With the Americans still in the shed getting ready for the Repechage, INEOS TEAM UK and LUNA ROSSA PRADA PIRELLI headed out onto the stadium course on the Hauraki Gulf for the penultimate day of the Round Robin stage of the PRADA Challenger Series.
Ben Ainslie and the whole British team were fully focussed on getting the job done to take the win and with it an automatic route through to the PRADA Cup final.
Racing got underway on time at 16:00, ITA entered first on port 2 minutes 10 seconds from the start gun, followed by GBR 10 seconds later only for the race committee to immediately postpone the race due to a big right-hand shift on the course.
A 60-minute delay waiting for the shifting breeze was followed by a further 15-minutes after INEOS TEAM UK played their one ‘delay’ card due to a mechanical problem with BRITANNIA’s cunningham (the system to adjust the front of mainsail tension.)
Racing finally got underway at 17:20 local time in a shifting south westerly 16-18 knot breeze in what turned into a gripping race, with 9 lead changes and BRITANNIA hitting speeds of over 50 knots.
Despite not being able to make all the adjustments needed to the mainsail, Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott kept calm and picked their way through the shifts to take the win by 33 seconds and with it the first place in the PRADA Cup Final.
Speaking immediately after the win from onboard BRITANNIA Ben Ainslie said:
“That was one for the fans! That was a pretty awesome race and great to take part in with lots of lead changes. Full credit to the Luna Rossa guys for pushing us hard.
“We had a few issues going into the race unfortunately with our cunningham. That meant from the start we were on the back foot and missing one of the key settings for powering the boat but the guys just did an awesome job getting us around the track in one piece and getting the win.
“With the cunningham issues especially affecting us downwind Bleddyn [Mon] our Mainsail Trimmer did a great trying to keep us powered up. We were losing a bit downwind and we had a high fast mode, but we guessed the settings right for the upwinds and managed to have enough pace to get around.
“The last cross looked good initially out of the gybe but then when we both went into a soak mode theirs was a little bit better than ours with the Cunningham off. It was about as close as you want to get it, but I did think we were just across.
“That was a great moment for the team because we’ve had a tough build up to this competition. I’m incredibly proud of everybody. That said, we know we have a long way to go. Whilst we’ve got ourselves into the PRADA Cup Final it’s just one step on the road. We now have to focus on continuously improving our performance, winning the PRADA Cup and then eventually the America’s Cup itself. One step at a time but the team have done a fantastic job.”
The PRADA Cup Final starts on 13th February and INEOS TEAM UK will face either American Magic or Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.