All the Prada Cup finals action between Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK with AUT’s Sailing Professor Mark Orams.
Racing in the America’s Cup challenger final will begin Saturday between Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK, teams with a recent history of antagonism and a shared desire to guide the future of the historic sailing event.
Today’s racing will take place on Course A. At this stage, race management are hopeful of starting on time, but race director Iain Murray admits there could be a delay with the first race due to light winds.
The wind is predicted to be in the 8-11 knots range for the 4.15pm start time, before rising to 12-14 at 5.15 and about 14 for a 6pm start. Racing cannot start any later than 6pm.
Bad blood exists between the teams after Italy’s Luna Rossa successfully protested against the British team’s use of a sail control system early in the regatta, which was found to be outside competition rules.
Luna Rossa’s protest cost Team UK $5,000 and means that the British team enters the first-to-seven-win Prada Cup final effectively with one strike against it. A second rule breach likely will result in the team being disqualified from a race — a costly penalty in a 13-race series.
British skipper Ben Ainslie has condemned the Italian complaint as “churlish”, adding “I don’t think that’s how the game should be played”. Team UK’s fear is that Luna Rossa could use a scattergun approach, launching a flurry of technical complaints in the hope of scoring a hit that could lead to a disqualification.
“That is the game and we will go into the Prada Cup final with our eyes wide open as to some of the tactics,” Ainslie said.
Ainslie said Team UK will take extra pains and work closely with the measurement committee to ensure its race boat Britannia is fully compliant.
Luna Rossa has had its own technical issues and setbacks. It has devised a way to race without a backstay — the system that tensions the rig — which gives it an aerodynamic advantage. But the measurement committee also has found that system non-compliant.
When questioned about their complaints against the British team, Luna Rossa’s helsmen Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill mostly have shrugged and sought to minimize the issue. But the Italian team has taken a hard-nosed approach which likely will continue through the challenger final.
Team UK and Luna Rossa also are in competition to have some control over the next America’s Cup. Luna Rossa has served as Challenger of Record under Cup-holder Team New Zealand which allows them to jointly determine the rules of the regatta and the type of boats that are used.
Team New Zealand reportedly intends to make Team UK the Challenger of Record if it successfully defends the Cup in March, in part because the British team shares its preference for the foiling monohulls in which the current regatta is being sailed.
On the water, Team UK and Luna Rossa seem closely matched. Team UK recovered from a faltering performance in the America’s Cup World Series before Christmas to dominate the Prada Cup round-robin and earn a direct path to the final.
Luna Rossa had mixed form in the round-robin series, losing to the British team, but made substantial improvements in the semifinal in which it beat American Magic 4-0.
Spithill said Luna Rossa benefited from the semifinal racing.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be racing and I believe we needed that series,” Spithill said. “I actually think it was an advantage because we are a lot stronger for it.
“We’ve been very very candid and critical and you have to be to improve and as a unit. I think we’ve done that well but we know there’s a lot more there and we have to keep the throttle down.”
The Prada Cup final will be a best of 13 series, with the winner moving on to challenge Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match in March. There will be two races per race day of the Prada Cup final. The racing window for each race day will be around 4pm-6pm, with the first race of each day scheduled for 4.15pm.
Feb 13: Race 1 and 2
Feb 14: Race 3 and 4
Feb 17: Race 5 and 6
Feb 19: Race 7 and 8
Feb 20: Race 9 and 10
Feb 21: Race 11 and 12
Feb 22: Race 13
Prada Cup final series winner:
Ineos Team UK – $1.50
Luna Rossa – $2.40
To win Race 1:
Ineos Team UK – $1.70
Luna Rossa – $2.00
How to watch and stream
The Herald will have live updates on nzherald.co.nz/sport while you can listen to live commentary on Gold AM and iHeartRadio.
America’s Cup coverage is free-to-air on TVNZ. You can also stream the action live or on-demand on TVNZ.co.nz or on the America’s Cup YouTube channel.
If you’re in Auckland, you can also head down to the America’s Cup Race Village at the Viaduct Marina, where there will be a stage and big screens to watch the action. The village operates from 10am to 8pm on race days and can be accessed through the main entrance at the beginning of Hobson Wharf.
There are also many options to view the action live around Auckland’s waterfront. Here are the best spots to watch the action.
Race officials will determine which course will be used on each racing day.
Professor Mark Orams is a former NZ and world champion sailor, Team New Zealand member, author, environmentalist and Professor of Sport and Recreation at the Auckland University of Technology.
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.
• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.
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