The good news is that at least a bit of a real race took place on Tuesday, with a dramatic start and an actual lead change on the second leg. The bad news is that while their boat appears sound, team Artemis has a long way to go if it’s to defeat Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton semi-final round.
While no one would deny that Artemis has heart, there’s no getting around the fact that it takes a tremendous amount of practice to master the art of AC72 sailing—and the team has only had a handful of days to figure out how the new boat works.
Despite a fast start in which they were able to immediately pop up onto the foils as it crossed the line, the team had trouble with its gybes, dropping back into the water as opposed to staying up on the foils, like Luna Rossa. In fact, the boat seemed to almost wallow in the middle of a number of maneuvers, yielding hundreds of yards of distance to Luna Rossa as the Italians surged ahead at speeds in excess of 30 knots.
Luna Rossa also appeared to be much more stable on its foils in general and showed better straight-line speed for much of the race, despite sustaining a tear to the wing that had to be repaired just minutes before the start. In the end, it was Luna Rossa by 1 minute 57 seconds at the end of seven legs and 15.83 miles of racing. (fast forward to 23:40 for the beginning of the actual race footage)
“As we knew, the difference between the boats is downspeed downwind and in maneuvers,” said Artemis skipper Iain Percy afterward. “We suffer from a legacy of our boat not originally being foiling. The rudder positions and size, and rudder elevators size makes jibing harder, but we’ll get better that way.”
Still, while the substantial delta at the finish comes as a disappointment, there’s no denying that the first part of the race finally delivered at least a taste of the excitement that was the goal of Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts et al when they first set about crafting this latest America’s Cup. Sprinting toward the first mark, spray flying and the grinders giving it their all as battled around the first bear-away, the boats put on a show that more than made up for the anticlimactic finish.
A little more of this, and we just might end up with an America’s Cup we can all get excited about again. Only time will tell.