The comeback of all comebacks is on. Ineos came out today and smoked Magic in an absolutely thrilling opening race of the Prada Cup. Watching it was like night and day for those of us in the UK watching with bleary eyes at just past 2am and it’s a huge momentum swing for a team that has hunkered down, changed everything and come out slugging. In the post-race interview, Dean Barker looked and sounded down in the dumps. He was slammed. Shell shocked. What the hell just happened?
This was a sensational, momentum-inducing win for Ben Ainslie in conditions that were definitely not the sweet spot for the boat (12-15 knots) and set down a marker that has upset the betting odds and set the cat amongst the pigeons. It was desperately needed. You could see the palpable sense of relief in the body language after the race. The siege mentality has worked. The narrative shifts fast in this game. Ineos just became the team to beat in a heartbeat and that’s one hell of an achievement.
Ben was quick to praise the shore crew and the Mercedes Works Team that have worked tirelessly to deliver this result. And what a result. Magic are pretty much everyone’s favourites to win the Prada Cup but from the start gun Ineos looked rapid, holding the gauge off the line (having won the start) on the drag on starboard and then peeling off to the right hand side of the course, getting to better pressure first and then just putting the hammer down. They extended on every leg of the course and looked in total control.
This is the marker of all markers. Sandbagging? Not a chance. This is the art of the possible and shows what happens when really bright people are backed by almost limitless resources in a tight timescale. Massive credit to the team for sticking together, working like fury and delivering on all the promise. They just shocked the world in the most sensational manner. First point on the board. Zero mistakes. Brilliant.
Next up was Prada and Ben was in total control, bossing the start after a big shift, tacking onto port first and then gassing the Italians forcing them off to the unfavoured left hand side. It was 15 seconds at the top mark, Prada splashed down and then it was a drag race out to the boundary. Ineos looked rapid again. Flight downwind was stable and Ben and Giles Scott were in perfect tune, calling the breeze to perfection and extending to 22 seconds at the first bottom mark. Executing the round up/tack to control the right hand side saw Ineos gain. Prada came back but by the top mark Ineos was holding steady and eked out another one second gain.
Prada’s mark rounding was a dog’s dinner again, splashing down. Ineos was rock solid. The flight was beautiful. The ride height consistent. Ineos oozed power and control. Everything looked different. The new all black wings developed with Mercedes assistance were epic. The rig looked powerful and the crew work was bang on the money. Jimmy Spithill gambled on the last upwind. Ben kept a close cover. Textbook stuff. But Prada closed right up to ensure bitten fingernails for the Brit supporters on the final leg. Heart in mouth stuff. Prada was tearing down the run. But no panic on Ineos, belief was coursing through their veins and it was a victory of victories. 2-0. I could barely contain myself.
So what did we just see? Well, this is fantasy-land. Even the most die-hard supporter would have struggled to believe today was possible. It’s one of the all-time Cup comebacks and the America’s Cup world is in shock. Ineos has just taken apart the Challenger fleet and left everyone stunned. The momentum pendulum has swung.
Sensational. Genius. Outstanding.