Ben Ainslie and INEOS Team UK continued their remarkable turn-around with a third win in the Prada Cup, Challenger Selection Series.
The British America’s Cup team finally took a convincing win over American Magic after a difficult light wind race that was first postponed and then shortened.
This win keeps Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK top of the leader board with three race wins, Luna Rossa now in second with one win, and American Magic third, still without a win.
Ainslie, “The guys did a great job handling the boat and Giles (Scott) did a great job finding what little breeze there was. We eventually managed to find our way round so we will take the win.”
And that light weather performance problem . . .
“I would not say today was an accurate read of our light air performance because it was so puffy and shifty. It was all about staying in the pressure. Nonetheless it was still a huge improvement from where we were three weeks ago.”
Sunday, the final day of racing for this first round robin session, will see Ineos Team UK race Luna Rossa, and then American Magic will face Luna Rossa.
There is then a break in the Prada Cup action until the second session of round robin racing starting Friday 22 January. During the lay period, the teams can modify their boats and then have them remeasured on Wednesday 20 January.
The second day of Prada Cup racing was plagued by a light breeze that effected both matches, with luck and skill in coaxing the AC75s onto their foils, both playing a significant part in the final results.
In the first race of Day 2, Luna Rossa took the win in 38 min 54 sec, and American Magic failed to finish after the race was shortened to two laps in the light wind conditions.
The two-helm team of Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni got Luna Rossa across the start line on time, while Dean Barker on American Magic struggled to get them on their foils and eventually started late.
At the first mark Luna Rossa rounded with a 7 min 58 sec lead and set off downwind to mark 2.
When American Magic eventually rounded, they got the breeze and wiped out Luna Rossa’s lead, before falling off the foils again.
Eventually Luna Rossa got the breeze and rounded the bottom mark to lead back up the beat, rounding the final mark while American Magic continued to struggle.
Luna Rose then foiled to the finish at 30+ knots to take their first win of the series. American Magic, over a leg behind failed to finish.
In the second race of Day 2, Ineos Team UK won a shortened race ahead of American Magic to take their third race win of the round robins.
Ainslie showed that the modifications to Britannia had also improved their light wind performance, sailing round a stalled American Magic to cross the start line, sail to the boundary and tack with a 600 metre lead.
Foiling upwind Ineos slipped off their foils just before the first mark, rounding in displacement mode, American Magic rounding 1 min 50 sec later.
Both then sailed in displacement mode downwind, Ineos stretching their lead to 240+ metres.
At this point the course was shortened to finish after four legs.
With a lead of 640 m Ineos finally started to foil, followed by American Magic, both hitting 30+ knots.
Ineos rounded mark 2 on foils and started up leg 3 while American Magic had again dropped off their foils and were then passed by Ineos heading to mark 3.
American Magic eventually rounded mark 2 in displacement mode 8 min 47 sec (2527 m) after Ineos.
For Ainslie it was now a race against the clock to beat the time limit and claim the win.
Ineos were on their foils rounding mark 3 to start the final leg at 7+ knots (VMG 5 kt) with approximately 9 min 40 sec time left on the clock.
As the breeze picked up Ineos were back on their foils and almost in the spectator crowd, with just 6 min of the time limit remaining.
Approaching the finish Ineos were back up to 32 knots and heading to the line with 3 min 31 sec left on the clock.
Ainslie gybed for the finish line, staying on the foils, and crossed with 2 min 16 sec left on the clock . . . Race 3 was in the bag.