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Luna Rossa beats hobbled Emirates, evens series

Posted: August 18, 2013 4:00 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2013 4:00 p.m.
 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Emirates Team New Zealand fell out of the second race of the Louis Vuitton Cup finals because of a mechanical problem Sunday, handing Italy's Luna Rossa a victory that evened the series at one apiece.

After nose-diving and losing two men overboard during its opening win, Emirates appeared to be sailing smoothly on the second day. The Kiwis pushed ahead by about 400 meters before the hydraulic system that controls the daggerboard malfunctioned near the end of the third leg of the five-leg race on foggy San Francisco Bay.

"The boats are driven by hydraulics," Barker said. "It's a bit of a problem when you can't tack or jibe the wing or rake the boards, the boat's pretty much crippled."

For the second straight day, officials called off the second race due to strong wind. Two makeup races will be held Monday, previously a scheduled day off.

The winner of the best-of-13 series will face Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup starting Sept. 7.

The first weekend of the challenger series has been more about survival than sailing. Both teams had to make overnight repairs following an opening day of damage and drama.

Emirates tore the trampoline tarp in the center of its catamaran when skipper Dean Barker put the hulls of the boat deep in the water trying to make a sharp turn at high speeds and in windy conditions. The frightening scene brought back chilling memories of when British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson died in the capsize of Swedish Team Artemis Racing's first boat during a training run May 9.

The Kiwis still won the opener because the Italians dropped out just seconds into the race after struggling to repair a new lifting system around their right daggerboard. Each team got a bit of a reprieve from the strong wind forcing a delay.

Regatta director Iain Murray expected a calmer wind but a stronger current Sunday, giving the already challenging conditions on the bay another twist. While the sun shined at the finish between Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, thick fog shrouded the start line near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Emirates slid over the top at the start, leaving Luna Rossa some difficult air in its path. The Kiwis held a 10-second lead on the first run and looked like the boat to beat again.

Instead, the hydraulic system broke and caused the catamaran to practically stall while they made repairs. The Italians surged ahead for an uncontested win, completing the 10.02-nautical-mile course in 25 minutes, 34 seconds.

Barker said his team made the repairs and would've sailed had Sunday's second race not been called off. While the victory came because of its opponent's mechanical error, Luna Rossa was happy to take a victory anyway it could.

The Kiwis went 5-0 against the Italians in the round-robins, including the opener that Luna Rossa boycotted because of a rules spat. The Kiwis twice beat the Italians by more than 5 minutes, and the closest margin was 2:19.

The course is three legs shorter than the one used during the round-robins. Two, five-leg races are planned each day to determine who will face Oracle.

Emirates earned the right to advance straight to the Louis Vuitton Cup final based on its performance in the round-robins. Luna Rossa swept Swedish Team Artemis Racing 4-0 in the semifinals.

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