‘No fear’, ‘no moaning’ says Ainslie, as Brits are clear favourites for NZ supporters

A recent poll by the New Zealand Herald shows that over 75% of its readers believe that Ineos Team UK will win the Prada Cup.

Racing resumes on Saturday when the Brits and Italians go head to head in a best of 13 Prada Cup final.

Sir Ben Ainslie is bullish, despite the wind limit not increasing

“We don’t fear anything. I mean, you shouldn’t do if you’re going into a race. You should respect your opponent, not fear them,” says Ainslie.

While Iain Murray America’s Cup race director confirmed the wind limit would remain at 21 knots, and not be extended to 23 knots, Ainslie says the team voiced its desire to see an increase in wind limit as planned, but says he’s not going to ‘moan’.

“We were consulted and our opinion was we didn’t think it should be changed at this late date, and we should have stuck with the 23 knots wind limit,” Ainslie says. “That said, there are clearly safety elements here in play, and we were happy that it was the challenger of record and defender’s decision.

“We told them our viewpoint, but we also said we would support their decision so that’s where we are at.

“It’s clearly full-on sailing these boats in over 20 knots of breeze. When you get into a 23-knot wind limit, you then start getting into 27 knots, that’s really full-on.

“That’s what all of us have been designing our boats for and training for, so to change that at the last minute is not something we would have done.

“But again, it’s not our decision, we are not going to sit here and moan about it. It’s up to the defender and challenger of record to make those decisions. As a challenging team, we have to react to that and make the best of what we can.”

Once a race starts it continues even if the wind goes above the starting limit. The lower wind limit of 6.5 knots is unchanged.

“We have to be ready to race in any condition. We have to take the Italians on, and match them in whatever wind – and we are looking forward to it,” says Ainslie.

“We have worked very hard over the period and our team has stuck to the task of trying to get every ounce of performance out of the boat. It’s been a tough period, especially for the shore team. During the last ten days or so we’ve been back on the water trying to get the intensity up and making sure we are match fit.”

Murray says the wind limit was set to ensure teams were racing their boats, not just trying to survive.

What’s going on in the Ineos shed?

According to a statement from Prada Cup organisers, Ineos Team UK has had its base doors closed for several days suggesting it is carrying out modifications that involve more than simply fiddling, fettling and polishing.

Luna Rossa, the statement says, has notably improved onboard communication and the execution of manoeuvres. The boat seems to have taken a decisive step forward in performance even in strong winds, previously considered its weak point.

“The differences between the two boats are considerable, both on a technical level and in terms of handling. An obvious example is the afterguard.

“Luna Rossa presents two helmsmen, Francesco Bruni and James Spithill; they never change position on the boat, Francesco stays on the port side, Jimmy on the starboard. Both of them are helming while they are on the windward side of the boat and they cover the role of flight controller while they are on the leeward side. The only person who swops sides on board is Pietro Sibello whose primary role is mainsail trimmer but he is also deeply involved in the strategic decisions supporting Jimmy and Checco with a good vision of the race course. Also, on the Italian boat the grinders, who produce the power needed to make adjustments, are eight; some of which are double tasked and assist in manoeuvres.

“On the other hand, the organisation onboard Ineos Team UK is quite different. It respects a more traditional division of roles: Sir Ben Ainslie is the helmsman, Giles Scott the tactician and the two move from one side to the other of the boat at each tack or gybe as do the mainsail trimmer Bleddyn Mon.

“Another important characteristic of Ineos Team UK is that the British boat only have six main grinders. They work on particular transmission system and the grinding gear always turn in the same direction. In this way the British can count on five free people during the regatta, the helmsman and tactician, the mainsail trimmer and the two flight controllers that sometimes helps grinding.”

The Italian team is ready for the challenge

“Since we raced Ineos Team UK last time, we have new foils, a new modified mast, a new set of sails, a lot of development on the software system on the boat and a lot of improvements especially in the communications on board,” says Max Sirena, Luna Rossa’s skipper.

“We made a lot of mistakes when we raced against Ineos Team UK and we want to come out with one mistake less than them this time.

“I think at the beginning of this campaign we were a little bit off the pace in big breezes. Mainly because, for some reason, we did not encounter many windy days when we launched the boat. But when we finished the round robins we started to sail in the big breezes and were able to work on what was needed and now we feel very confident in the full wind range. We are now ready to sail in any condition.”

Watch: Ainslie and Scott discuss the ‘pivotal’ moment in the campaign – and the days and weeks it took to rectify the issues and find the momentum it needed. “Hopefully we’re not done,” says Scott.

Main image courtesy of Studio Borlenghi.

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