A Fresh Start for the Cup?

For months now, it feels like Cup fans have been waiting for some kind of a sign as to whether the 34th America’s Cup will be worth the effort. Unfortunately, despite some positives, the event has been afflicted with a serious case of “one step forward, two steps back.”

Bottom line: we are now a full month into the much-promoted “Summer of Racing,” and there has yet to be a single decent race.

Which brings us to Tuesday’s matchup between Luna Rossa, a team that was so thoroughly trounced by Emirates Team New Zealand that is was disqualified one time for finishing so far behind, and Artemis, a team that missed out on the entire Louise Vuitton round robin series because its boat wasn’t ready.

Loick Peyron’s onboard “Loick-Cam” captures Artemis helmsman Nathan Outteridge celebrating a successful full-foiling gybe

Although Cup watchers have been pretty much written Artemis off as a lost cause ever since the team’s fatal capsize, it appears the team is now back on track and figuring things out—fast. Just this past weekend, for example, the boat was doing full foiling gybes—a maneuver considered crucial to success, since dropping a hull, or hulls, back into the water can mean the loss of hundreds of yards of distance racing against boats travelling 30-plus knots.

The Artemis crew has been doing a pretty good job in terms straight-line speed, ever since successfully transition the boat into full-foiling mode on its maiden sail.

In other words, the Italians, who have shown themselves to still be more than a little rusty—at least when sailing against ETNZ—just might find themselves losing this thing, if they aren’t careful, in which case it will be Artemis that advances to take on ETNZ in the Louis Vuittons finals.

Team Artemis is pulling out all the stops in an effort to get their program up to speed, and it shows

Better still, it’s starting to feel like a little genuine humanity may actually be creeping into the 34th America’s Cup. Thus far the face of the event has been largely the combination of a fully corporatized Team Oracle USA and the self-righteously poker-faced, almost cyborg-like cabal that it ETNZ. Recently though, there have been times when despite all they’ve been through, the guys aboard Artemis actually seem to be having—dare I say it—fun.  

Whether it’s because they’ve got nothing to lose, whether it’s because the tragic loss of strategist Andrew “Bart” Simpson has reminded them that life is a gift to be enjoyed, or whether it’s because they’ve got Frenchman Loick Peyron aboard, and he just loves sailing so much he can’t help himself (check out the “Loick-Cam” at 1:05 in this video) is anybody’s guess.

Whatever the reason, it’s been a long-time coming and damn good to see. And who knows, if the sailors themselves actually start enjoying themselves, maybe we fans will too. 

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