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Italy wins first race in America's Cup challenger semifinal

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SAN FRANCISCO — After months of missteps, bickering and tragedy, the America’s Cup got down to some real racing Tuesday.

As expected, Luna Rossa Challenge from Italy defeated Artemis Racing of Sweden in the first race of a best-of-seven semifinal on San Francisco Bay.

Three international teams – including a New Zealand entry – are contesting for the right to challenge the defending champion, Oracle Team USA, in September.

"It certainly wasn't our most refined race," Luna Rossa helm Chris Draper said after his boat overcame equipment problems and a slow start to win by about two minutes. "The team did a good job of dealing with it." 

For Artemis, just getting to the starting line was a big deal.

The Swedish boat capsized during a May training run, an accident that left team member Andrew Simpson dead. In the weeks that followed, officials instituted safety rules that sparked complaints and arguments among competitors.

As Artemis rebuilt in a waterside facility, Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand were left to sail a number of preliminary races alone in what amounted to practice runs. New Zealand fared best in a round-robin format and moved directly into the challenger finals.

That left Luna Rossa and Artemis to battle it out in the semifinals.

“I think the boat’s safe,” Artemis team member Curtis Blewett said beforehand. “We’ll see how it goes on the race course.”

With scant racing experience on the high-tech, 72-foot catamarans chosen for this year’s event, the Swedish team was expected to remain cautious. The boat looked fast enough but fell behind in regards to maneuvering and course management.

"It's the consistency in the maneuvers we need to work on," Artemis skipper Iain Percy said. "We don't want to lose, so we're going to keep working and working."

The second race is scheduled for Wednesday.

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