Yachting: Italians lose solo race against time

By Paul Lewis

Lack of wind on San Francisco Bay leaves Luna Rossa three minutes on wrong side of official time limit.

Luna Rossa were so slow the race should have been adandoned. Photo / AP
Luna Rossa were so slow the race should have been adandoned. Photo / AP

It could have been complete farce. Luna Rossa raced against themselves yesterday - but should not have won.

The Italians completed their solo sail, scoring their second point of the Louis Vuitton regatta - but were so slow the race should have been abandoned.

They took 43 minutes and six seconds to complete the shorter, 5-leg course on San Francisco Bay. The only problem was the minimum time allowed by America's Cup rules was 40 minutes.

If neither boat in the race finishes within 40 minutes on that course, the race has to be abandoned and sailed again. With opponent Artemis' boat still in the shed, Luna Rossa raced alone.

To be fair, the fact that they didn't complete the course in time was not down to the boat or the crew. Wind conditions were down, the lightest of the regatta so far - not exactly gentle zephyrs but at times the breeze hovered close to the minimum allowable limit of five knots and gusted only to 13 knots.

The fault - if there ever can be one in a one-boat race - was down to the race committee. They somehow failed to detect that the race had not taken place in the required time parameters and neglected to abandon it. Instead of forcing the issue, an attack of commonsense broke out and the "race" result was allowed to stand.

Requiring Luna Rossa to race against themselves because they were too slow against themselves would have seemed the height of lunacy.

The fact that these giant 72-foot AC72 catamarans are so fast makes the idea of one of them failing to complete the course in time preposterous; perhaps that fooled the committee as well.

Faced with such light winds, Luna Rossa spent almost all of the race not doing what these boats have already become famous for - foiling. They flew a hull often enough but the increased drag when these multihull monsters do not have enough breeze to foil was obvious as Luna Rossa sometimes dragged round the course.

Emirates Team New Zealand, whose design basics the Italian boat shares, will have been interested and not entirely comfortable onlookers. Their AC72 is definitely happier in stronger breezes.

Having said all that, Luna Rossa at times still showed the ability of these boats to turn wind speed into performance - hitting more than 26 knots in 8-10 knots of wind on a downwind run.

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena, asked about the slow time said: "It's not up to me. I am not even sure what time we did. I know it was a slow race but, really, it doesn't make much difference. It was such light conditions ...

"We still got something out of it. It is all a learning process for us, for everybody. It was a chance to race and learn in light conditions."

Sirena also said he was happy with the Italian decision to block Artemis from using the "safety rudders" outlawed after the international jury decision last week.

The Swedish syndicate had indicated they would be hard pressed to compete in the regatta if they did not have the safety rudders but the Italians vetoed Team NZ's proposal to allow them special dispensation.

"It's in the trash can," was the succinct description of regatta director Iain Murray when asked for an update on the dispensation proposal.

Artemis are on track to launch their boat on Monday and are aiming to compete in the Louis Vuitton semifinals on August 7 - but many observers still feel they will not make it to the start line with the lack of time left to master such a demanding yacht.

Sirena said yesterday: "For sure, after 10 sailing days we were not trying to go round a mark - but Artemis have a really strong team with talent. So I am sure they will do everything possible and it is up to them to decide if they feel safe or not."

- NZ Herald

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