Prada Cup: Brits claim first win
Published on February 19th, 2021
Auckland, New Zealand (February 20, 2021) – Following the delay in racing due to COVID-19 cases in the community, the Prada Cup Final returned to the race course today with INEOS TEAM UK yet to score a win over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli which led the series 4-0.
In the first race of the day, Luna Rossa resumed racing where they left off, raising their undefeated streak to five races, getting their nose in front at the start and kept the British in their wake to claim a vital fifth point. However, the Brits finally got a decent start in the second race and executed a winning game plan for their first win.
After three days of racing, and with seven more races on the schedule, the Italians need just two more wins to take the Prada Cup, and with a boat handling advantage all the time and boat speed edge in the lower wind range, the British team remain with their back approaching the wall.
Final Series, Race 5
Any nervousness that the sea breeze would struggle to develop was dispensed with well before the start with 8-10 knots sweeping across the course area from the south west. In the pre-race preparations, both teams were foiling comfortably around the race course area; the day was on.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli came in from the right for the pre-start duel, crossing INEOS TEAM UK who entered on starboard, but would either team risk close engagement and risk coming off their foils? The opening seconds of the pre-start suggested not as the pair kept their distance but then, as the clock counted down to the start both clearly wanted the right hand end of the start line.
The British were to windward, but with Luna Rossa on layline and timing the distance to the start perfectly, INEOS went for a gap between the mark and their rival that didn’t exist and got the foul. Both boats also were early across the line but the penalties scrubbed each other out.
The Brits had rolled to the right side off the start, and when the teams came back together for the first time, Luna Rossa claimed that the British had gained an advantage from their position. The jury agreed and gave INEOS TEAM UK a second penalty. Now the British had to give away distance to clear it but that proved difficult.
INEOS TEAM UK had got to the better side of the course and kept benefiting from their position making it difficult to scrub off the distance and clear their penalty. The Italians added to the difficulty, and by the time the Brits finally completed their penalty, Luna Rossa was in the lead and had full control.
By Gate 1 it was Luna Rossa that were through first, rounding the right hand mark 15 seconds ahead. On the downwind leg there were few passing lanes, but INEOS TEAM UK were able to sail slightly deeper to reel in some distance on Luna Rossa taking the advantage from 220 m to 160 m. But their gain was short lived.
As the race played out the Italians sailed a perfectly executed race aboard a boat that appears to have an extra gear when it comes to the angles that it can sail upwind. As each lap went by the Italian advantage grew and by the finish Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli crossed 1 min 20 sec ahead.
Wind: 8-10 knots
Winner: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli beat INEOS TEAM UK by 1:20
Final Series, Race 6
For the second race of the day the breeze had increased slightly. INEOS TEAM UK were first into the pre-start zone from the port end and were able to control the start more readily. Two small advantages, but would the British team be able to convert these into an advantage at the start?
As both boats headed towards the middle of the start line, positions were reversed from the first start of the day, Luna Rossa was to windward this time with INEOS TEAM UK to leeward and ahead. Despite some aggressive maneuvering aboard Luna Rossa, INEOS TEAM UK took a narrow advantage at the start, bagging the left hand end of the line and now able to push out to the extreme left hand side of the course.
The crucial moment was coming up as both headed out towards the left hand boundary. Luna Rossa tacked off early allowing the British to continue out to the extreme side of the left hand side of the course. The pair were neck and neck as they headed back towards the right.
As Luna Rossa came back on starboard, INEOS TEAM UK were ahead on port but chose to tack onto starboard underneath them to bounce off the Italians, a classic lee bow tack.
As they approached the top gate for the first time, the pair were now separated across the width of the course and it was INEOS TEAM UK that had gained, the distance between them around 50 m.
And when they crossed, INEOS TEAM UK were laying the right hand mark of gate 1 and rounded 8 seconds ahead of the Luna Rossa – the first time they had been ahead since the Prada Cup Final had begun. On the downwind slide the British were now 150 m ahead. Halfway down the leg the margin had grown to 200 m. By the bottom gate they rounded 21 secs ahead.
INEOS TEAM UK were now starting to change their tactical play by defending their position. Luna Rossa knew it and were tacking frequently in an attempt to force INEOS to do so in the hope that the British would lose some of their distance. Meanwhile, the sea breeze was climbing slowly but steadily with an average just breaking through 10 knots.
At gate 3 both boats took the left hand mark, INEOS TEAM UK led by 18 seconds, Luna Rossa had clawed back three seconds, but their gain was short lived as INEOS TEAM UK opened up their lead to 430 m on the water and it continued to grow. Through gate 4 the British were now 32 secs ahead with one lap to go.
But this race was far from over. A shift in the breeze and a drop in its strength allowed Luna Rossa to make gains on the final upwind leg. INEOS TEAM UK were back under pressure.
Through the final gate INEOS TEAM UK took the right hand mark, Luna Rossa the left and the distance between them was now just 9secs. Now it was a drag race to the finish, the British needed to defend their position as Luna Rossa attacked in vain, settling for defeat.
Wind: 8-12 knots, 225 degrees
Winner: INEOS TEAM UK beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli by 0:14
QUOTES FROM THE RACE COURSE
Sir Ben Ainslie – Skipper & Team Principal, INEOS TAEM UK:
“We are very happy with the win, we have been on the wrong side on the last few days….I think it seems to be that on 13 knots and above the boats are pretty even, but beneath that we struggle, they know and we know, that is the challenge. I can’t say enough about the team, they have been great. When the wind dies down it’s a tricky situation, Giles (Scott) did a great job there, we were concerned we might be losing in there.”
Jimmy Spithill – Helmsman, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli:
“The day has shown the boats are very similar. It is very difficult to sail these boats perfectly; there is never a day when you go out and be 100%. We surely have few things from both race that we will be reviewing and we will come back tomorrow stronger.”
Prada Cup Final Scoreboard (wins-losses)
INEOS Team UK (GBR): 1-5
Luna Rossa (ITA): 5-1
The PRADA Cup is a series of four round robins (Jan. 15-17 and Jan. 22-24), with the winner of the series qualifying for the PRADA Cup Final and the remaining two Challengers going into a Semi-Final Series (Jan. 29-Feb. 2) for the right to join the Round Robin winner in the Final (Feb. 13–22). The winner of the Final earns entry to face the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, in the America’s Cup Match beginning March 6.
Source: Prada Cup, Scuttlebutt