Latest word from Auckland is more optimistic for Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup challenge after a good showing in light wind conditions on Friday.
Following recent modifications – whatever they were – the on-water performance of Britannia and of the team in general seems to have taken a turn for the better.
In the most recent light wind sailing conditions, Britannia compared well against her two rivals for the challenger place in the 36th America’s Cup.
Even in minimum race starting conditions (6.5kt minimum for starting a race) Britannia got on their foils using a #1 jib, matching the performance of rivals American Magic and Luna Rossa.
After their poor showing in the December ACWS racing, particularly in the lighter winds . . . Ainslie admitted that they were not happy with the performance of Britannia, and that they are not where they wanted to be.
Their situation not helped by Ineos CEO Grant Simmer, admitting that they had known about their ‘issue with the lighter air and take off’ . . . recalling memories of Ainslie’s similar problems in his previous Cup challenge in Bermuda in 2017.
Following a team crisis meeting immediately after their embarrassing Christmas Race, where they were lapped by the Kiwi boat, days were spent in the boatshed over the Christmas/New Year break, attempting to resolve the design failures.
Whatever has been tweaked, it seems to have had the right effect, and although there has been no direct competition since then, the signs are looking good.
They have until Wednesday 13 January before they must declare the boat and its equipment status for the Prada Challenger Selection Series, starting on Friday 15 January.
Ineos are not the only challenger working on their boat. American Magic have added an extension to their keel skeg, and Luna Rossa added new wind deflector mouldings around the grinder stations.
And those are just the visible modifications. A lot will have been going on under the ‘bonnet’ to get some extra knots out of these machines before they meet in competition again.
Ineos face two races on the first day of the Round Robins, firstly against the NYYC American Magic team, and then the Italian team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in their second match.
Over the six days of the first Round Robin stage, they will race eight times, with the winner from the three challengers going direct to the Semi-Final stage.
The other two teams will then continue to race to decide the other semi-finalist, and one team will drop out.