Ineos Team UK took a close win over Luna Rossa in the first race on Saturday to go direct to the Prada Cup Final.
After a long delay, including a technical issue with the Ineos cunningham, racing finally got underway for one of the best match-races we have seen to date in the Prada Cup Challenger Selection Series.
It finished with a fifth straight win for Ben Ainslie and Ineos Team UK, after 23 minutes and 33 seconds of nip-and-tuck racing.
Counting the ‘ghost race win’, Ineos Team UK have six wins to go through to the Prada Cup Final where they will meet the winner of Luna Rossa and American Magic.
Ainslie and his Ineos team are on a roll . . . We have never, repeat never, seen a British America’s Cup challenger to match them.
Ineos started to windward of Luna Rossa both heading left off the line, with Ineos tacking away first.
At the first gate Ainslie took Ineos round the left mark with a 2 second lead. Both sailing at 40+ knots downwind, with Luna Rossa building a 100+metre lead. But Ineos came back to lead round gate 2 by 9 seconds.
Jimmy Spithill took Luna Rossa back into the lead on the second beat, building their lead to 300 metres and rounding Gate 3 by 19 seconds.
Downwind at 40+ knots Ineos sailing faster closed to 200 metres, but Luna Rossa rounded Gate 4 with a 10 second lead. Ineos went left, with Luna Rossa tacking to come accross to cover from the RH boundry.
Ineos were still behind but cut Luna Rossa’s lead to 20 meters, then crossed ahead going into Gate 5. Both round together – 1 second between them and everything to play for.
On the final downwind Ineos gybed to cross ahead of Luna Rossa by 57 metres and building it to 100 metres.
On the final gybe and cross Luna Rossa had gained and called for Starboard as they passed behind Ineos . . .
But no penalty awarded and Ineos Team UK sailed direct for the finish and a 33 second win.
Ben’s comment . . . “that one was for the fans.”
Both teams then each sailed a ‘ghost race’ to claim the points for what would have been their race against American Magic who are busy repairing their damaged boat.
Counting the ‘ghost race win’, Ineos Team UK have six wins to go through to the Prada Cup Final.
In recognition of being top round robin qualifier, Ineos Team UK were presented a bottle of G.H. Mumm and have been awarded with the PRADA Christmas Race trophy – which was not assigned in December as races were not held due to the lack of wind.
No races will be held Sunday.
This resulted in the following programme for the next stage of the Prada Cup.
Luna Rossa and American Magic will contest the semi final starting Friday 29 January.
Next racing for Ineos Team UK will be the Prada Cup Final starting Saturday 13 February.