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Prada Cup Semi Finals Day 2 - Celebrations for Luna Rossa

by Ben Gladwell - Sail-World NZL 29 Jan 21:01 PST 30 January 2021
Luna Rossa sets up to cross the finish line and progress to the Final of the Prada Cup - Semi-Finals - January 30 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

Breezes today were much more mild than yesterday's extremes. The Hauraki Gulf gets its name from the "North Wind" which today is flowing unencumbered by any land into the racecourse area, setting up some fantastic sailing conditions. It lived up to its name today.

Luna Rossa continued on Day 2 from where she left off in yesterday's fresh to frightening conditions. The Hauraki Gulf lived up to its name and provided superb sailing conditions for the foiling monohulls. Here's how the racing unfolded.

Here's how Day 2 of the Semi Final unfolded - more content to be added later when it comes available.

RACE 1

Spithill and Bruni set off for the right-hand side of the start box to set up a similar situation to yesterday's racing where they dominated the start sequences. Both boats set up for their run to the line quite early - a change that American Magic needed to make after being well late in both races.

Barker and crew made a better fist of it today, getting off the line even with Luna Rossa, which is a result they would happily take after yesterday. American Magic set up to leeward and hung in with the Italians and force the tack at the boundary. As they came back towards the centre of the course together, Italy seemed to have the better of the conditions, squeezing the USA off and forcing them to tack away back to the left-hand boundary. This was a good result for the Italians who pulled out to a 150m lead as at the next cross due to having done fewer manoeuvres. They maintained this margin to the first top gate but allowed Barker to have a split course.

Interestingly, American Magic threw that opportunity away, gybing shortly after the mark rounding to follow luna Rossa out to the left-hand boundary and giving up a chance to find a passing lane.

The USA picked up a small gain on the back of an ordinary gybe from Italy but gave it back with a rough manoeuvre of their own. Seeking a split from Spithill and Bruni, Barker went for a tricky tack-rounding at the bottom of the course - appearing to be upping the aggression levels to try to reduce some of their deficit which now sat at 300m.

Spithill and Bruni weren't having any of it, sailing across the course to meet them and then tacking to nail a tight cover as Spithill could be heard to say "Let's keep the foot on the throat" on race radio. He and Bruni were sailing a very nice tactical race, putting the boat in the right shifts while managing their position relative to their opponents well. The gap now at 41 seconds.

Some slight gains came American Magic's way on the next run, finding a useful mode and sailing back within the 300m zone, having dropped back to around 450m at the top of the last leg. They rounded the mark 20 seconds behind.

Now sailing upwind again, they started throwing the boat around a little more, forcing Luna Rossa to follow them and risk a mistake in a manoeuvre rather than sail their desired course. They maintained a loose cover on the Americans and held their advantage of around 300m up to the top of the course. A brilliant long layline call out them in a firm position at the top of the course, rounding the mark 41 seconds in front again and lining themselves up to go to match point.

Luna Rossa sailed a faultless last leg to cross the line well ahead.

Post race, the metrics didn't reveal a massive difference between the two boats, certainly not as big as one might expect given the delta at the finish. Upwind Luna Rossa had a slight advantage and downwind the edge was with American Magic. The distance sailed was almost identical. Such numbers would suggest that the starts are absolutely crucial and if American Magic wants to be in this regatta tomorrow, they must win the start.

RACE 2

As is often the case with the northerly wind in Auckland, the breeze built throughout the afternoon as the land stayed warm and fuelled the sea breeze. By race start time it was up five knots from race 1.

American Magic went a long way down to the bottom right corner of the start box before heading back to the line. Finally, American Magic looked to be the aggressor, but again they failed to make it count and started a couple of lengths behind. Right off the start, American Magic tacked and went searching for some breeze at the right-hand side of the racecourse. When the boats came back together in the middle of the course, it was Italy in front again by around 120 metres. Spithill and Bruni set up a slam dunk and forced Barker to tack back out to the right. Both boats would go all the way to the boundary, and when they crossed for the second time, Luna Rossa's lead had grown to 170m. It appeared that they had their usual extra click of boat speed upwind, American Magic's best hope of winning this race was to stay in touch and try to strike on the downwind.

A board malfunction right at the top of the course put paid to that strategy, preventing them from tacking and sailing past the mark. When they eventually righted things and rounded the mark, they were 750m behind. Sadly this was not the end of their issues, the problem reoccurred at the first gybe, and they had to sail across the boundary before being able to gybe. This would spell the end of American Magic's America's Cup campaign.

It seems a cruel twist of fate for the team, who had climbed such a boat building mountain in the last two weeks, for their efforts to have been rewarded in such a way. They would continue to sail the course, hoping for a miracle or a catastrophic error from Luna Rossa - but it was not to be.

Once again, Luna Rossa sailed a faultless race to secure their position in the Prada Cup finals next weekend.

As Jimmy Spithill said as they crossed the finish line, "Now Ineos, boys."

The Prada Cup Finals begin on February 13, 2021 - with 13 races scheduled, first team to have seven wins proceeds to become the Challenger for the 36th Match for the America's Cup.

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