Ainslie has ‘hope’ for future after ‘one-hit wonder’ demolished in Prada Cup

“To win the America’s Cup you have to have the fastest boat across a range of conditions and you can’t just be a one-hit wonder in the hope that it’s going to be breezy everyday,” Sir Ben Ainslie told the Today programme this morning.

Luna Rossa sailed to victory in the Prada Cup final over the weekend. The Italians, who won the series 7-1 over Ineos Team UK, now move onto the America’s Cup match after outracing the British team in medium to light conditions and demolishing any hopes of revival.

“We clearly were struggling against the Italians particularly in the lighter airs and in the manoeuvres,” says Ainslie.

“Hats off to the Italians, they put together a great campaign and just had a better package at the end of the day.

“We started off with the World Series before Christmas when we could barely get around the course, we couldn’t get the boat out of the water. We didn’t win a race.”

“We went back to the drawing board, the team worked incredibly hard at it for three weeks between that series and the start of the round robins for the challenger series. But we just ran out of time to be able to get the upgrades onto the boat and get the performance where it needed to be.”

Hope, rather than confidence, for funding

That Ainslie alludes to Britannia as a ‘one-hit wonder’ casts a dark shadow around his elusive answers regarding continued funding. He reframed questions about his ‘confidence’ in Ineos’ continued backing into talking about his ‘hope’.

“Ineos have been absolutely fantastic backers at this campaign – not just with financial backing but also with their approach to business and other sporting assets,” says Ainslie. “I certainly very much hope that they will continue with this journey of getting the America’s Cup back to British waters.”

Ainslie cites a list of variables which need resolving, to move ‘hope’ to ‘confidence’.

“A key for someone like Jim [Ratcliffe] making a commitment to the cup is understanding more about where does it go from here, depending which team wins, what the class of boat will be, what will the structure of the event be – those are important details to know before one would commit to an endeavour like this.

“He’s a winner, a sportsman, but he understands how tough it is.

“That’s part of the attraction of the challenge, the fact that Britain has never won this thing because it is incredibly tough to win. That’s the attraction for someone like Jim: the harder the challenge the better it is. And that’s the same for myself.”

Ainslie’s looking for continuity

Ainslie compares the America’s Cup to Formula One on water, saying it’s one of the biggest challenges in sport. And he’s looking for the continuity that F1 teams enjoy to make the difference in future campaigns.

“Look at [Emirates] Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa – they’ve been in the cup game for 20 and 30 years and it’s that constant learning and development which we’ve never really had in the UK.

“We are now a second generation team with Ineos Team UK and I want to continue that. We set the target to win the America’s Cup and as far as I’m concerned we’ve got to keep going until we achieve that.”

Magnus Wheatley, writing on rule69blog, says the British team delivered a poor return.

It’s: “the end of a campaign that promised so much but delivered little when it really mattered,” Wheatley says. “Just one win in the Prada Cup Final was a poor return. No excuses. Prada simply executed better and sailed like Roman Gods.

“For Ineos the realisation dawned, that in these conditions, they had brought a knife to a gun fight.”

Italians looking forward to challenge

Luna Rossa is delighted with the result, especially after the controversy about Covid-19 related delays. Max Sirena, skipper and team director, has thanked his sponsors and all those working for his team.

“I’m really happy for the guys, for all our sponsors, for all the people who worked for us in this project. It was not so obvious and trivial to win because even if we were few teams, we were three super competitive teams,” Sirena says.

“I am happy for the team because it has not been an easy campaign so far.

“We have a lot of new things to try and we can’t relax much, but it’s important not to lose the momentum we will train and not to let our guard down. What matters is to keep the pace up and then we’ll see. We will go there with our heads down and we will play it until the end.”

ETNZ says it’s delighted to be racing Luna Rossa.

“We have been waiting and watching each of the challengers for the past few years and now we finally know who we will be racing and who we need to beat to successfully defend the America’s Cup,” says ETNZ’s Peter Burling. “We have always known Luna Rossa will be passionate, creative and strong across the board, a few of their guys were teammates last time, so we know them well and they know us.

“It is now just 12 days until the first race, we have been waiting years for this opportunity to race, so we are incredibly excited about the start of racing on March 6. Already you can sense the intensity has risen yet another notch internally now we know we will be racing Luna Rossa and our complete and utter focus is now zeroed in knowing that we need to be better than them across the board.”

Images courtesy of Studio Borlenghi.

