Italy’s Luna Rossa beat Sweden’s Artemis on Friday to move within one victory of advancing to a showdown with mighty Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup challenger series finals.


Luna Rossa have won all three semi-final races over Artemis Racing, who made a belated entry into the venerable sailing event after the May training accident that destroyed their first AC72 catamaran and killed British crew member Andrew Simpson.

The Italian outfit will have a chance to complete the sweep in the best-of-seven semi-finals in race four on Saturday.

Luna Rossa looked sharp, taking the lead with a perfect start and completing the seven-leg course in 47 minutes and 36 seconds — one minute and 18 seconds ahead of Artemis.

“Today was a great start,” said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena, who was full of praise for helmsman Chris Draper.

“Chris really showed what he’s able to do,” Sirena said. “After the start we sailed probably our best race on the water as a team, which is good because tomorrow’s going to be tough. Artemis Racing is getting quicker and quicker every day and it’s not finished yet. We need to keep focused and race well tomorrow.”

The Swedish team’s crew also delivered a crisp performance on San Francisco Bay, reducing their deficit to as little as 1min 2sec during the race, but they just couldn’t match the Italians.

“We upped our game hugely today, but the bad news for Artemis Racing was so did Luna Rossa. They sailed excellently from start to finish,” said Artemis Racing skipper Iain Percy. “Now it’s sudden death tomorrow and we like that, we look forward to that pressure.”

The winner of the semi-finals will take on Team New Zealand, who won all of their races against Luna Rossa in the round-robin first round to advance directly to the challenger finals.

The winner of the challenger series will race against defender Team USA in the America’s Cup finals that start on September 7.