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The best race of the PRADA Cup so far!

by Mark Jardine 22 Jan 2021 21:01 PST 23 January 2021
PRADA Cup Round Robin 3 - INEOS TEAM UK vs Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli © COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

For those who got up early in the UK to watch the match-up between INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, it was nail-biting and agonising, with the anticipation only built by the repeated delays.

On the shifty Course C, Race Officer Iain Murray was forced to reset the race track multiple times and then Ben Ainslie called for a 15-minute delay, a request they can make once per Round Robin, to try and fix an issue with their cunningham hydraulics. With a clear problem, the British team chose to fix their cunningham at around 80%, an obvious disadvantage on these ultimate extreme racing machines.

The start was close with Luna Rossa having to bear away in the final few seconds, putting both teams right on the line and giving us the closest racing yet between these AC75 yachts. So close in fact that Luna Rossa called for penalties twice on the first beat, both denied by the umpires.

The racing was fantastic with multiple lead changes and being in phase with the wind shifts absolutely key. INEOS TEAM UK led by 2 seconds at the windward gate, then 9 seconds at the leeward gate, hitting a peak of 50.29 knots. Luna Rossa called the shifts perfectly on the second beat to take a (relatively) massive 19 second lead, only for INEOS TEAM UK to smoke the downwind leg to cut the lead to 10 seconds.

Ben and Giles worked in perfect unison to eek out a one second lead at the final windward mark and then just made it across Luna Rossa on the first cross of the final leg. With INEOS TEAM UK gybing onto port for the finish line, it all came down to a port-starboard cross to decide if INEOS TEAM UK would make it straight through to the final of the PRADA Cup. The Italian team tried to work down to force the penalty but, Richard Slater and his umpire team were quick to make the No Penalty decision.

The BRITANNIA crew were naturally elated as they crossed the finish line, but quickly calmed down by Ben Ainslie. The 33-second winning margin not reflective of a race with nine lead changes. Easily the best race of this America's Cup and possibly one of the all-time classics.

As Ben said post-race, "That was one for the fans!"

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