The defending Louis Vuitton Cup champions, and the Challenger of Record, the Prada Challenge, was eliminated from further competition when calm conditions meant only one race was sailed today.
Prada needed two wins to tie the score line and force a one race sail-off on Wednesday.
It was a sad end for the Italian squad, who had proved to be a colourful, stylish and popular champion in 2000, both at home in Italy and with the New Zealand public.
For OneWorld, the 3 - 2 series victory is an impressive win. The Americans overcame a one point penalty to vault into the Semi Final Repechage where they will now meet Chris Dickson's Oracle BMW Racing team. The winner of that Repechage will face Alinghi for the Louis Vuitton Cup, and the right to sail Team New Zealand in the America's Cup Match in February.
Prada, in a position where it needed two wins just to extend the series, started the day with a crew shake-up as Gavin Brady was promoted off the training boat, and onto the helm of Luna Rossa. But at the 10:30 start time, the wind was well below the seven-knot limit for starting a race.
Both boats waited patiently on the Hauraki Gulf in the calm conditions for nearly six hours, before the Race Committee made a heroic effort to start racing, firing the warning signal just moments before the 16:00 time limit. Under normal circumstances, it is very unlikely racing would have started in such unstable conditions.
The race started in very shifty winds and no lead was safe in the changing conditions. In the middle of the race, the wind died completely, and the Italians were the ones who were graced by a fickle wind first. As OneWorld wallowed helplessly, completely becalmed, its crew watched Prada sail away in a building breeze. The Italians were nearly 15-minutes ahead before OneWorld got a sniff of the wind.
The win will end up as a hollow victory for Prada, as it wasn't enough to tie the series and force a one race 'sail-off. The Italians are in the odd position of being eliminated from the regatta on the back of a win.
Under the Louis Vuitton Cup conditions which all the Challengers agreed to, "if at the end of the scheduled and reserve days of each Semi Finals match, a yacht has not won four points, the winner shall be the yacht with the higher score." (Condition 8.3 (d) (iii))
OneWorld earned the important 3 - 1 lead on the scoreboard that would propel them to an eventual series victory today, with two wins over Prada on Monday.
The Semi Final Repechage starts on Friday. There will be skipper's press conference on Thursday morning at 09:30.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP SEMI FINAL
LUNA ROSSA (ITA-74) BEAT ONEWORLD (USA-67) - DELTA 17:46
OneWorld wins semi-finals over Luna Rossa by 3-2" Following the America's Cup Arbitration Panel decision of 9th December 2002, OneWorld Challenge has had one point deducted from its score.
Light and shifty winds plagued the race throughout and a 60 degree left shift just before the start, meant neither boats was able to lay the pin end after having passed close to the Committee Boat with one minute to go. OneWorld was able to 'lock out' the Italian boat at the pin end on starboard tack after James Spithill tacked to cross the line well ahead of Luna Rossa with Gavin Brady at the helm.
The wind shifted 120-degrees to the right on the first beat and after both boats reached all the way down the second leg, the wind died altogether. A split wind slowly crept across the Hauraki Gulf, with a large hole in the middle. Unfortunately for OneWorld, Peter Gilmour's team got caught in the middle and Prada were able to sail over the 'horizon' to win by the biggest margin of the 2002 Louis Vuitton Cup.