American Magic fails to cast spell in Prada Cup semi

Auckland (AFP) –


American Magic made a disappointing return to America's Cup racing Friday after the spectacular capsize that almost ended its campaign, losing the opening two legs of the challenger series semi-finals to Italy's Luna Rossa.

The New York Yacht Club's boat was upended by a freak wind gust on Auckland Harbour early in the Prada Cup regatta, leaving a gaping hole in the hull that almost sank it.

After working around the clock for more than a week to repair the structure and replace complex electronics, American Magic's crew declared her ready to contest the Prada Cup semi-finals.

But they were denied a fairytale comeback as Luna Rossa dominated the first two races of the best-of-seven semis.

"We're still getting our confidence back with the boat after everything that happened -- the guys have done an amazing job just to get the boat back on the water," American Magic helmsman Dean Barker said.

"It's great to be back out here and we'll be fighting all the way to the end."

The results put the Italians in the box seat to face Ineos Team UK in the final of the Prada Cup, which will decide who races defending champion Team New Zealand for the America's Cup proper in March.

This year's America's Cup features 23-metre (75-foot) monohull yachts that "fly" above the water on foiling arms.

American Magic briefly went down off its foils in pre-start manoeuvring in the opening race, giving Luna Rossa an 18-second lead at the first mark.

The Italians built their advantage and effectively claimed victory when American Magic was penalised for breaching the course boundary when the high winds left them perilously close to capsizing again.

The Americans finished two minutes 43 seconds behind Luna Rossa then fared even worse in the second race, trailing three minutes seven seconds after another poor start.