Rossa are firmly in the driver’s seat ahead of the two races on Saturday, with conditions expected to be light and variable over the weekend.

According to Orams, conditions on Saturday could determine if the Americans have any chance of a comeback.

“New conditions tomorrow – the last big hope for American Magic. A change of fortune maybe,” he said.

“I think that Dean Barker has lost confidence in this boat, and I think now the brave face Terry Hutchinson is putting on is just that. Deep down, they know that their chances of staying alive in this regatta are slim.

“Patriot has control problems in these conditions. If Barker cannot sail the boat aggressively because he is worried about the stability of flight, he cannot sail how he wants to.”

Race One

Before Luna Rossa took to the water for the opening Prada Cup semifinal race against American Magic, sailor Pierluigi de Felice indicated the team had made big gains in the heavier conditions.

In the first race, they showed exactly that.

Luna Rossa took out the first contest of the semifinal against American Magic by more than two minutes, sailing in winds averaging about two knots lower than the upper limit of the scale.

The Italian syndicate made a statement from the outset, dominating the start to get out to a sizeable lead from the starting line.

American Magic began to close that gap straight away, with slightly faster boat speed early on, however it wasn’t long before the Italians began to match them.

With an 18-second lead through the first gate, Luna Rossa attacked the first downwind leg with confidence and extended their lead to 22 seconds through the second gate, and further to 33 seconds through the third and fourth gates.

Unable to make headway into the deficit, things got worse for the Americans who dropped trailed by almost a minute through the fifth gate, but dropped off their foils rounding the marker and lost plenty of ground.

From there, the contest was won for Luna Rossa – who simply had to sail a safe race from that point on and avoid a major mistake of their own.

They did so to claim the win in a race in which both teams surpassed 49 knots.

Heading into the Cup racing?

• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.

• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.

• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.

• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.

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