Otago Daily Times
Previewing the Prada Cup final
AUCKLAND: Racing in the America’s Cup challenger final will begin Saturday between Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK, teams with a recent history of antagonism and a shared desire to guide the future of the historic sailing event.
Bad blood exists between the teams after Italy’s Luna Rossa successfully protested against the British team’s use of a sail control system early in the regatta, which was found to be outside competition rules.
Luna Rossa’s protest cost Team UK $5000 and means that the British team enters the firsttosevenwin Prada Cup final effectively with one strike against it. A second rule breach will likely result in the team being disqualified from a race — a costly penalty in a 13race series.
British skipper Ben Ainslie has condemned the Italian complaint as ‘‘churlish’’, adding ‘‘I don’t think that’s how the game should be played’’.
Team UK’s fear is that Luna Rossa could use a scattergun approach, launching a flurry of technical complaints in the hope of scoring a hit that could lead to a disqualification.
‘‘That is the game and we will go into the Prada Cup final with our eyes wide open as to some of the tactics,’’ Ainslie said.
Ainslie said Team UK would take extra pains and work closely with the measurement committee to ensure its race boat is fully compliant.
Luna Rossa has had its own technical issues and setbacks. It has devised a way to race without a backstay — the system that tensions the rig — which gives it an aerodynamic advantage. But the measurement committee also has found that system noncompliant.
When questioned about its complaints against the British team, Luna Rossa helmsmen Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill mostly have shrugged and sought to minimise the issue.
But the Italian team has taken a hardnosed approach
Prada Cup Final
The final will be a bestof13 series, with the winner moving on to challenge Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match in March.
There will be two races per race day of the Prada Cup final. The racing window for each race day will be about 4pm6pm and the first race of each day is scheduled for 4.15pm.
Feb 13: Race 1 and 2
Feb 14: Race 3 and 4
Feb 17: Race 5 and 6
Feb 19: Race 7 and 8
Feb 20: Race 9 and 10
Feb 21: Race 11 and 12
Feb 22: Race 13
which is likely to continue through the challenger final.
Team UK and Luna Rossa also are in competition to have some control over the next
Luna Rossa has served as Challenger of Record under cupholder Team New Zealand, which allows it to jointly determine the rules of the regatta and the type of boats that are used.
Team New Zealand reportedly intends to make Team UK the Challenger of Record if it successfully defends the Cup in March, in part because the British team shares its preference for the foiling monohulls in which the current regatta is being sailed.
On the water, Team UK and Luna Rossa seem closely matched. Team UK recovered from a faltering performance in the America’s Cup World Series before Christmas to dominate the Prada Cup roundrobin and earn a direct path to the final.
Luna Rossa had mixed form in the roundrobin series, losing to the British team, but made substantial improvements in the semifinal in which it beat American Magic 40.
Spithill said Luna Rossa benefited from the semifinal racing.
‘‘We’ve been fortunate enough to be racing and I believe we needed that series,’’ Spithill said.
‘‘I actually think it was an advantage because we are a lot stronger for it.
‘‘We’ve been very very candid and critical and you have to be to improve and as a unit. I think we’ve done that well but we know there’s a lot more there and we have to keep the throttle down.’’