America’s Cup in Jeddah: Luna Rossa convinces, AC 40 show in stiff breeze

America's Cup
Luna Rossa at America’s Cup preliminaries in Jeddah

Day two of the Jeddah Preliminaries and finally comes a spectacle worthy of the America’s Cup, with the AC 40s excelling in 15-18 knots of thermal breeze delivering spectacular and hard-fought racing. After a positive debut day, with the first victory of these Preliminary Regattas brought home, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was called upon to give continuity to the progress that emerged yesterday, and we can say that the goal was met in full.

America’s Cup – Excellent Luna Rossa in Jeddah preliminaries.

The crew composed of Ruggero Tita (starboard helmsman), Marco Gradoni (port helmsman), Vittorio Bissaro (starboard trimmer), and Umberto Molineris (port trimmer), at ease in races where there is close hand-to-hand combat with opponents, works great. Reacting great in tense situations were the two helmsmen, as seen in Race 3, earlier in the day, able to come out well even from complex situations. Also comforting was regatta number 6 in the series, where Luna Rossa got off to a bad start, last with a penalty, but made a comeback to play for the podium in a photo finish. The Italian team’s day ended with a 1-2-4 split, confirming it in second place in the Jeddah event standings, behind a Team New Zealand in its usual role as the boat to beat, and ahead of Alinghi Red Bull Racing.

Two more fleet races are scheduled tomorrow, plus the final match race between the first and second ranked teams.

Jeddah Preliminary Regattas – Race 4

Strong thermal breeze arrives over Jeddah, with a structured sea breeze between 15 and 18 knots in intensity and a chop to make things more interesting. In fact, the upwind speed of the AC 40s rises to a whopping 30 knots upwind. Good start by Luna Rossa, launched and precise on time. Tight race in the first upwind with 3 boats in 10 meters, and Luna Rossa fighting for the lead. Close battle between Luna Rossa and American Magic with the Americans eventually getting through with an attack from downwind. Late in the upwind Luna Rossa holds out in an awkward position on the Americans’ stern, right tack, with Ruggero Tita at the helm, and American Magic splits by going to the right gate while the Italians choose the left gate.

America’s Cup – Watch highlights of Race 4

In the stern, speeds rise above 40 knots and the battle in the lead between Luna Rossa and American Magic continues. Sidereal cross in the middle of the side, with Marco Gradoni passing mure to the left on American Magic at a high-risk juncture, the Americans protest but the umpires do not intervene. Luna Rossa rounds the stern gate with a 5-second lead over Paul Goodison and co. The Italian boat lengthens in the second upwind, proving solid in terms of pure speed as well. Second windward mark in control for the Italian quartet composed of Marco Gradoni, Ruggero Tita, Umberto Molineris and Vittorio Bissaro.

America's CupLuna Rossa solo in the second stern, fast and in control, 20 seconds ahead of the pursuers. The tune does not change in the third windward leg, with Luna stabilizing the lead around 300 meters and the race going downhill. The lead rises to nearly 400 meters aft, with Luna Rossa crossing the finish line ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand and American Magic. The Tita-Gradoni pair at the helm works, the understanding with trimmers Bissaro and Molineris works, and it is a shining Moon.

Jeddah Preliminary Regattas – Race 5

The wind intensity for the second race of the day does not change at the moment, with sea breeze stable at 15 knots. Luna Rossa chooses the middle zone of the line, with Ineos Orient Express and American Magic starting OCS. Halfway upwind the New Zealanders take the lead, followed closely by Luna Rossa. Luna’s upwind speed was excellent, holding the Kiwis and turning just 1 second behind Team New Zealand at the windward gate. Kiwis try to stretch in the first stern, with the Italian AC 40 firmly second.

LR arrives at the aft gate a hundred meters late, 4 seconds on the water. It reignites the upwind duel of close tacking with the Kiwis. Decisive moment on the upwind finish, with Team New Zealand leaving the mark and Luna Rossa passing, Ruggero Tita manages to take a very complex long layline to calibrate. The lead this time at the gate is Luna Rossa’s by 4 seconds. Gradoni crosses ahead again with the left tack, and Luna tries to defend a margin of a few dozen meters. Luna comes up starboard tack at the final crossing for the stern gate and passes comfortably with still 4 seconds to spare.

America’s Cup – Watch highlights of Race 5

 

Approaching left tack instead at the first crossing of the last upwind, Luna is forced to lean back to leave water for the New Zealanders. Situation reversed at the next intersection, with Luna countering the New Zealanders and veering into the face. The Kiwis run off to port, the Italian boat comes up starboard tack at the last upwind crossing before the gate and holds the lead at the start of the stern with a 3-second advantage. At the first stern crossing, however, New Zealand passes with the starboard tack, but the gap is minimal. The Kiwis manage to close in and win the race by 4 seconds, but it is a Luna Rossa that continues to convince.

America’s Cup – Preliminary Regattas – Race 6

Steady winds also for the sixth race of the series, fixed between 15 and 18 knots. Luna Rossa aggressive at the start, tries to stay close to the line and starts on the right but stumbles into the water and fouls Alinghi for tacking too close to the Swiss boat. Uphill start for the Italian boat, which is forced to chase in last position. At the head of the fleet, the fight is between the usual Team New Zealand and Alinghi Red Bull Racing. Luna Rossa turns the upwind gate 18 seconds late. Stern overtakes Britannia, then also Orient Express, confirming excellent speed.

At the stern gate New Zealand is in the lead, Luna Rossa transits 20 seconds behind with a stern finish with some smearing in gate selection. Instead, Alinghi emerged at the head of the race with an excellent second windward leg, with Luna Rossa battling Britannia for fourth place with the Italians shortening the lead to 16 seconds.

America’s Cup – Watch highlights of Race 6

The Kiwis were back in the lead by the end of the third windward leg, with the Italians also catching up sharply on the leading trio, passing Alinghi near the gate in the wake of New Zealand and American Magic, just 8 seconds behind. The Kiwis go on to win the race, with American Magic second, Alighi third in a photo finish with Luna Rossa for a thrilling finish. An all-out regatta by the Italian team, confirming growth in this second round of Preliminaries.

Mauro Giuffrè

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