Swedish team suspend sailing program after being blitzed by Oracle

Artemis Racing, one of Team New Zealand's two rivals for the Louis Vuitton Cup, have been forced off the water once again with their hexed AC72 programme hitting the rocks.

The Swedish team have decided to suspend their sailing programme after recent practice-racing sessions with Oracle in San Francisco Bay revealed the Artemis boat was way off the pace.

Team New Zealand spies in San Francisco reported Artemis was several knots slower than Oracle's USA 17 during their training, while other onlookers described the big red boat as "an absolute dog".

Artemis, who had already built a new wingsail for their first boat, have returned to the shed to make further modifications.


Iain Percy, Artemis' sailing director, said lining up against Oracle provided the team with an important reality check.

"In some ways it was tough," said Percy when asked about the results of the two-boat training, "We've learned we needed to make some changes to the boat and hence she's come into the shed.

"We have to look at a few things. We enjoyed being out there with [Oracle]. We all know what one boat sailing is like, you go out and think you're making improvements and then suddenly there's another boat there and it's huge [what you learn]."

The Artemis boat has been plagued with problems from the outset, with a damaged wingsail setting their launch date back by several months. The Swedish team then incurred further structural damage to the platform during load testing in October.

The delays have put the Challenger of Record for the 34th America's Cup well behind in their testing programme.

According to the America's Cup official noticeboard, Artemis have sailed their boat just five times since the beginning of February, and only managed to squeeze in 17 sail days during the first sail period, which ended on January 31.

But despite having little data to draw on, Artemis chief executive Paul Cayard has confirmed his team will be launching a new boat in May.

Writing on his personal website, Cayard said the building of the team's second AC72 was well underway in Sweden and they expected to be sailing boat two in San Francisco on May 2.

With their first boat back in the shed for unspecified modifications, it is not clear whether Artemis will get any further AC72 sailing in before they launch their new boat.

Team New Zealand are most advanced with their sailing programme, using their full allowable 30 days before the end of January, and have been out on the water in boat two nine times since February 12. But they will lose valuable testing time during a six-week break while their boat and shore operations are shipped to San Francisco in April.

Luna Rossa, who have been based in Auckland over summer, have abandoned plans to build a second boat and will instead focus on fine-tuning their first boat.