x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Azurra and Artemis make the grade

The Italian and Swedish outfits beat their respective rivals to make the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Trophy.

A calm and sunny morning piled extra pressure on to the four teams racing in Elimination Round 2 of the Louis Vuitton Trophy today. The lack of breeze delayed the start by more than three hours, thus changing the best-of-three format to a sudden-death sail-off to ensure that the round would be completed before the semi-final. The first race between Artemis, with Terry Hutchinson on helm and Paul Cayard as skipper, and TeamOrigin, with Ben Ainslie steering and Iain Percy calling tactics, began as the breeze rose through 12 knots. On the first two legs, with brilliant match racing, TeamOrigin held the lead, but on the second beat a misjudged call on a wind shift allowed the Swedish team to overtake and go on to win by 38 seconds. "We are bitterly disappointed in today's result," said TeamOrigin's director, Mike Sanderson. "At this stage of the event, having it all count on one race is very tough."

With their campaign over, the team will take to the water to test its new TP52 yacht, which was delivered by the Auckland boatyard yesterday. For the second race, between All4One and Azzurra, the breeze had risen to a brisk 18 knots. A very close pre-start duel between Francesco Bruni and Sébastien Col saw Azzurra across the line first, with All4One taking a penalty. The Italians squeezed All4One in a tacking duel all the way to the first mark, to lead around by just nine seconds. At the bottom mark the Franco-German team's race fell apart, as they lost their spinnaker under the boat, then had to sail most of the second beat with a sheet wrapped around the rudder post. Jochen Schümann, All4One's skipper said he was disappointed to have lost on such a messy note but remained upbeat: "For sure it was exciting racing, in very tough conditions - high breezes close to 20 knots. Fighting to be in the semifinals was a good success for us." As the top team in the round robin, Emirates Team New Zealand chose Azzurra as their semi-final opponent, a repeat of last year's final in NIce, which the Italians won. Artemis will fight it out with Mascalzone Latino for the other place in the final. The semi-finals are a best-of-three format. slane@thenational.ae