Please select your home edition
SW newsletters (top)

America's Cup Rialto: Feb 13 - A result few would have picked - Final Day 1

by Richard Gladwell, 13 Feb 05:58 PST 13 February 2021
Luna Rossa - Pre-Start - Race 1 - Prada Cup Final - Day 1 - February 13, - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gladwell /

The question was asked earlier in the week of Max Sirena, skipper of Italian Challenger Luna Rossa, as to whether it was more beneficial to spend time working on speed developments to an AC75, or putting in sailing time on the water?

Sirena dodged making a call saying that the answer would be known at after the Finals.

The reality is that we probably know the answer now.

Luna Rossa turned in an impressive performance to win both races sailed today on the first day of racing in the Final Series.

The race statistics tell a compelling story. Luna Rossa lead at every mark, on almost every leg the margin between her and INEOS Team UK increased. On the final leg of Race 1 the Brits took 11secs out of the Italians, and on Leg 4 of Race 2 they got 1sec back - but that was it.

Perhaps even more surprising was that the Italian advantage was not not just in the light breeze which prevailed for Race 1, but right through the wind range as the sea breeze hit over 20kts in Race 2.

INEOS Team UK was the surprise winner, but a very dominant one in the Round Robin racing winning four races, plus a sail-over to go straight through to the Challenger Final, and have the benefit of a three week break - and ostensibly the opportunity to get some solid development work done to once again improve speed.

The Brits had been impressive between the end of the America's Cup World Series in December - where they were well off the pace, and the Round Robins, where they showed they were the boat to beat. For sure the last race against Luna Rossa was very close, but the Brits came away with their fourth win, and with the assistance of a sail-over they had the five wins to make the Final.

However the question now has to be asked - do the boffins, of whom there are plenty in all America's Cup teams, have too much call on speed development? Or, is it better to work on getting the basics right, and then letting the sailors get comfortable with the boat, and learn to drive it fast and easily?

Of course, with their development program, Luna Rossa could well have leapfrogged INEOS Team UK - where the sum of the Italian improvements was more than those of the British.

The other question that tied in with the first asked of Sirena, was whether it was a better move to qualify for the Final via the Repechage/Semi-Final route - taken by Luna Rossa. Or was it better to move straight to the Final.

The Semi-Final option had the benefit of an extra four races, maybe more, over two days - in a series where the competitors generally seem to be short of a gallop. The direct route gave the extra development time - and given what the Brits had been able to achieve between the ACWS and Round Robins - what could they do given another three week stretch?

Today started with a light sea breeze ahead of some advancing tropical storms, or the remnants of, which are due to hit Auckland for the first three days of next week.

Mid-morning the breeze looked like it would settle from the NE and spread across the Auckland isthmus to the west coast. However that was not to be and Auckland found itself in twin seabreeze mode as a 15kt westerly on the west coast fought a 10kt NE breeze on the east, around race start time of 4.19pm.

In the oddest of circumstances, INEOS Team UK - although towed onto her foils earlier, was sailing at 33kts 1min 45secs before the start of Race 1, but 40 secs before the start she hit a soft spot in the funky seabreeze, dropped off her foils and was sailing at just 4.6kts. Luna Rossa had the good fortune to miss the same lull and good away to a fast start, which she built out to a 700 metre lead soon after the start.

Even through the wind increased to 8-9kts, INEOS Team UK struggled to foil - and by the time she had got airborne the race was all but over.

Race 2 was much closer - initially with the breeze at around 14kts and building to 20kts as the race progressed.

INEOS won the start by half a second, and got the leeward berth, bouncing Luna Rossa off the right hand side of the course - but at the first cross the Italians were ahead and try as they might there were no passing lanes in the course, and all the Brits could do was stay in touch and hope for a snaffu aboard the Italians.

Both boats changed down their jibs in anticipation of a fresher breeze but probably could both have gone down a size or maybe two.

The point that came loud and clear from the Italian challenger was that the revamped Luna Rossa was easy to sail, and the crew conversations crisp but casual, even to the point of cracking jokes - maybe for the benefit of the on board audio.

While there has been a lot of talk about the Italians having two helmsmen in Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni - who don't change sides for the race, it seems as though the Brits have gone down the same path. Our impression from the on board video is that Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott hand the steering between each other, without either changing place.

In a similar vein while there has been a lot of rules back and forth over the Italian running backstays and whether they should be tight, today they looked to be tight, and used the same as everyone else.

With the breeze forecast to increase for Day 2, will Luna Rossa be able to pull off another double and go into the series break with four wins, and a firm grip on the Prada Cup?

Emirates Team New Zealand cast a shadow over the early buildup - working up to the north of the race course when the breeze was light, although we didn't get a close look, through the binoculars, the Kiwis looked very smooth, fast and slick.

In three weeks we'll have some answers on that point, too.

Related Articles

The good, the incredible, and the brilliant
Ever since writing 'More Grit' I have been on somewhat of a Western trip Ever since writing More Grit! I have been on somewhat of a Western trip. It was only further solidified after actually meeting both the incredible Bill Hatfield, and the brilliant Jeanne Socrates. Posted on 16 Jun
Letter from the Antipodes: Kiwi's export their Cup
A look at the latest round of SailGP ; The Ocean Race Europe ; and the exported America's Cup A look at the latest round of SailGP - still a work in progress; The Ocean Race Europe hands out some unexpected outcomes; What we are expecting to hear on the fate of the 37th America's Cup - and why it can't work in New Zealand Posted on 12 Jun
Sail-World NZ: June 12 - Latest NZ and World News
Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for June 12, 2021 Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for June 12, 2021 Posted on 8 Jun
History repeating
Here's something very new, as such… Here's something very new, as such... However, in the 60s, another bunch of avant-garde enthusiasts pretty much did the same. Posted on 6 Jun
Excess 12 - It's a sensation!
Well actually it is more than one, and this is exactly what Bruno Belmont always said Excess is... (Well actually it is more than one…) You know, the father of Excess, Bruno Belmont, always said to me that Excess is all about delivering sailing sensations, with the amenity of a cruising cat. Posted on 31 May
Sail-World NZ: May 29 - Latest NZ and World News
Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 29, 2021 Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 29, 2021 Posted on 29 May
Cruising altitude…
We looked a lot at the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 during the course of 2020 We looked a lot at the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 during the course of 2020. Back in July with the world's airline fleet effectively grounded, we used the aviation parlance to reflect on how well the Sun Fast 3300 was doing... Posted on 23 May
Letter from the Antipodes: Rethinking the Options
World Sailing has pushed three options for Paris 2024, when two were requested by the IOC After its Mid-Year Meeting last weekend, World Sailing has floated another three options for the International Olympic Committee to consider for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Two were requested, and the IOC will get the other one anyway. Posted on 22 May
Sail-World NZ: May 20 - Latest NZ and World News
Sail-World NZ - May 20, 2021: Finn Gold Cup win, Graham Mander tribute, Decision Paris 2024 World Sailing has floated another three options for the International Olympic Committee to consider for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Posted on 20 May
Graham Mander, designer, engineer, multi-champion
Yachting innovator Graham Mander won 11 national titles in five classes before the age of 25yrs Graham Mander who passed away in early May was one of the last of a generation of New Zealand sailors capable of designing their own boat, and building it, engineering the fittings, and then racing their creation to a national championship win. Posted on 19 May
MBW newsletters (top)