Artemis Racing earns seminfinal berth

SAN DIEGO -- Skipper Terry Hutchinson put a move on French rival Pierre Pennec that any racing fan could appreciate and sailed Sweden's Artemis Racing into the semifinals of the America's Cup World Series match racing championship Thursday.

Hutchinson, an American, and Artemis Racing turned back Pennec's Aleph crew in a riveting showdown on San Diego Bay that had a little bit of everything: fog, penalties, wind shifts, technical issues and a classic match-racing move.

As the wing-sailed 45-foot catamarans were sailing upwind on the second-to-last leg, Hutchinson engaged the French in a dial-down.

"To put it into car-racing terms, it's blocking the guy from passing you," said Hutchinson, an experienced match racer.

When the French tacked onto port to go toward the mark, the Swedish boat came down on right-of-way starboard tack and forced Pennec to turn down. Pennec, an experienced multihull sailor who doesn't have much match racing experience, tried the move again. Hutchinson was allowed to turn almost to a downwind course, which made Pennec turn away.

"That turn away from us is really good momentum for us," said Hutchinson, who sailed away to victory.

"He was in an annoying position for him," Hutchinson said. "He was just far enough forward that the maneuver was very hard, and it's a hard maneuver for us to execute properly. He gave us the opportunity to execute it properly."

In Friday's semifinals, the fourth-seeded Artemis Racing will face top seed Energy Team of France while Emirates Team New Zealand faces Oracle Racing's Jimmy Spithill.

It was a disappointing finish for Aleph, which won three matches to earn the right to face Artemis. The first attempt at an Aleph-Artemis Racing match was abandoned because of a technical issue just as Pennec and his crew had overcome an early penalty to take the lead. But the lights in Hutchinson's boat that indicate how close it is to the course boundaries went out, and the race committee abandoned the race.

When the race was restarted, Artemis forced Aleph to commit a penalty and took a 200-meter lead. Amazingly, Pennec gained from a wind shift and caught up.

"He rounded in a lot of wind and basically the wind moved at his boat speed right up to us." Hutchinson said. "We're basically sitting there in a hole. There's nothing we can really do. It's not like we've done anything wrong. As much as we were whacking him back with the match-racing stick, the wind gods were whacking us in the head."

Hutchinson has raced against Pennec in another class of catamarans.

"That's a dangerous, dangerous team we just raced," Hutchinson said. "If they got off the line clean, they probably would have just sailed away from us."

Aleph made its way out of the lowest-seeded pair to make it all the way to the last match of the day. Aleph beat China Team, Team Korea and Oracle Racing -- Coutts, skippered by Darren Bundock, to earn a shot against Artemis Racing.

"We were leading in the first match before it was abandoned," Pennec said. "In the second start we had a penalty, but we did well with the wind shifts to match them right up to the last mark, so it was a good day for us. I really wanted to beat Artemis."