We were all very proud of how the team turned things round from a frustrating situation before Christmas. It was a real team effort and a great reward to win the Round Robin series to get that direct route into the Final. We are under no illusions, however, just how much of a mountain we still have to climb. We have not won anything yet.
Our goal here in Auckland is to win the America’s Cup and to do that we first need to win the PRADA Cup. That means beating the Italians, Luna Rossa, in a first-to-seven-win series over the next two weeks. They have been in this game for over 20 years, have been performing well across a range of conditions and do not seem to have a weak spot. They will be very tough to beat and we will need to sail incredibly well to beat them.
Taking the direct route into the PRADA Cup Final meant we have had an extra week preparation without racing compared to the Italians. That has been important as throughout this whole campaign we have been playing catch-up to a certain extent with Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand in terms of their knowledge of the concept of the boat. Now we had, for the first time, the opportunity to gain a bit of time back. That extra week has enabled us to make some changes that frankly we would not have been able to make otherwise.
In the past two and a half weeks since we raced in the Round Robin series it has been all about making the marginal gains to continue improving our performance. We are now in the stage of the cycle where it is all about fine-tuning performance, finding half of a percent here and there. If you make five or six of those small improvements you are suddenly making a 2-3% performance gain, which at this level is huge.
That marginal gains philosophy is visible throughout the entire INEOS sports group, from Sir Dave Brailsford’s INEOS Grenadiers through to the Mercedes F1 team, who have been continuing to support us throughout this period. There has been a phenomenal amount of sporting success within that group and to be able to share in that and learn from that is hugely powerful. To a certain extent we now feel the responsibility to keep up with their successes and that is a great motivator for us.
We had a tough start to this competition and the team had to dig deep to turns things around. The momentum that comes with that is vital. We have made sure to keep that intensity going over the past three weeks. We have worked around the clock to make the developments we needed to find more boat speed, particularly in the lighter airs where we know the Italians are strongest.
Time will tell whether we have done enough, we are all looking forward to the challenge ahead.