Three months after crewman Andrew "Bart" Simpson was killed in a capsize, Artemis Racing will sail in the America's Cup challenger trials.
Artemis Racing will make its debut today when it faces Italy's Luna Rossa in the opener of the best-of-seven Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals on San Francisco Bay.
The sailors aboard "Big Blue," as Artemis' new 72-foot, high-performance catamaran is called, will be both reflective and excited when they hit the starting line near the Golden Gate Bridge.
"It's obviously been a very painful period as well as a very enjoyable period," said Artemis skipper Iain Percy of Great Britain, who won Olympic gold and silver medals with Simpson. "Those emotions would be hard to describe. We all enjoy sailing and we've all been enjoying our time on the water."
Problem is, Artemis hasn't had much time on the water in the next class of boat, which has been both exciting and dangerous.
Artemis Racing's first boat was destroyed in the crash that killed Simpson during a training run on May 9. A new boat was already being built, but Simpson's death and the ensuing police investigation delayed construction.
After working long shifts for weeks, Artemis Racing launched its new boat on July 22. It was sailed for the first time two days later.
But the Swedish-based syndicate has only about 40 hours of training time aboard "Big Blue," named for the color of its twin hulls. "Personally, it's been one of my most enjoyable weeks of sailing," Percy said last Friday. "We've learned so many things at such a fast rate. But to say that we're ready to go would absolutely not be the case. Our competitors launched their boat nine months ago. We launched our boat nine days ago. Obviously if we had nine more months we would progress a lot more. That's not an excuse. It's our fault we are in this position. But those are the facts. We've had our foiling 72-foot cat for nine days and the event starts on Tuesday."
On their first day of training, Artemis' sailors got the big boat foiling, which is when the catamaran is going fast enough that it lifts onto hydrofoils — wings on the two rudders and a daggerboard in the leeward hull — and skims across the tops of waves. Foiling makes the yachts go even faster.
Emirates Team New Zealand, which has advanced straight to the Louis Vuitton Cup finals based on scoring the most points in the round-robins, hit 44.15 knots, or 50.8 mph, last month.
Giorgio Provinciali of Luna Rossa's performance analysis team said the Italians are impressed with what Artemis has achieved in training in a short period.
"These boats are really difficult with a lot of systems that can fail in some way, but they've appeared to be very reliable. It's also impressive how stable their foiling is and how in control the boat seems to be downwind," Provinciali said.
Artemis Racing will honor Simpson by wearing a ribbon on the crew's uniform sleeves. Another ribbon is displayed on the 131-foot wing sail, right under the Swedish flag. The winner of the Artemis Racing-Luna Rossa series will face Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals starting Aug. 17. The winner of that series will face defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup beginning Sept. 7.