Four and Oh!

Goggles on. Fire hydrant spray. Capsize. Near sinking. It was a wet, wild and dramatic day three of the Prada Cup with a gusty, shifting breeze beneath leaden, rain-filled skies. Race Director Iain Murray called for a big boys day out on Course A, the most exposed of all the courses available to him and it didn’t disappoint. 16 knots gusting 30. Wow. And it was enthralling. Engrossing. And the drama was heart-stopping.

©Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Seeing these boats in big winds is something to behold and you just have to admire the talent on display. The sailors were the stars of the show. All those lonely hours of training married with the relentless beastings in the gym, showed the athletes at their finest. It also showed that even the best in the world can get it wrong but it underlines just how thrilling the AC75 boats are and what a spectacle they are capable of putting on. But the weather was doing its best to not only be the determinant today but the story. Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott had other ideas. Patriot stole the headlines.

Race two of Round Robin 2 was the opening race of the day, with the eagerly anticipated match-up between Ineos and Prada. It was a heavyweight slug-fest right from the off. Jimmy versus Ben. And it was the Italians who bossed the first start to lead off and stretch into a big lead that at one point was 44 seconds. It was looking like being a tough day for Ineos but the weather fronts pulsing down the course were about to have their say. A 90 degree shift reversed the race order and the Race Committee were quick to abandon as is the agreed race protocol and both Prada and Ineos hunkered down as the storm clouds rolled over. Race over. Time for a power bar, a nutrient drink, a banana or two and a thorough debrief and reset.

And boy did Team Ineos come back smoking.

©Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

At the restart, after a lengthy delay, the sun came out and the wind stabilised at a solid 16 knots and it was all-on tactical warfare. If you had to have a sailor to race for your life, Ainslie would be the choice, no doubt, and he and Giles Scott put on a pure racing masterclass. It was almost Olympic Finn racing – just at 40 knots and on a bigger stage with an even bigger prize than a gold medal. It was sensational.

Off the start line, Ineos kept it close and split to the right boundary. Prada had the early lead and led by 10 seconds at the top mark. No panic from the Brits. Ineos smoked down the first run, having split gates at the windward mark and reduced the delta to 7 seconds by the bottom but then came the tutelage in the final throws of leg 3. It was classic schooling.

Thinking five steps ahead of the Italians, Ineos hugged the left hand boundary in the final quarter of the beat before ducking Prada coming across on starboard to hold the right side to then come back on the dominant return starboard tack. A little extra pressure and Ineos was ahead, 26 seconds up, just when it mattered most. Masterful, straight out of the Olympic textbook.

Ben was never going to lose it. Giles Scott was on fire calling the right hand mark to bear away on port but then hold the starboard advantage after the first gybe. This was tactical brilliance on display. The Italians had just been out gold medalled. Genius. And Ineos looked sublime, matching Prada for boatspeed and as I’ve said before, all Ben & Giles need is an equivalent platform and they will win.

Good night. It was curtains for the Italians who started to sail a bit ragged despite closing the delta to 12 seconds at the final windward gate. The Brits again exited on the right hand mark, peeling away on port gybe beautifully. By the time they came back on starboard, the lead was extended and they cruised to the line to record a truly outstanding 18 second victory.

That’s ‘4 and 0’ and it’s a regatta where Team Ineos are just getting better and better. It was the first time they had been behind but the onboard comms emitted a calmness and a calculation that oozed confidence and talent – let it not be understated, this is pure sailing, tactical brilliance on display. Spithill and Checco have just been mugged down a dark alley on the Hauraki Gulf and they must be looking at the Brits wondering how on earth they are going to beat them.

An absolute masterclass. We are witnessing sailing genius from the British.

In the final race of the day, and the final race of Round Robin 2, the under-fire American Magic team faced off against a fired-up, protest-ready Prada and started to show some of the form that had many, me included, picking them as Prada Cup finalists. I was still on that ticket but it was hard work right from the start. Barker made a dog’s dinner of the start and was saved by some curious tactics from Prada who were clearly struggling with electronics and comms.

The Magic boat looked rapid and muscular as they took control of the race and extended into a huge lead, testament to their sheer pace but oh my goodness me, the world turned upside down at the final windward mark as the team went into a difficult tack-bear-away as a massive gust came down the course.

Copyright: Studio Borlenghi

Patriot yawed out of control as they struggled to release their leeward runner on the bear away having flown through the initial tack, pinning in the mainsail, stalling out the foils, rearing dramatically and a capsize was inevitable. It’s one of the hardest moves to pull off in these boats and the margins for error are tiny – Paul Goodison was calling the difficulty down the lines but once they were committed it was all-on. I’ve rarely witnessed such a heart-stopping moment watching the America’s Cup. Thankfully there were no injuries onboard and the chase boats were in fast.

