Ben Ainslie reveals significant modifications ahead of Prada Cup

Ineos Team UK’s challenge for the 36th America’s Cup begins in earnest tomorrow with the Prada Cup, the challenger selection series.

The first two round robins will be the first racing conditions opportunity for Ineos to test the developments and modifications made to Britannia since the frustrating show in December.

Modifications

“The team has been working flat out since the world series and we think we have improved a lot from where we were,” says skipper Ben Ainslie. “We have brought a lot of new parts online including a new rudder, new rudder elevator, new mast, new mainsail, and new headsails. Then alongside that we have made modifications to our foils, to the aero package on our hull and we have changed the systems inside the hull. We knew our development from the world series would have to be significant and we have certainly been busy.

“I give a huge amount of the credit to the likes of the shore team and the engineers. We talked about our performances on the wide range of the wind. We got a long way down that road in terms of improvements, there are a lot more to come. Other teams are also improving and everyday they come up with outbreak to their boats. We can be certainly competitive in the medium-strong wind range, the lighter race we still don’t know.”

“Our engineers worked around the clock to action these changes, these upgrades to the boat, based on the lighter airs but across the wind range, where we were struggling with performance.”

Improvements

“Firstly [it was] identifying why that was and then trying to rectify that issue. We have come a long way down that road in terms of improvements, [but] there is still more to come. These other teams are improving every day, people are coming up with new upgrades, and we are no different.

“We are excited to see how much of a jump we have made. How far up that ladder we come will be fascinating to see in the next few days.

“We would love to race in the stronger breezes, that is probably no secret, everyone can see that,” says Ainslie. “The trick is we can’t control the weather.

“It’s a medium breeze for Friday, a bit lighter for Saturday and Sunday so we will see how much we have been able to improve that performance in the lighter airs over the weekend.

“We need to be competitive across the wind range and that is our goal. We have made some big jumps but still more to come in that area.”

Luna Rossa has acknowledged Ainslie’s development saying, in a statement, that the English team ‘have shown great improvements, both in terms of manoeuvres and speed’ in recent weeks.

“As we’ve seen in the last week, everyone’s gotten faster,” says Terry Hutchinson, skipper for American Magic’s Patriot, widening the praise pool.

“And what we saw from the defender the other day is they’ve made steps beyond where they were. After the world series, we got pretty heavily into just straight line boat speed development and then from there, working on manoeuvring and how to best keep Patriot up and out of the water.”

Challengers closing gap

Meanwhile, writing for the New Zealand Herald , Secret Sailor says the gulf between ETNZ and the challengers that was evident during last month’s world series seems to have closed.

“The Kiwis may have another gear that they haven’t yet shown but there’s no denying they have struggled to get across the start line – being beaten in the starts by Luna Rossa and American Magic in the Christmas series and losing two starts to Ineos Team UK in this week’s practice races.

“At times during the world series, the Americans and Italians also looked to match them in the speed stakes. The capsize during practice racing against the Brits on Monday is also not a great sign. None of the other teams came close to tipping over and while Team NZ have three very experienced helmsmen on their boat, they have some work to do.”

Warnings

Patrizio Bertelli, CEO Prada Group, has warned all the teams of his expectations. “You have a commitment and a responsibility towards the world who is following you to deliver great sportsmanship and sporting event,” Bertelli says. “I trust that you will do so.

“What really matters is that we have one defender and some challengers. It shouldn’t become like a F1 circuit, that is unacceptable.

“This is a start-up, and if we keep developing the same type of boat, which I hope it will happen, more teams will be involved in the America’s Cup in the future. These boats are extraordinary: with Team New Zealand we have developed a real breakthrough in the history of yacht design, a real technological milestone. They are very complex boats, but perhaps in ten years this technology can be transferred and applied also to cruising boats.

“I have no opinion on the New York Yacht Club’s wanting to go back to traditional boats, but first they have to win the America’s Cup and then they are free to make any decision they like. It has always been like this in the America’s Cup. It’s up to the defender.”

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