Luna Rossa picks up win in first Louis Vuitton Cup semifinal race 

click to enlarge Luna Rossa appears to be airborne as it makes a turn Tuesday. - ERIC RISBERG/AP
  • Eric Risberg/AP
  • Luna Rossa appears to be airborne as it makes a turn Tuesday.

Artemis Racing got into a race for the first time during the Louis Vuitton Cup on Tuesday in San Francisco Bay, but its lack of practice time showed as Luna Rossa Challenge ran away with a victory in the opening race of the semifinals.

The victory gives Luna Rossa the early advantage in the best-of-seven series that will determine who faces Emirates Team New Zealand in the Vuitton Cup finals. The winner of that series will go on to face Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup Finals in September.

Artemis got off to a strong start, crossing the start line just as the opening gun sounded, but once the teams started maneuvering on the course, Luna Rossa took a lead that continued to grow throughout the seven-leg race.

Luna Rossa almost met disaster as its wing sail tore just before the race started, but some quick repairs held through the race, as it finished two minutes ahead of its competition.

Luna Rossa noticed the problem with the sail immediately after docking out, made a quick repair, then nearly had a fatal setback while in the starting zone. Crew member Nick Hutton was still dangling in the air, taping down the loose bits of sail three minutes before the start time, but ultimately got the job done in time.

"To be honest, I'm very proud of how the team reacted," Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper said. "We had our backs against the wall for sure at that moment, and we did a good job of getting back into the race and settling down and getting a win in the race."

In the end, however, Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said getting the first point of the round was the most important thing.

"If it's coming off, it's coming off," he said of the torn sail. "There is nothing really you can do. Obviously we had a conversation for all the length of the race, but in the end it's positive."

Following a crash on May 9 that claimed the life of Artemis member Andrew "Bart" Simpson, the team scrambled to get a boat back on the water in time for the Vuitton Cup, finally setting sail on July 22, though it was not ready to compete before the end of the round-robin series.

Now, having had only two weeks on the water with its new vessel, the team finds itself working to catch up to the competition.

Despite the loss and the obvious need for work going forward, Artemis skipper Iain Percy said this was still a moment he will remember in a positive light.

"It was just such a cool feeling," he said. "I was pretty aware they were going to come straight past us on the first jibe. It's the hardest maneuver on the whole race is the first jibe, the lightest winds, and something that their boat is well designed for. But still, just to be out there, leading them to mark 1 after all we'd all been through was enough to put a smile on my face for a long time."

Louis Vuitton Cup Semifinals

Artemis Racing vs. Luna Rossa

Luna Rossa leads series 1-0

Race 1: Luna Rossa def. Artemis

Today: 1:15 p.m.

Friday: 1:15 p.m.

Saturday: 1:15 p.m.

*Monday: 1:15 p.m.

*Aug. 13: 1:15 p.m.

*Aug. 15: 1:15 p.m.

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