I can report that there will be no racing tomorrow, so INEOS Team UK now have three full weeks to develop their boat and getting ready for the next race, whereas Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team have only 6 days before to fine tuning their AC75 before the next race against American Magic who are in a race against time to repair their boat and get back to the startline. The Semi-final – the first knockout phase of the PRADA Cup – starts on Friday 29 January and by then the pressure ramps up dramatically.What a day! And there is still a debrief with John Bertrand AO to come!
On the shifty Course C, Race Officer Iain Murray was forced to reset the race track multiple times and then Ben Ainslie called for a 15-minute delay, a request they can make once per Round Robin, to try and fix an issue with their cunningham hydraulics. With a clear problem, the British team chose to fix their cunningham at around 80%, an obvious disadvantage on these ultimate extreme racing machines.
The start was close with Luna Rossa having to bear away in the final few seconds, putting both teams right on the line and giving us the closest racing yet between these AC75 yachts. So close in fact that Luna Rossa called for penalties twice on the first beat, both denied by the umpires.
The racing was fantastic with multiple lead changes and being in phase with the wind shifts absolutely key. INEOS TEAM UK led by 2 seconds at the windward gate, then 9 seconds at the leeward gate, hitting a peak of 50.29 knots. Luna Rossa called the shifts perfectly on the second beat to take a (relatively) massive 19 second lead, only for INEOS TEAM UK to smoke the downwind leg to cut the lead to 10 seconds.
Ben and Giles worked in perfect unison to eek out a one second lead at the final windward mark and then just made it across Luna Rossa on the first cross of the final leg. With INEOS TEAM UK gybing onto port for the finish line, it all came down to a port-starboard cross to decide if INEOS TEAM UK would make it straight through to the final of the PRADA Cup. The Italian team tried to work down to force the penalty but, Richard Slater and his umpire team were quick to make the No Penalty decision.
The BRITANNIA crew were naturally elated as they crossed the finish line, but quickly calmed down by Ben Ainslie. The 33-second winning margin not reflective of a race with nine lead changes. Easily the best race of this America’s Cup and possibly one of the all-time classics.
As Ben said post-race, “That was one for the fans!”Mark Jardine, Sail-World
QUOTES FROM THE RACE COURSE
SIR BEN AINSLIE – INEOS TEAM UK Team Principal and Skipper
“That race was one for the fans. Pretty awesome race, great to take part in. Lots of lead changes, neck at neck all the way to the line, credit to the Luna Rossa guys for pushing hard. We had few issues leading into the pre-start as we were missing one of the key settings. The guys did an awesome job getting us around the track in one piece and getting the win.”
JIMMY SPITHILL – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – Helmsman
“When we lodged the protest the both of us were doing 45 knots, we had to avoid BRITANNIA so it was a bit surprised that they thought it wasn’t close enough. At the top we didn’t pull off a couple of tacks as we should have, but it was really shifty. A continuous up and down the entire the racetrack and that’s why we saw so many lead changes. It was a good effort from the guys on board, and congratulations to INEOS TEAM UK. We didn’t get the result we wanted but we certainly learnt a lot from that one.”