Ben Ainslie and INEOS Team UK nailed day 1 of the Prada Cup in Auckland, with back-to-back wins.
Ainslie and his crew took straight forward victories over both their rivals, leading from the start to the finish line in both races. This puts Ineos Team UK top of the Prada Cup leader board with two points, something that no one would have thought possible just a couple of days ago.
The British America’s Cup team faced both their rivals for the challenger place in the 36th America’s Cup on the opening day.
Conditions were wind from south west, 12 to 15 knots, racing on the close to shore, spectator friendly course.
First up was the NYYC American Magic team with Dean Barker helming.
Ainslie just leading off the start and then building that lead up the first leg to round the windward mark ahead by 11 seconds.
Britannia then stormed away to eventually take a comfortable win, the Americans picking the wrong side of the course and looking out of phase.
While Ainslie calmly powered around the course, showing off the revitalised Britannia with smart new black foils and the other recent modifications finally bringing all the hard work together.
Faster both up and downwind than American Magic they destroyed the American team with a comfortable 1 min 20 sec victory.
For the Ineos Team this was their first victory over another AC75 team and a game-changer, with American Magic the pundit’s choice to go through to the semi-final from this first round robin series.
Next up on day 1 it was Ineos versus the Italian team’s Luna Rossa.
With that first victory under his belt, Ainslie was obviously on a roll, his new confidence showing in a storming start, two lengths ahead of Jimmy Spithill and claiming the favoured north side of the course.
Rounding the first mark with a 15 second advantage they maintained their lead, while Luna Rossa could not find any gains, splashing down on a couple of the turns.
Ainslie was able to sail his own race, picking the shifts and not really troubled by the italians, to take a 28 sec victory and complete the perfect start to their campaign.
There is a long way to go – six more races in this round robin series – but suddenly Ineos are ‘winners not losers’ and few would have put money on that after the Christmas Race debacle.
Ainslie confirmed that, apart from the actual hull . . . everything from foils, rudder, mast and sails to operating software had been looked at and modified, thanking his shore crew and the engineering works team who worked so hard to make the boat competitive.
Notable were the black foils, looking super slick and clean with what appeared to be a very narrow flap area.
Ainslie added that they felt good in this light breeze and up, but knew they had work to do in the lighter winds which they expect on day 2.
Saturday, day 2, will see Luna Rossa v American Magic and then Ineos v American Magic again.
Same time, same place . . .