Luna Rossa takes a second win in the Louis Vuitton semis, but are the Italians making enough progress?

You can look at Race 2 in the best of seven Louis Vuitton semi finals in one of two ways. One would be to see Luna Rossa’s win as a second solid victory over Artemis. For the most part, Chris Draper and his crew on the silver dream racer continued to look stacks better in their boat handling than they did a few weeks ago. But is it enough?

Draper’s words and body language in his brief interview after the race suggested that he was far from happy. Yesterday the team had been all smiles as they crossed the finish line, but they were smiles of relief rather than satisfaction. Today, despite a similar winning margin of 2min 6sec, there were no smiles.

“We sailed an OK race but we could definitely do better,” said Draper. “The new tips [on the foils] are feeling good but I know we can sail much better than that.”

The fact is that apart from another point on the board, today didn’t go well for Luna Rossa. Outwitted at the start once again, the Italian team were led off the start line by Artemis. Sure, they rounded the mark in the lead but only just and only because Artemis couldn’t seem to get up on their foils, something that seemed to dog them throughout the race.

The Italians delivered their slickest gybe of the race when it counted the most and converted a slim lead into the beginnings of a winning margin. But while they pulled ahead on the downwind legs there were other problems and slip ups.

An unwieldy and dodgy looking gybe on the second downwind leg saw the leeward bow do a dangerous face plant at a critical moment. Draper kept his cool while the rest of us slid to the front of our sofas and drew breath like a turbo charged Dyson. That was close and a clear demonstration of how quickly these boats can bite.

Tactics were also an issue today for Luna Rossa. On the second and final beat Artemis took a solid minute out of a two minute lead by heading into the shore rather than out into the bay. Of course you could argue that in such light and puffy conditions the dice simply rolled in Artemis’ favour, but a shift is a shift and that’s not the first time we’ve seen Percy and Co. call the shots better than the Italian team.

And then there’s the gybe into the bottom gate. Here the breeze seemed to switch off in the last few metres causing the gybe angles into the gate to go haywire. Twice Draper and Co. got it wrong, each time you could hear him cursing.

But a win is a win and before I get accused of biased reporting it is of course important to see the results as they are and not how they could have been. But beating Artemis is only part of the plot, the real issue for Luna Rossa is to improve sufficiently to beat the Kiwis later this month and at present they don’t appear to be climbing the performance curve fast enough.

Artemis also had a difficult day today. Foiling seemed to be a big issue and once again the team lost most, if not all of its distance to Luna Rossa on the downwind legs. Gybing on foils is also still a problem. But it is easy to see how close the Swedish team is to making a big step forward. If they could get onto their foils and stay there for the downwind leg they are going to give the Italians a big problem. Percy’s team proved once again that it can be quicker upwind and is better tactically. What we don’t know is whether they can learn the tricks they need to on their day off, (a stupidly big ask, but then this team has thrived on that for weeks now), or whether it can change the boat or foil configuration to make the improvements they need.

The bottom line is that there’s one team that’s really under pressure to perform, and it’s not Artemis.

Thursday is a maintenance day before racing resumes on Friday and Saturday. By the end of the weekend we could know who the duelling pair in the final will be. But I have a hunch we won’t, and that would have to be good news for the racing – wouldn’t it?

LV Semi Final Race 2        ITA               SWE
Distance Sailed (km)        36.809         36.725
Average Speed (kts)         21.96            21.09
Max Speed (kts)               37.12            34.49
Winning margin                2min 6sec