It was not the start INEOS TEAM UK wanted in the PRADA Cup Final, losing both the races in the opening day of the first-to-seven-win series.
Racing took place in light conditions on Course A, the most northerly course available to the Race Committee on the Hauraki Gulf, leading to a steadier north-easterly sea breeze across the course, as opposed to the much shiftier conditions on the in-shore stadium courses previously seen in the Round Robin series.
Race 1 – Luna Rossa WIN vs. INEOS TEAM UK (Delta + 1:52)
After winning the Round Robin Series, INEOS TEAM UK elected for starboard entry in the first race of the PRADA Cup Final. The opening race of the Final, however, took place in very light conditions, only just above the lower wind limits, and was effectively decided in the pre-start.
After entering the start box smoothly in breeze of 7-8 knots, GBR’s BRITANNIA came off her foils in the first tack. The Italians’ Luna Rossa came close to falling off her foils too but managed to stay up and consequently built a commanding lead from the start. ITA crossed the first top mark 1:20min ahead of GBR after the first upwind leg. Whilst the north-easterly sea breeze slowly strengthened over the course of the race, ITA maintained their early lead to win the race by a comfortable 1:52 delta.
Race 2 – INEOS TEAM UK vs Luna Rossa WIN (Delta + 0.26)
Over the course of the first race and into the second race of the day the sea breeze continued to come in stronger and picked up to a steady 14-16 knots across Course A.
The second pre-start of the day was a much tighter affair with both boats crossing the starting line evenly. ITA, however, crossed ahead of GBR on the first cross with priority on starboard tack, leading to the Italian team rounding the first top mark 11 seconds ahead of GBR.
Whilst the left-hand side of the course had stronger winds, the steady breeze across the course and the lack of major shifts meant GBR were unable to find a passing lane and ITA held on to their lead, ultimately winning the race by a delta of 26 seconds.
Speaking about the day’s racing, Team Principal and Skipper Ben Ainslie said:
“The first race was in pretty light conditions. One boat got off their foils in the pre-start and one couldn’t and the Italians ended up with quite a big jump straight off the line. That was the story of the race. We just have to do the best we can in those conditions and keep pushing.
“In the second race the sea breeze was building, and it was much closer. It was a pretty even start with a close first beat. The Italians did a good job, they just sailed that slightest bit faster and were a little bit better around the course.
“It was a pretty steady breeze out on Course A. Once one boat got in front it was hard to get past without the wind shifts and the passing lanes they bring. They didn’t make many mistakes so credit to them.
“It was a frustrating day but there is a long way to go in this series. We’ll continue working hard to get the best possible performance out of the boat we can. The forecast tomorrow is for more breeze so hopefully we’ll be able to get stuck in and have some close racing.”