Luna Rossa into Prada Cup final as disaster hits American Magic

Auckland (AFP) –


Italian entry Luna Rossa booked its berth in the America's Cup challenger series finals when it took an unassailable 4-0 lead over the luckless American Magic in the semi-finals in Auckland on Saturday.

Luna Rossa will face Ineos Team UK in the best of 13 races for the challengers' Prada Cup, and to decide who will race defending champions Team New Zealand for the America's Cup -- the world's oldest international sporting trophy.

American Magic, raced by the New York Yacht Club, which won the inaugural America's Cup contest in 1851, was the best performing challenger in the pre-Cup regatta but has since been hit by disaster.

It was extensively damaged in a spectacular capsize which forced them to withdraw from the final two races of the Prada Cup round-robin.

Although they completed the necessary repairs in time for the semi-finals, their high-tech 23-metre (75-foot) monohull, which "flies" over the water balanced on a foiling arm, never regained the speed it had previously shown.

After being easily beaten in the first two semi-final races on Friday and again in race three on Saturday, they had a further catastrophe in their must-win race four when equipment failure caused serious steering problems and sealed their elimination.

"Now Ineos, boys," a delighted Luna Rossa helmsman Jimmy Spithill told his crew as they completed the rout of the Americans with victory by three minutes 51 seconds in race four.

Luna Rossa tactician Francesco Bruni added they were "sniffing revenge" after previous losses to Ineos, which is helmed by celebrated British sailor Ben Ainslie.

"I'm very proud of the team because we made a huge step forward compared to last weekend," Bruni said.

"If we keep improving the performance of the boat, with this speed, it's going to be very good racing against Ben."

American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson described their early exit as "brutal", particularly after the round-the-clock effort to repair the yacht.

"It's disappointing to have it end in this manner because I know we're better than this," he said.

"I would think the word brutal just sums it all up."