Team Luna Rossa, led by Chris Draper, has won the final fleet race in Naples, Italy, collecting 50 points. This fantastic victory was followed by celebrations among the tens of thousands of Italian America’s Cup fans present at the Naples waterfront to see their heroes.
“We’re very pleased with the event, with the team effort,” an excited Draper said afterwards. “We didn’t have huge expectations, but to come away with a first (in the fleet racing) and a second (in the match racing) is awesome.”
Conditions were light, tricky and testing on Sunday, but Draper and his crew were up to the challenge. As was James Spithill and his ORACLE Racing crew, who appeared to be dead and buried in last place early in the race, only to recover and claim an impressive second place.
“The key thing was hanging in there and looking for the opportunities, and there were plenty out there,” Spithill said. “JK (tactician John Kostecki) and the guys did a very nice job… In those sorts of conditions you can go from hero to zero in a matter of seconds. We knew we just had to hang tough and wait for the opportunities. The guys found some good ways back and got us up there.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the Match Racing Championship was decided when Terry Hutchinson and his Artemis Racing team took advantage of a pre-start mistake by Chris Draper’s team to sail away with a win in the sudden-death Final. The victory was a vindication of sorts for Artemis, who had capsized in the first race of the regatta, damaging their wing and being shut out of the points on Wednesday.
“I can’t say enough about the effort from the guys on the boat and on the shore,” Hutchinson said. “After Wednesday, we’d have taken today’s result, that’s for sure. Our team trainer says it’s not how you fall down, but how you get up. Now we have to come back in a few weeks in Venice and work on our consistency.”
No records were set in this edition of the AC500 Speed Trials, as the light winds meant the fastest runs came at the end, during a brief period of stronger conditions. ORACLE Racing Bundock was able to fend off Artemis Racing by a microscopic .02 seconds to post the fastest time.
A major story in Naples has been the enthusiasm of the city as shown by the size of the crowds in the event village. Sunday was no exception, with the crowds lined deep along the waterfront to watch the action. Much of the support, unsurprisingly, was for Luna Rossa.
“We sailed along the shore after the finish and it’s insane to see how many people are here,” said Luna Rossa’s Draper. “As a sailor you’d never imagine having so many people watching. It’s great for the sport, and great to be part of an Italian team in front of all these people. We’re very proud.”
The America’s Cup World Series now packs up and moves north to Venice, for the fifth stop on the circuit in May.
The results from Naples mean there is a new leader on the overall AC World Series Championship leaderboard. ORACLE Racing Spithill has overhauled Emirates Team New Zealand to lead by a slender one point after four events. The 2011-2012 AC World Series concludes in Newport, Rhode Island on July 1, where it appears the Championship will be decided.
Fleet Racing Championship – Standings (seven races):
1. Luna Rossa – Piranha (Helmsman: Chris Draper); 92 points
2. ORACLE Racing – Spithill (Skipper: James Spithill); 77 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (Skipper: Dean Barker); 60 points
4. Energy Team (Skipper: Yann Guichard); 54 points
5. Team Korea (Skipper: Nathan Outteridge); 49 points
6. Luna Rossa – Swordfish (Helmsman: Paul Campbell-James); 41 points
7. Artemis Racing (Skipper: Terry Hutchinson); 40 points
8. ORACLE Racing – Bundock (Skipper: Darren Bundock); 37 points
9. China Team (Skipper: Fred Le Peutrec); 15 points
Match Racing Championship – Sunday’s races
Final – Artemis Racing beat Luna Rossa Piranha
SF1 – Artemis Racing beat Luna Rossa Swordfish
SF2 – Luna Rossa Piranha beat ORACLE Racing Bundock
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