VALENCIA, SPAIN — Facing the first of four must-win races, BMW Oracle Racing swapped helmsman, put its owner back onboard and even changed its dock-out song Sunday.
All to no avail.
Luna Rossa of Italy beat the Americans again in their America's Cup challengers series to clinch the best-of-nine semifinals, 5-1. For the first time in 24 years, there will be no U.S. team in the Louis Vuitton Cup final.
The Italians routinely outsailed the Americans despite the nearly $270 million that owner Larry Ellison poured into BMW Oracle Racing to bring the Auld Mug back to the U.S. for the first time since it was lost in 1995.
"It certainly wasn't the outcome we planned for or expected," said Ellison, who was aboard the USA-98 yacht. "Luna Rossa raised their game and deserve a lot of credit. I am very proud that our team went out and fought right down to the last jibe. We never gave up."
Chris Dickson -- the BMW Oracle Racing chief executive and skipper who was pulled from the boat by Ellison for substitute helmsman Sten Mohr -- had a simple answer for the defeat.
"What did we lack? Wins," Dickson said. "We were beaten. The reason for our departure is that Luna Rossa has excelled this week."
Luna Rossa skipper Francesco De Angelis said the Italians were peaking at the right moment. "The racing was much harder than the score line reflects," he said.
Luna Rossa will meet the winner of the other semifinal series between Emirates Team New Zealand and Desafio Espanol.
The Kiwis lead, 4-2, after the Spanish won the sixth-flight race Sunday by 15 seconds.
The winner of the June 1-11 Louis Vuitton Cup final will advance to sail against defending champion Alinghi in the America's Cup from June 23-July 4.