Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup
Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of the southwesterly breeze at start time. More important, at least as far as Sir Ben Ainslie and the rest of INEOS were concerned, the breezes were solid and steady throughout—in stark contrast to during the America’s Cup World Series regatta last month, which was marked by light breezes in which the Brits suffered.
The first to fall was New York Yacht Club American Magic in wind speeds ranging from 8 to 16 knots. INEOS won the start and never looked back, eventually notching a finish delta of 1 minute, 20 seconds—an eternity aboard a full-foiling AC75 monohull.
After that, it was Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s turn to face the revitalized UK team. This time wind speeds ranged from the mid-teens to the low 20s, and Ainslie and company simply at it up. Again, they had a rock-solid start. After that the Italians could do nothing more than play follow-the-leader, eventually crossing the finish line 28 seconds after their British rivals after splitting tacks in search of a miracle on the last leg.
“It was a tough race,” said American Magic helmsman, Dean Barker. “They were going a lot better than we have seen on practice racing. Maybe it was a surprise for some, but we kind of knew it was going to be pretty close.”
As for Ainslie, he was understandably ecstatic with his team’s turnaround, though as an experienced America’s Cup sailor, he knows a lot can change over the course of any Cup regatta.
“It feels a lot better than six losses or whatever was,” Ainslie said, referring to his team’s performance in last year’s World Series. “It was a team effort, and I have got to say our entire team back on the dockyards—the designers, the engineers, the shore team, the boat builders—
they had three epic weeks working to turn this boat around. As I said to the boys, though, we are long way out of the woods yet. It’s a couple of good races. Time to make the most of the momentum now.”
Race 3 of the first round-robin of the regatta will start at 1515 NZ time and will see Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli taking on American Magic. The first race of the second round-robin will follow with INEOS TEAM UK sailing again American Magic.
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