Ainslie says Team New Zealand remains above challengers as Prada Cup pairings released

Ineos Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie has given a blunt assessment of the task ahead for the challenging America’s Cup syndicates.

“I think you will see a lot of development across all three challengers through the Prada Cup,” Ainslie said speaking to the Shirley Robertson Sailing Podcast.

“And whoever gets through … we are really going to have to push hard for that challenge to be able to give the Kiwis a race because right now they are standing head and shoulders above the other three teams.

“We’ve really got to up our game to be competitive against them.”

The British syndicate seemed to have the most work to do of any syndicate following the America’s Cup World Series late last year and its vessel struggled throughout the regatta.

“We were fortunate to have that opportunity to highlight these issues though, frankly, we have been working on some for a long time,” Ainslie said of his team’s quest to catch-up.

“It takes a relatively small change to get a boost in performance and that’s what we are looking to do here.

“We’ve identified two to three key issues we had during the World Series. Everyone is now working flat-out to get those issues sorted and get the boat performing where it should be.”

The Prada Cup starts on January 15.

It consists of 17 racing days starting with a multiple round robin format where the three challengers – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, New York Yacht Club American Magic and Ineos Team UK face off each other for four times.

The team with the most points at the end of the round robins moves directly to the cup final, while the remaining two teams compete in a best of seven wins, head-to-head, semi-final between the 29th January and the 2nd February.

The Prada Cup final, between the 13th and the 22nd February, is a best of thirteen race series where the first team to reach seven wins will win the trophy and is awarded the right to be the challenger for the 36th America’s Cup against defender Emirates Team New Zealand.

Therefore, to win the America’s Cup, first you have to win the Prada Cup.

Each of the challengers have been working relentlessly during the Christmas break to make changes and improvements to their AC75s and there is great anticipation to see them racing again now that the stakes are much higher.

Main image courtesy of America’s Cup media, Studio Borlenghi.

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