Devastating for the Magic Team who must be wondering what on earth they have to do to win a race in this series. Prada sailed through but with the result inevitable, the win was called for the Italians.

Tough day for the Americans. Really tough. And as the feed cut in the UK, the boat was wallowing, swamped and in danger of sinking. Reports of damage to the hull are coming in and it’s a truly horrible situation. This is a serious setback and if the boat is now a structural doubt they will struggle to repair it in the timescale. Desperately sad.

Wow – what a day. What a day. Breathless stuff. Ineos were full class. Prada eked a win on Super Sunday. For American Magic it could be all over. I hope that isn’t the case.

You have to watch this.

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25 thoughts on “Four and Oh!

  1. All about pressure, hence why ETNZ dropped Barker years ago and replaced him with Burling. Sorry Terry but you need a new Helmsman. Prada is beyond repair. Great win by Ben, always consistent.

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  2. Watching the local feed here via Television New Zealand, local legend Peter Lester summed up by saying the win to Ineos was a little bit about boat speed and a lot about course management. And i agree.

    People are starting to cotton on to the Ineos sailing team structure with one less grinder. We saw Terry head down grinding on Patriot while the two Prada helmsmen are either driving or operating the foils. Giles has his eyes out scanning all the time, spotting each little puff of breeze and shift. Look at the other 2 boats and all you see are bobbing helmets.

    Will we see the other 2 teams quickly commit to having a dedicated tactician? Or has the horse bolted?

    The Patriot capsize I put down to hurried (poor) decision making and execution in a situation that they hadnt previously encountered. Thats fine, its all a learning curve. I do still have doubts over Dean Barker but man, Patriot looks like a weapon when its fully lit.

    As always Magnus, loving your work.

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  3. AM more out of water than in. still pumping. will be a long slow tow btb when they get stability

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  4. looks like side tow about to start. recovery sling and jib wrapped around hull fwd as a bandage. 2nd sling aft.

    LSD back on live after battery change

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  5. Even if they recover the hull safely back to base, how are the electronics going to be after being submerged?

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    1. I know John. The electronics and the complex hydraulic systems are all going to be damaged. But these are really bright guys with fantastic resources behind them. If anyone can get back out there, they can. I am willing them to come back from this. Such a great team.

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  6. Magnus,  A classic peel off gone wrong and a stuck mainsheet to put her over and finish her off. Ouch ! Hank Evans 

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  7. Should Luna Rossa have abandoned to stand by? There are several noble precedents in America’s Cup pasts. I guess it’s all about winning. How naive of me!

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    1. I thought the same. Jimmy says “let’s just keep going” and I’m not sure that’s the right call? Fundamental Racing Rule 1.1 comes into play but bear in mind there are chase boats following so perhaps they felt there was little assistance they could offer and they were in survival mode themselves. Tough to criticise from afar. I’m just so encouraged at the collective team’s effort to recover the situation. That’s great to see.

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      1. Yep, from a practical perspective the best thing they could do would be to simply stay out of the way and not have an accident themselves. You can imagine an unpowered AC75 flapping around in the vicinity with the possibility of a stray gust making it suddenly take off at speed is undesirable!

        Unfortunately doing the right thing here doesn’t look particularly good.

        I recall Team NZ were criticised in ’95 for sailing on when Australia sank off San Diego.

        PS: loving this blog.

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      2. Thank you John – that is so nice of you to say.

        Yes I agree. On one level, Prada flying off doesn’t look good and Jimmy’s Comms off the boat were quite ruthless but in reality what can they do? And Prada would have had no idea that the hull was holed. They would have quite rightly assumed that the chase boats would be in and that the boat would be righted quickly. I read somewhere that ETNZ was righted in under 5 minutes when it capsized against Ineos in practice. So they would have had no idea at the drama that was about to unfold. I think they did the right thing as a team (as did all the teams) and their chase boat was on stand by and helping on the bow immediately.

        What a day…!!

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    2. I think that initially he might have thought it didn’t look any worse than INEOS’s capsizes in the World Series (that was how it looked watching on TV, at least) and that they would be alright.

      As I recall, Black Magic vs oneAustralia was a somewhat similar situation.

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    1. Well I don’t want to be too quick to judge on that. It was survival conditions and if they stood by, they might have actually have been a danger to the rescue effort. Hard to judge when I’m frustratingly, not there! I think we should agree to give the Prada Team the benefit of the doubt and I did see their big RIB on standby throughout and helping out.

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