Speaking ahead of the opening day of racing for the Prada Cup Challenger Selection races, Ineos Team UK Team Skipper Ben Ainslie rolled off an extensive list of the changes they have made to Britannia.
Working flat out since the World Series, Ainslie claimed that they had improved a lot from where they were, which was at ‘rock bottom’!
In the extensive list that seemed to included most everything except the actual hull, Ainslie claimed . . .
“A lot of new parts online including a new rudder, new rudder elevator, new mast, new mainsail, and new headsails. Then alongside that we have made modifications to our foils, to the aero package on our hull and we have changed the systems inside the hull.”
While the AC75 are a completely new class for the 36th America’s Cup, the boats they are sailing now are the second iteration, building on the first version (GBR-3) they have sailed for a year.
The second versions were expected to raise the handling and performance levels as the design teams built on the extensive data collected from that first period of training and development.
And this was apparent, particularly with the radical hull change of the second Britannia (GBR-6) design.
But a design that did not initially appear to provide the performance improvements that other teams achieved.
The embarrassing mechanical failures and lack of light wind ability in the December ACWS racing, kicked-off a major round of last minute upgrades, and considerable media comment on just how £120 million could result in such an obviously weak design package.
Not that British America’s Cup teams have shown themselves to be any great shakes at setting previous Cup events on fire.
After racing was revived in the 1950s, following two British defeats to the American Cup holders, with more teams becoming interested in challenging, the unbeaten American defenders adopted a challenger series to choose the team that would compete in the America’s Cup match against them.
Since then, no British team has made it through to race in an America’s Cup match.
With a well-funded team and a lot of hype of F1 motor racing input, the latest British team once again find themselves with a boat obviously lacking pace and scrambling to pull things together with the clock ticking.
Following the recent last minute modifications Ainslie commented,
“We knew our development from the World Series would have to be significant and we have certainly been busy. We are all now excited to see how much of a jump we have made in our performance.”
Failure at this challenger selection stage – the Prada Cup – will take them out of the 36th America’s Cup and most likely out of the event for the foreseeable future.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the British team’s billionaire backer, will be in Auckland watching and like the long-suffering British fans, wondering just where the money went.
Ainslie knows that the future of Britain in the America’s Cup hangs on their performance over the next couple of weeks.
Going out in the semi-final could just be enough to keep the flame alive . . . not reaching the semi-final would surely be game over.
But let’s look on the bright side . . . we could be about to witness the greatest comeback since Ainslie’s last comeback with Oracle Team USA in 2013.
Now that would be worth all the agnst.
Prada Cup racing is scheduled to start on Friday 15 January at 02:00 hours (UK time).
Live and highlight videos, results and reports will also be posted here on Sailweb.co.uk each day following the races.