The Prada Cup Final is not done and dusted yet, and with INEOS TEAM UK marking its first point on the scoreboard, there may still a long way to go.
In the first race of the day, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli resumed racing where it was left last weekend, getting her nose in front at the start and keeping the British in her wake to claim a vital fifth point.
However, in the second race, Ben Ainslie finally put his hands on the textbook and executed the same game plan to take a convincing first point.
Two more wins is all will take for the Italians to take the Prada Cup, but the British team will not give up without a fight. With the teams having fairly even boat speeds, the pre-start was the key moment of this race.
Current: 0.2 knots @ 353
Winner Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – 1:20
Any nervousness that the sea breeze would struggle to develop was dispensed with well before the start with 8-10 knots sweeping across the course area from the south-west.
In the pre-race preparations, both teams were foiling comfortably around the race course area. The day was on.
Coming into the pre-start duel, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli came in from the right, crossing INEOS TEAM UK which entered on starboard, but would either team risk close engagement and therefore risk coming off their foils?
The opening seconds of the pre-start suggested not, as the pair kept their distance. But as the clock counted down to the start, both clearly wanted the right-hand end of the start line.
The British boat was to windward, a commanding position as it swooped down towards Luna Rossa in the closing seconds. However, the Italians had managed their final run into the line perfectly and were able to force the British to alter course and keep clear at a crucial stage in the countdown.
The jury delivered a penalty to the British, but both boats were early across the line, the penalties scrubbing each other out. In the coming together of the two boats, INEOS TEAM UK was deemed to have infringed the boundary around Luna Rossa, so was given a penalty. However, the story wasn’t over yet.
The pair split tacks, and when INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa came back together for the first time, the Italians claimed that the British had gained an advantage from their position. The jury agreed and gave the Brits a second penalty. Now the British had to give away distance to clear it, which proved difficult.
INEOS TEAM UK was placed on the better side of the course and kept benefitting from its position, making it difficult to scrub off the distance and clear the penalty. By the time it had, Luna Rossa was in the lead.
By Gate 1, it was Luna Rossa that was through first, rounding the right hand mark 15 seconds ahead. On the downwind leg, there were few passing lanes. INEOS TEAM UK was able to sail slightly deeper to reel in some distance on Luna Rossa, taking the advantage from 2 minutes 20 seconds to 1 min 60 sec, but their gain was short lived.
As the race played out, the Italians sailed a perfectly executed race aboard a boat that appears to have an extra gear when it comes to the angles it can sail upwind. As each lap went by, the Italian advantage grew, and by the finish Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli crossed 1 min 20 sec ahead.
Francesco Bruni – helmsman, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: “It has been a fantastic race. Jimmy did most of the job in the pre-start working very well the time on distance.
“The whole team is playing well, the boat is in good shape, we have to keep doing our job and think race by race.
“At the start there is a very fine line between staying high and slow, and staying too high and too slow, and the latter is when you fall off the foils. We did a good job and Jimmy really kept the boat on the edge.”
Ben Ainslie – skipper/team principal, INEOS TAEM UK: “We are just going to keep plugging away; it’s tough and obviously we are struggling in terms of straight lines performance. We have to push harder to make something happen.
“It was a pretty close start; we got the first cross, but they were just sailing away with their actual speed upwind. On the start we wanted the right-hand side for the pressure, so knowing they were putting off the pace on a straight line performance, it was worth it taking the risk. I would do the same thing again.