‘Twas the night before Prada Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. But it’s all about to explode in dramatic 50 knot foiling fashion with a forecast showing possible gusts up to 27 knots out in Auckland. Full on, foils-out, mano-o-mano racing. Sandbagging? No. This will be full tilt with what the teams have right now. Powder will not be kept dry. It may well be not quite where the Challengers are in terms of modification upgrades in a month’s time but it will be pretty close. The rumoured upgrades to Ineos Team UK won’t be completely obvious in this series – that will come on January 15th. Like in cycling, the upgrades are naked to the average eye. It’s all in the detail and most of the mods are hidden behind an inch of carbon below decks.
So what do we all want to see? What are our Prada Christmas wishes? Well what I want to see more than anything else is close tactical racing. Looking at the Team NZ vs Magic race yesterday, it had everything. Overlaps at the marks, tactical splits, nip and tuck.
Mechanical breakdowns or the aching sight of these leviathans wallowing in displacement, struggling to get up on the foils is not what we want to see. The conditions, hopefully, will see that doesn’t happen.
Let’s run through the teams…
I start with Team Ineos – naturally because I’m a Brit – and I desperately, desperately want to see them do well. I want to see Ratty’s Rita at full tilt, in full race mode with Ben on fire. We are all tired of breakdowns and I would suspect the team are at maximum frustration. Ben acknowledged that they have issues that they need to work through but every ounce of my fibre and being is willing that donkey on. It’s going to be a hard ask.
Privately, I’m following the Magic team with interest. There’s something going on there. The fusion of the virtually unbeatable Bella Mente and Quantum Racing Teams is a recipe for success. Who can’t love a boat that looks like the shark from Finding Nemo? They are a super-nice team with a culture to be admired set from Terry Hutchinson at the top. A huge credit to the New York Yacht Club and its members. I hope they do well.
For Prada, they have the Pitbull on the wheel and experience to burn. I would love to see Jimmy pushing the boundaries – and remember despite the digital exclusion zones around the boats, there’s still a huge element of human judgement. That makes this interesting. Jimmy is the mercurial talent, prone to a melt-down or two and for sure, they are going to be right on it from the first gun. I’m looking for pre-start magic and the Prada boys to be right in the mix.
Then we come, finally, to Team New Zealand and you can’t look beyond them to smoke this regatta. I would be very surprised if it wasn’t a clean sweep. A blackwash. Sure, they lost a match to Magic in shifty conditions and that really hurts. Dalts won’t be happy about that. They have 5 million supporters cheering them on and home advantage is not to be under-estimated. The team culture is amazing – Grant Dalton is talking about a “dynasty” mood in the team. Frightening. This is their time and I repeat my assertion that they will defend the Cup, as sure as houses. Team New Zealand is quite simply awesome and a terrifying prospect to the Challengers. No weaknesses. No excuses. Brilliant sailors at the top of their game and a design package that will just get better and better.
My money’s on the Kiwis. My heart is with the Brits. My secret Santa is Team Magic and my fascination is Jimmy’s Prada.
Bring. It. On. Let’s go racing.
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