SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) -- Italy's Luna Rossa is one victory away from advancing to the America's Cup challenger finals and another go-round with powerhouse Emirates Team New Zealand.
That means Artemis Racing is one loss away from going home after just four races in a regatta that was marred when Andrew "Bart" Simpson was killed in a capsize of the syndicate's first boat on May 9.
Helmsman Chris Draper made a clutch move right before the start and sailed Luna Rossa's 72-foot catamaran to victory over Artemis Racing on Friday and a 3-0 lead in the America's Cup challenger semifinals.
Luna Rossa can wrap up the best-of-seven series Saturday on San Francisco Bay and earn a berth in the Louis Vuitton Cup final against the Kiwis.
"Today was a great start," Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said. "Chris really showed what he's able to do. After the start we sailed probably our best race on the water as a team, which is good because tomorrow's going to be tough. Artemis Racing is getting quicker and quicker every day and it's not finished yet. We need to keep focused and race well tomorrow."
Luna Rossa led at every mark and won by 1 minute, 18 seconds, the closest margin in the challenger series so far.
Artemis Racing sailed better, including doing a better job of getting its boat up on hydrofoils.
"We upped our game hugely today, but the bad news for Artemis Racing was so did Luna Rossa," said Artemis skipper Iain Percy. "They sailed excellently from start to finish. Now it's sudden death tomorrow and we like that. We look forward to that pressure."
Artemis was going through a slow tack during prestart maneuvers when Draper tucked the chrome-hulled Italian catamaran underneath the Swedish boat and into control. Artemis protested but the on-the-water umpires waved it off.
It was the first time in three races that Draper won the starter. Even though the Italian boat trailed at the start in the first two races, it quickly overhauled Artemis Racing.
Artemis Racing sailed with a new daggerboard in the port hull. Percy said that the board coupled with new winglets on the rudders helped the team get foiling.
Foiling is when the boat is going fast enough to pop up onto the daggerboard in the leeward hull and winglets on the bottom of the rudders and ride over the tops of the waves, its hulls out of the water. That reduces drag and increases speed.
"The winglets seem to give it a little more lift when the rudders are being worked hard in the gybes, and seem to have made it a little easier pulling off the foiling gybes," Percy said.
A foiling gybe is when a boat changes direction while sailing downwind and stays on the foils, without the hulls touching the water.
Luna Rossa gradually increased its lead at every mark on the course that stretches from just inside the Golden Gate Bridge to just beyond Alcatraz Island. The finish line is right off America's Cup Park on Piers 27-29.
Artemis helmsman Nathan Outteridge said the boat's performance was 30 percent better than in Race 2.
"We're looking for another improvement tomorrow, and honestly, we'd love to take a race from Luna Rossa and keep this going past Saturday," Outteridge said.
Artemis Racing didn't sail in the Louis Vuitton Cup round-robins because its new boat wasn't finished.
Emirates Team New Zealand earned the right to advance straight to the Louis Vuitton Cup final based on its performance in the round-robins, including a 5-0 record against Luna Rossa.
The Louis Vuitton Cup final starts Aug. 17. The winner faces defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup starting Sept. 7.
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