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America's Cup: Prada Cup Final to settle old Brexit scores

by Suzanne McFadden 11 Feb 14:09 PST 12 February 2021
Prada Cup Finals - Press Conference Max Sirena (Team Director & Skipper - Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team), Ben Ainslie (Team Principal & Skipper - Ineos Team UK), Iain Murray (Regatta Director), Bruno Trouble © Luca Butto'

It was the sailing equivalent of a boxing weigh-in – without the orchestrated bravado. And both the combatants kept their shirts on.

The closest it got was Max Sirena walking on to the stage on Auckland’s waterfront on Thursday and promptly stripping off his Luna Rossa jacket.

But the Prada Cup final skippers’ press conference wasn’t without its own drama and ‘fighting’ talk - with yellow cards, spying and even Brexit bandied about.

This eagerly-awaited final between Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS Team UK is shaping up as a clash for the ages. No-one knows whether it will go the full distance of 13 races - or whether the knockout will come much sooner.

But what's clear is that both contenders believe they have the best shot at going on to the battle that matters most, against the holders of the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand – still rated as an "incredibly tough" opponent.

After this weekend, it could become more obvious whether more time on the water will defeat more time in the boat shed.

Sirena’s thus-far undefeated opponent, Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie, walked into the press conference wearing a puffer vest, jeans and a comfortable swagger. He’s had the luxury of almost three weeks to prime for this title fight, compared to the Italian’s fortnight.

Between the rival skippers sat the prize - the pristine Prada Cup, yet to have any team’s name engraved on its silver curves.

The full room was populated with mostly Kiwi media and the support crew from each team, sitting tactically on opposite sides of the aisle.

A journalist in Germany zoomed in and pointed out this will be the first challenger series final featuring two teams from Europe.

“They are no longer in Europe,” Sirena quipped, looking at Ainslie. “Thank god,” Ainslie shot back.

“The nice thing is there’s a kind of a fight between Italy and [England] in terms of sport... It’s good for Europe," said Sirena. "And now that you’ve reminded me, it’s an extra motivation to do well.”

Sirena then jabbed at Ainslie again: “You told me before you were against Brexit.”

“We’re out… get over it mate,” was Ainslie's retort.

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