Luna Rossa seizes commanding lead in Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals 

click to enlarge Luna Rossa picked up another win in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday. The Italian boat needs just two more victories to secure its spot in the Vuitton Cup finals. - ERIC RISBERG/AP
  • Eric Risberg/ap
  • Luna Rossa picked up another win in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday. The Italian boat needs just two more victories to secure its spot in the Vuitton Cup finals.

Luna Rossa took a 2-0 lead over Artemis Racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals with a win in difficult conditions on San Francisco Bay on Wednesday.

With the victory, the Italians have a chance to sweep the best-of-seven series over the weekend, with the next races scheduled for Friday and Saturday. The winner faces Emirates Team New Zealand in the Vuitton Cup finals, which determines who will face Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup Finals in September.

The shifting conditions made it a difficult day for both teams.

"It was one of those days that even if we sailed around on our own, you'd be frustrated," Artemis helmsman Nathan Outteridge said. "It was such a tricky day in terms of the pressure differences and how shifty it was."

For the second day in a row, Artemis was first across the starting line and stayed in contention through the first gate, but Luna Rossa outmaneuvered the competition through the second leg, and had a 1-minute, 22-second lead through the second gate.

Artemis challenged midway through the race after Luna Rossa took a hard nose dive on the fourth leg, then came almost to a standstill while crossing through the fifth gate, where it had added 50 seconds onto its lead.

The dive sent a wall of water over half the crew, but team members said they are used to taking hits like that by now.

"You can see it coming so you're ready for it," Luna Rossa bowman Nick Hutton said. "My job at that point is to let the board up and it's hard to do that when you're under water, but it's important that you do it right."

One leg later, Artemis had gained nearly a minute on its competition, but in the end, it was Luna Rossa across the finish line 2 minutes, 6 seconds ahead of Artemis.

Artemis' lack of experience on the water together was apparent as their ability to get their 72-foot catamaran up on its foils and making jibes throughout the course was lacking compared to Luna Rossa's performance.

"Today was a big improvement from our previous day of sailing," Outteridge said. "It may not have looked like we were sailing that great on the race course, but I think every hour we go sailing, we're getting better. Whether we're going to get good enough to win a race, time's only going to tell."

Artemis had less than two weeks on the water with its new boat after a crash on May 9 that took the life of crewman Andrew "Bart" Simpson. Artemis has a day of practice today before facing Luna Rossa again Friday.

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