Helmsman Chris Draper made a clutch move right before the start and sailed Italy's Luna Rossa to victory Friday over Artemis Racing 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 against Emirates
Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup final. Unless Artemis can extend the series, its campaign will be finished after only four races.
The Swedish-backed syndicate has been scrambling to catch up since May 9, when sailor Andrew "Bart'' Simpson was killed in the capsize of its first boat.
Artemis was going through a slow tack during prestart maneuvers when Draper tucked the chrome-hulled Italian catamaran under 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.
Luna Rossa led at every mark and won by 1 minute, 18 seconds. It was the closest margin in the challenger series so far. Artemis sailed better than it did in the first two races.
The syndicate looked much better at foiling its catamaran, which is when the boat builds enough speed to pop up onto hydrofoils and ride over the tops of the waves, its hulls out of the water. That reduces drag and increases speed.
Luna Rossa, though, 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.