When Tyson Fury rose from the canvas of the Staples Centre in Los Angeles having been knocked clean out in the 12th round by Deontay Wilder back in December 2018, I honestly thought that I had seen the greatest comeback in sport. But the thing that struck the most with me, and remains to this day, was the look on the Bronze Bomber’s face when he saw Fury rise again. It was a “what do I have to do to keep this man down?” look. Surely he can’t come back from that?
I watched that fight at about 3am in the morning UK time and guess what? I had the same feeling early this morning watching Team Ineos perform miracles out on the Hauraki Gulf. It is remarkable stuff. It’s sports drama of the highest order and what Ben Ainslie has just done is in the same bracket as Fury. He’s come back from the canvas and lifted the hopes of the nation. Character stuff. Unmissable. Brilliant. Dean Barker and Jimmy Spithill are the Bronze Bombers now, wondering what on earth is happening. They are bombed out by those losses. Shell-shocked.
In the press conference afterwards both Terry Hutchinson and Jimmy Spithill just couldn’t hide their disappointment. Gone was the confidence of the pre-race chat. They had just taken a full-on beating and all their calculations were thrown up in the air. But the interesting theme that the sailors came back to time and again was just how well Ben and the Team sailed. It was a masterclass. A typical Ainslie masterclass, straight out of the top drawer that we have been lucky enough to see so many times in his outstanding career.
A lot of the plaudits, quite rightly, will go to the shore crew, designers, builders and the influence of Mercedes. We will see reams on that and the excellent Sailing Anarchy forums will be dissecting every facet of the boat, foils, rig and sails. As I am acutely aware, there are far more knowledgeable people than I on the hydro-dynamics and aero issues that are in play so I will stay on safe ground and in my lane with looking at the on-the-water sailing performance.
Team Ineos were just on it today. Whilst in hindsight, the right hand side was obvious, making that call and executing it from a dominant starting position was always going to be key. Ben was in a different postcode with his starts. It was devastating and there was an interesting comment from King Kenny in the Prada start when both boats went deep in the box and the wind dramatically shifted left. “All these teams will have a playbook” and he’s right. All the skippers have spent days in the simulators running through every permutation of the start – I will lay a wager that Ben has spent more time than the rest with his head in the VR being taken on by Leigh Macmillan and Giles Scott and every single data point measured. Or is it just the gold medals shining through and the talent rising?
All round today, the Ineos sailing team were on fire. The comms onboard were a fascinating insight into their mindset. It was crisp with a clarity of message and when they got ahead, they were cool as cucumbers. No panic, calling the shots, dialling in the breeze and the puffs and working the boat through the modes beautifully. The mainsail control looked so much crisper. And the foils were popping up at rapier pace through the tacks and gybes. It was balletic almost. Furthermore, the leeward gate manoeuvres were straight out of the textbook as the team rammed home their advantage, defending the right hand side of the course tenaciously. It was beautiful to watch.
So what’s next? Well, all Ben wanted was an equivalent platform to perform from. What’s been delivered in the last three weeks is just that – and that’s one hell of an achievement by the team. But they all know that it’s not enough. They now need to find outright speed, one extra click that will see them sail through to the Prada Cup Final. And this is where it gets tough. The final 1% is the hardest of all. Mercedes know this acutely from their F1 efforts and as I alluded to in yesterday’s piece on boatspeed, finding the speed differential is a combination of everything coming together. What Ineos has done to date is remarkable. Where they go from here is crucial.
All the Challengers have got now is to point at their light-air performance and I have a sneaking suspicion that from what Ben is saying and how he’s saying it, it could well be a false flag. Another win tomorrow morning (UK time) in the predicted light airs and this competition’s doors are blown off.
This just became a very long summer for American Magic and Prada as the fire and fury of Ben Ainslie came to the fore. It’s amazing to witness.
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly