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.