Prada Cup races cancelled as Team UK books place in finals

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 24 Jan 2021, 10:01AM
Ineos Team UK members celebrate winning the round robin stage of the Prada Cup. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ineos Team UK members celebrate winning the round robin stage of the Prada Cup. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Prada Cup races cancelled as Team UK books place in finals

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 24 Jan 2021, 10:01AM

There will be no races held on Sunday after Ineos Team UK booked a place in the Prada Cup final with a thrilling win over Luna Rossa.

In the best racing of the regatta so far, Sir Ben Ainslie led his team across the line ahead of the Italians to stay unbeaten, a race that saw nine lead changes and top speeds exceeding 50 knots.

Both 'ghost' races against American Magic, who were not able to compete, were completed successfully confirming the British victory.

Ineos Team UK will not sail tomorrow, with the scheduled race against Luna Rossa redundant following their win.

With high winds expected tomorrow, Ineos Team UK chose not to risk damaging their boat and opted not to sail. Luna Rossa are still planning to sail at some point.

"As much as we would love to put on a good showcase, when you are racing these boats at over 20 knots there is a risk-reward there and the risk isn't worth it at this stage," said Ineos helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie.

The British will now have three full weeks to develop their boat to get ready for the final, whereas Luna Rossa have only six days to fine tune their AC75 before their semifinal race against American Magic who are in a race against time to repair their boat and get back to the startline.

The seven-race semifinal - the first knockout phase of the Prada Cup - starts on Friday 29 January.

The winner of the semifinal faces Ineos Team UK in the 13-race Prada Cup final, which will determine the challenger to take on Team New Zealand in the America's Cup match.

The win means the British media are starting to wake up to the fact they could have a contender to win the America's Cup.

'Champagne was flowing'

"The champagne was flowing for Ineos Team UK by the end of the day, with owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, newly-arrived in New Zealand, boarding his winning yacht Britannia to celebrate with his sailors. But it could have been very different. What a race. And what an advert for this new class of America's Cup boat," wrote Tom Cary of the Telegraph.

Cary added that the British team's decision to pull out of racing today won't go down well.

"Ineos' decision not to race on Sunday will not be universally welcomed. American Magic's capsize had already seen four of this weekend's six scheduled races fall by the wayside. So to voluntarily sacrifice another one will not go down well in some quarters. You can understand the call though. These boats are flying machines. One mistake and your entire America's Cup challenge could be over."

'One of the great sporting comebacks'

"It was electric, brilliant sailing and match-racing of the highest order," wrote Magnus Wheatley the Rule69 blog.

"These are the promised uplands that looked so distant back in December. It is one of the great sporting comebacks and all credit to the team," he added.

"Amazing scenes and as Ben said, "that one was for the fans." It certainly was and the whole of Britain is waking up from their dreams this morning and entering a wonderland where Britain could, just could, be on the cusp of one of the greatest sporting victories of our lifetime. Whisper it quietly, but if they keep performing like this on the water and they make the gains in the boat required, then this could be all on for the America's Cup match in March," Wheatley concluded.

'First time the 40 years'

The Times made note of Jimmy Spithill's failure to walk the walk.

"For the first time in nearly 40 years a British team will race in the final of the America's Cup challenger selection series...," Ed Gorman wrote.

"The Italians had been talking themselves up in the build-up to a contest in medium-to-fresh winds on the Hauraki Gulf. But the crew led by Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni were outsailed..." he added.

'Nothing to blame'

Italian media praised Luna Rossa after losing a tight race on Sunday, which saw nine lead changes.

"It was close but the difference was made by the coolness of the British, their tactics and ability to read the gust," said Sailbiz.it.

"Nothing to blame the guys from Luna Rossa, they conducted impeccably, but obviously the medals around Sir Ben Ainslie's neck have a weight."

"Luna Rossa will have to show the best of herself to win the 4 races against American Magic."

The British will now have three full weeks to develop their boat to get ready for the final, whereas Luna Rossa have only six days to fine tune their AC75 before their semifinal race against American Magic who are in a race against time to repair their boat and get back to the startline.

The seven-race semifinal - the first knockout phase of the Prada Cup - starts on Friday 29 January.

The winner of the semifinal faces Ineos Team UK in the 13-race Prada Cup final, which will determine the challenger to take on Team New Zealand in the America's Cup match.