America’s Cup challengers philosophical as Prada Cup final postponed by Covid-19 | 1 NEWS

The challengers for the America’s Cup are well aware of the impacts of Covid-19.

INEOS TEAM UK warms up ahead of Round three, race 2 against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team during the 2021 PRADA Cup Round Robins on Auckland Harbour on January 23, 2021 in Auckland.
Source: Getty

By Felicity Reid for

Coming from two nations – Italy and Britain – that have been hit hard by the virus, the teams have always been thankful to be in New Zealand and racing in front of fans on the Hauraki Gulf.

But with sailing in the America’s Cup Challenger Selection Series on hold during Auckland’s level 3 lockdown, they can’t get on the water for at least 72 hours – and can’t work on their boats.

Luna Rossa are leading the best of 13 series 4-nil over Team UK after dominating the opening two days of the regatta.

Racing was set to resume on Wednesday but has now been postponed as the event complies with the government’s guidelines.

As much as Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie wants to be on the water or in the boat shed this week he will comply with the New Zealand government’s rules.

“It’s bad news. It’s a timely reminder of just what the world is going through isn’t it? We’re very fortunate to be out here and doing a yacht race which we all love. But obviously we’ll do whatever the authorities advise us to do. Of course it’s more important that people are safe and healthy.”

The delay in the racing gives Team UK a little longer to ponder how to make a comeback.

A couple of days stuck inside will give them plenty of opportunity to debrief but they will have to stick using the simulator to perfect their starts – which caused them problems in the first four races.

Whenever racing does resume, Sir Ben is optimistic that can challenge the Italians.

“It’s very simple, we have to win races. We’ve still got to win seven races, nothing’s changed in that respect. We know we’re up against really tough opposition, that was our expectation. But, in a decent breeze we’ve got a boat that can do it so it’s down to us. We’ve just got to go out sail hard, get stuck in and we can do it.”

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in action during the Prada Cup Round Robins 1 & 2, Course C, Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, Friday 15 January 2021.
Source: Photosport

But Sir Ben does want some more strong wind days when they do get the go-ahead to race.

“I wasn’t surprised at all in terms of their speed, it was pretty much what we expected. We know we’ve got a deficit to them under 10 knots of breeze and we know that we’ve got very even boats in over 12 knots of breeze and that’s what we saw. Still a lot to play for and certainly we hope we get some more wind, if we do we’ll have some great racing.”

Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill is known for making big calls but he was relatively restrained given his team’s position.

“The scoreline doesn’t matter and it’s just one at a time. You can’t think about anything else but the next race. That’s the only race that matters. Put all your time and energy into the next race and that’s been our philosophy all the way along.

For all the commentary around how flawlessly the Italians have sailed so far in the finals series Spithill is less complementary.

“We made mistakes. Some mistakes we’ll go back and review and we’ll be candid about it, but we need to be sharper than this.”

Despite the lead, the Luna Rossa’s co-helmsman Francesco Bruni believes the British will pose some challenges in Auckland’s unpredictable conditions.

“It’s incredible here in New Zealand how you can have two races in one hour and have such different conditions. I’m impressed by how the boats were performing the same basically upwind and downwind there is nothing in it. So, we are going to have some good racing in the next week.”

When racing will return though is yet to be determined.

The first reserve day is Thursday and sailing could return as soon as then, should lockdown alert levels be downgraded in Auckland.

In a statement America’s Cup Event Ltd said it will be working with the authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the ongoing ramifications on the event.

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