America’s Cup - Report
Prada Cup Final, Weekend Two
February 26, 2021
Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd.
YANMAR, the Official Marine Partner of the 36th America’s Cup brings you pro-sailor Sam Gilmour from Yanmar Racing who will present a series of articles breaking down the details of the America’s Cup racing and giving us his unique perspective.
By Sam Gilmour of Yanmar Racing
Congratulations, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli!
In a stunning overall performance, the Italian team have dominated INEOS Team UK – winning the Prada Cup final with a 7-1 scorecard. The 36th America’s Cup will be contested between Luna Rossa and defender’s Emirates Team New Zealand.
As the celebrations subside, focus will now turn towards the New Zealanders, who have been somewhat out of the limelight throughout the Prada Cup. Finally, after years of speculation, sailing fans are fervently waiting on the America’s Cup to get underway in just two weeks’ time.
In typical America’s Cup fashion, controversy and emotions threatened the event before teams had even hit the water, as the Italian team butted heads with the America’s Cup Event (ACE) and INEOS during the week leading up to the final races.
What Happened Last Week?
The New Zealand government had just placed Auckland into a lockdown, in a bid to stamp out cases of COVID-19 that had been found in the previously virus-free state.
Because of this, the Prada Cup schedule was sent into disarray, as event organisers scrambled to decide how they could run racing and the New Zealand public unable to spectate until at least February 22nd.
ACE (with the support of INEOS) insisted on delaying the racing one week in the “best interest of the public and all stakeholders”. However, Luna Rossa pushed back, insisting on racing on schedule. Their claim was that ACE had no right to extend the racing of the Prada Cup beyond February 24th, as had been agreed to prior.
From ACE chairman, Tina Symmans:
“Since Sunday, we have worked really hard on behalf of everyone in Auckland and all kiwis to give COR the opportunity to demonstrate some honour and respect for this country and delay the Prada Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into Level 1.
Clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patricio Bertelli at the opening press conference who spoke about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant Covid restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to deliver great sportsmanship and the Prada Cup to be a major sporting event.”
Behind the scenes, Luna Rossa knew that the momentum and a boat speed advantage were on their side, so, not wanting to allow INEOS any opportunity in bridging the gap was a big part of their motivation.
It was a very public spat and whilst the New Zealand public may not be on their side, Luna Rossa had the deciding authority in this situation, as the America’s Cup Challenger of Record. Ultimately, racing was decided to get going on schedule, with four races planned over the weekend.
Race 5 (Race Day 3) – 8-12 knots
The most tantalizing start of the weekend, an aggressive INEOS came out swinging, looking to limit opportunities for Luna Rossa and aiming to control the heavily biased right-hand side of the race course.
Technically, there were a couple of notable areas of this start. Luna Rossa pulled a new cat out of the bag, able to put the boat into a super ‘high’ mode in the final minute of the start by placing both foils in the down position.
The effect of this, allowing the boat to sail a higher lane, effectively limited INEOS’s opportunities by reducing speed and closing the distance between the boats. It proved to be highly effective, forcing INEOS into a tough position at the starboard end of the line.
Both boats ended up early up to the start line, crossing it early. On top of that INEOS were forced to ‘barge’ at the windward end of the line, breaking the fundamental rule 11 of the racing rules of sailing by not keeping clear as the windward boat.
Although both teams had pushed the start line early, current America’s Cup rules dictate that neither team is penalised or need to restart, assuming both have crossed the line in the final 10 seconds leading up to the start. As part of their additional penalty, INEOS were then required to get themselves 50 metres behind Luna Rossa.
This proved to be the closest moment in the race and from here, Luna Rossa was able to extend its lead out for their 5th victory of the series.
The umpires use sophisticated software similar to the Virtual Eye above to help to make accurate umpire decisions in real time. The virtual eye is a great resource to see the racing from an analytical angle.
Race 6 – 12-14 knots
Finally, an INEOS race win, following an excellent start approach by the British team.
In what was a very tight race, INEOS were able to force a split off the start line and pick the first wind shift. From here, the British team refused to engage in any technical match racing manoeuvres, choosing instead to sail shift-for-shift in a bid to extend their lead.
It was obvious that Luna Rossa had a speed edge over INEOS, as they attempted to force INEOS to tighter match racing tactics. Sir Ben Ainslie, however, remained cool under the pressure, holding on for a much-awaited race win.
Coming out the following day, everything was on the line. On race day four, Luna Rossa had the opportunity to win the Prada Cup and looking at the focus on the dock beforehand, it was clear this was exactly their intention.
Race 7 (Race Day 4) – 8-12 knots
In a relatively straight forward pre-start, the most critical moment in this race came at the first boundary tack of the race. Luna Rossa, skilled enough to hang on INEOS’s windward hip were able to out-tack the British and with a slight advantage, made the most of their higher pointing angle, forcing INEOS into their dirty air and into an extra tack.
It was the turning point of the race that allowed Luna Rossa’s lead to get out to around 16 seconds at the first gate. They eventually extended out to almost two minutes by the finish, in another dominant showing by Luna Rossa.
Race 8 – 8-12 knots
Another interesting start, this time, INEOS getting away with a port-starboard situation at the start and Luna Rossa going over the start line early – an unforced error putting the Italians at a 50-metre disadvantage off the start.
From the perspective of INEOS, it was high risk start that they needed in order to fight back from the tough position they were in. Unfortunately, this would be as good as the racing would get for INEOS, as Luna Rossa, ever improving, sailed INEOS down and extended a big lead to take out the race and the series in emphatic style.
Emotions were high as the Luna Rossa team crossed the finish line. The 4-year campaign culminating in with this means that the team has reached the America’s Cup final for the third time in over 20 years of racing.
The team of over 100 people could finally release some tension, having worked so extremely hard for this moment, but the job isn’t quite complete at this stage. Emirates Team New Zealand now await, and with a strikingly different approach on foil and hull design, it is going to be an incredible spectacle to watch.
Up to now, we have only seen Team New Zealand race in Christmas Cup last year. Their performance was strong, but in no means dominant. INEOS went away winless from that event, before going undefeated in the round robin of the Prada Cup just a month later - the point being there are plenty of variables at play, so making a prediction on the America’s Cup is near impossible.
We’ll just have to wait and see!