A tricky and yet revealing day for the Challengers competing in the PRADA Cup Round Robins due the to the tricky light wind conditions that frequently forced the AC75’s off their foils.
A positive day for the Challenger of Record of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli as the Italians took a nerve wracking win against American Magic on the first race of the day to lodge their first point on the board.
The second race of the day, once again was the British challenger INEOS TEAM UK that again surprised many by winning their third race in a row in conditions they were expected to struggle in against the Americans.
It was a tough day for American Magic, with two consecutive losses which Skipper Terry Hutchinson described as ‘character building’.
The pressure mounting, but the turnaround performance for the British team is a clear example as to how fast things can change and nothing can be taken for granted.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli win RR1 Race 3 against American Magic
RR1 Race 3
Current: 1.1 knots @ 336
8-14 knots / 225 degrees
Winner: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA)
American Magic (USA) DNF (time limit)
As Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA) entered the pre-start area from the left hand side there were the first few signs that this would be a tricky race. Struggling to stay on their foils the Italian team made it across the bow of right of way American Magic (USA), just. But shortly after this both boats had dropped down into the water and were now very slow.
At 30 sec to go to the start Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had managed to get back up and running, but American Magic were still dead in the water.
At the start, the Italians crossed the line at speed on starboard from the committee boat end of the line leaving the Americans still struggling for speed coming in on port.
Eventually Dean Barker did get underway, but they were already 250m behind.
In the patchy breeze and when they were fully underway, boat speeds were around 27-28 knots on the first upwind leg. But this kind of pace was short lived. Although Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were able to get around through the first gate on their foils they couldn’t keep this pace for the entire downwind leg.
As the breeze stayed down at around 8 knots Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were having trouble getting down leg 2. In their attempt to create sufficient boat speed to get onto the foils they were forced to sail so high that they were sailing across the course rather than down it.
As they continued to struggle, the tables were about to be reversed as American Magic managed to get into some breeze, get up to speed and haul back the massive 700m+ deficit to catch and then overtake the Italians.
But once again, the patchy breeze caused fortunes to be reversed. This time it was Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli who got back up to speed to sail away from American Magic once again. Minutes later they had passed through gate 2 in the lead.
From here, American Magic never got close enough to pose a problem for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. As the Italians approached gate 3 they were well out in front, foiling around the left hand mark. But once again, from the on board comms it was clear that their main concern now was keeping on their foils to get to the finish in a race that had been shortened from three laps to two.
The Italians held their nerve, connecting the dots to stay with what little breeze they could find and managed to cross the finish line inside the 45min time limit.
Luna Rossa had taken a nerve wracking win to put their first point on the board for Round Robin 1.
INEOS Team UK win RR2 Race 1 against American Magic
Course: combination between C &D
Current: 0.4 knots @ 337
8-12 knots / 220
Winner: INEOS Team UK (GBR)
As the sky cleared, so the heating on the land showed hints of the ingredients for a sea breeze as the wind speed climbed slowly towards double figures. The wind direction had also changed slightly causing the race committee to delay the start of the race as they re-aligned the course axis. But once again, the rise in the wind speed was deceptive.
On the pre-start entry INEOS TEAM UK (GBR) were travelling at speed, fully in flight as they entered the zone at speed, on time and on port tack. They crossed their opponents American Magic (USA) with ease who appeared to have got their timing wrong, entering the zone too early and gaining a penalty as well. Even worse they came off their foils and struggled to get back up to speed.
With 30 sec to go, INEOS TEAM UK were at speed burning time on the right hand side of the pre-start area as they headed back towards the line and American Magic who were dead in the water.
Seconds later INEOS TEAM UK tacked onto port, crossed the start line and charged off on the upwind leg at speed leaving American Magic dead in the water.
One minute and 30 seconds later INEOS TEAM UK were 500m ahead of American Magic. Seconds later it was 700m and growing.
As INEOS TEAM UK approached gate 1 there was concern aboard the British boat that it would be difficult to avoid the light patches further up the course. As they rolled into a tack onto port the breeze dropped and the British came off their foils. This would be the first of many splash downs for both teams.
Meanwhile, American Magic were up and running and charging up the beat at 30 knots to INEOS TEAM UK’ 2 knots. But the advantage was short lived as the American’s sailed into the same lull in the breeze.
Sir Ben Ainslie sneaked through gate 1 and inched their way downwind.
Boat speeds were now down to 4-8 knots.
Having inched their way down leg 2 INEOS TEAM UK were the first to get onto their foils, but it was a brief moment. One gybe and they were back in displacement mode, sailing like an everyday race boat.
As they did so American Magic had found some breeze and were back up on their foils, closing the distance on the leaders. But it wasn’t enough, INEOS TEAM UK had found a slither of breeze too and were sailing at over 30knots, enough to get them down to gate 2 as they rounded the right hand mark.
The next lap of the course was tense for the race leaders in trying to avoid the flat patches and ignore the moments when American Magic was reeling in the distance.
But as the British approached gate 3 for the final leg, (the had been shortened), the concern was now around whether there was enough time to complete the race.
Eventually, with 7 minutes to go before the time limit expired INEOS TEAM UK found the breeze and got back up to speed. Two thousand metres to go, three and a half minutes left, the British were travelling at over 30 knots, this was going to be close.
In the event they crossed the finish with two minutes to spare to take their third race win from three starts.