5 responses to “Ainslie has ‘hope’ for future after ‘one-hit wonder’ demolished in Prada Cup”

  1. Anyone looking at the Team INEOS boat would have to ask how on earth they came up with such a disastrous design. A fair hull is a requisite for a quick boat yet, INEOS had a step called the Bustle and a box down the keel-line, with a long flat section. A log has a less wetted area than a box. If you wanted to stick to the water that’s how to do it. The whole design team ought to be given the sack. The Italian’s sails looked fuller and the mainsail set better down at the bottom with no boom. People have been designing boats for thousands of years, why on earth design something like this unless you were forced to… I suspect Team INEOS relied too much on designers from the car industry? What they need is someone like Jo Richards (as one example) with an eye for designing a quick hull. The Italians with their flair for the design had the better boat and the NZ boat also has much nicer lines. Is Sir Ben too much of a star for anyone to turn round and say, I think we are doing something really stupid here Ben….? A brilliant Laser sailor and a brilliant Finn sailor, but Sir Ben has not shone in team boats as much where he cannot use his physical prowess. Spithill beat Ben around the IOW in the IACC yachts and I have to say I think he was the better helmsman in New Zealand. When you have lost more than once and you on the way to becoming another Thomas Lipton, Sir Ben faces a huge challenge to overcome the fear of losing once again. He has traded on the BREXIT jingoism and British exceptionalism in the last two challenges. The comeback in San Francisco was attributed to him joining the Team Oracle boat and that convinced some people he could come back from being way behind. That comeback could have been really due to Spithall mastering what Team NZ had discovered. Either way, it caused some people to believe that Ben was some sort of miracle worker who was somehow going to turn the situation around. Some even said he was ‘sandbagging’ early on. I wish! This challenge is a metaphor for BREXIT in that a modern Italian challenge from a country in the EU has outplayed (completely) the best of British effort. It is a bit like Nelson going into battle once more and finding that the French and Spanish have moved forward while Britain has stagnated and declined. Nigel Farage may snigger at Johnny foreigner and feel it is his right to insult people in the European Parliament, but the fact is that the Europeans are not the dummy’s that people like Farage may portray them as. They are moving forward, but where are we…..? Europe has not collapsed but Great Britain is hardly in great shape. One thing that Ben has achieved is he has shown that Britain is going to have to try a whole lot harder to catch up. He is a great sailor, one of the greatest, but the Americas Cup is about a team of people and when the crunch came we were outclassed.

  2. JDV says:

    I disagree with most of your comment. Ineos performance was less than Prada in light airs, Prada points higher and is consistent. Prada also had a considerable headstart over GB and USA in development due to being COR. No amount of money can buy back that time, so the most refined boats are Prada and ETNZ. The best insight into the design conundrum and for racing analysis which may help balance your view out a bit is Mozzy sails on you tube.

  3. Peter says:

    A negative view of Britain’s ability is unwarranted. The LR design is not Italian but German, but as we can really see, all teams have no qualms about having other nationalities. Ineos has both French, German, Italian New Zealand origin and so for the others. The flat skeg saved Rita on 23 January from immersion at the pre start and fulfilled part of the design criteria which was to touch the water at speed and rather than immerse like the V hull would, come back up like a high speed motor boat would. Ben Ainslie was pictured hanging on for dear life on the boom end and the vessel lost hardly any speed. Boom end. Yes, no boom end, no handle no skipper. But I certainly agree that a boom that did not allow for lower sail area to add power was a poor compromise. They could not get the articulating boom to perform. Both challengers who were not part of the inner circle both opted for a boom. Moths and waszps use some form of boom system. I wouldn’t fire the design team. I would only sign up my money for a known system of design arbitrate or run independent of defender or challenger. I would also lawyer up for the Rules just as they do in all top sports as we could have laid several protests in my view on the shenanigans that went on.

  4. Tom Edom says:

    Agree that identifying hull shape as the critical issue is misleading. No one was saying that after the post Christmas comeback. It’s clear that Prada’s performance in the final was consistently better in the conditions, by those few vital percent, and that was all about the foils and rig, not the hull ( unless you think that the parasitic drag of the flying hull made the difference). They had also achieved a better level of confident manoeuvrability. In my opinion that was key to letting Jimmy Spithill do what he does best: match racing ( street fighting on water). He outclassed Ainslie on every start except the one race where Ineos got an equal start and won the first cross. On the last day when Ineos tried to repeat that, he had already worked out a response and closed out their opportunity. The fine control and good speed Prada have arrived at was exactly the tool that Spithill needed to do his job against Ineos and it made him look dominant. But how will they look against TNZ? As a match racer I’d back Spithill against Burling; but unless the boats are equal, all bets are off.
    In these first generation of a completely new type, some divergence in design approaches is what you’d expect. It’s likely that if they continue the class, we will see a convergence on hull shape, foil configuration, rig etc, but still with new ideas being tried and sometimes working.

  5. Alistair trotmanalistair@gmail.com says:

    Hope they go to a simply cheaper non fiiling design for several challenges. To allow other poorer campaigns, nations participate

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