Patriot’s heart is very much beating again with American Magic confirming on Saturday that, with a major helping hand from Team New Zealand, they were back in the America’s Cup race and on course to sail in the Prada Cup semifinals beginning on Friday.
American Magic’s future in the Auld Mug’s challenger series hit a major snag last Sunday with their high-speed capsize in the Prada Cup round-robin race against Luna Rosssa that left Patriot with a gaping hole in its bow and its electrics needing total replacement.
The sailing fraternity held its breath at the time, understanding the work that would be required to get them ship-shape in time for the Prada Cup semifinal series which begins on Friday.
But American Magic skipper and executive director Terry Hutchinson fronted at Saturday’s post-racing press conference to confirm the US challenger was very much alive and kicking, with some special thanks to assistance provided by the defenders at Team New Zealand.
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“The Patriot, she’s coming back to life,” said a clearly delighted Hutchinson who watched with interest the best race of the series on Saturday between Team UK and Luna Rossa that saw the Brits shade it on the final leg to clinch automatic passage to the Prada Cup final.
Hutchinson’s American Magic will now sail off against Luna Rossa in a best-of-seven series to decide the other challenger finalist.
“The team has had the foil cant system turned on inside the boat, or as much as we possibly can while they’re getting the structure back in, and really the heartbeat of the boat is going again which is really exciting.
“The shore team basically finished the work they need to do to prepare for the panel that is being built by the Team New Zealand boat-builders. They finished that a half-day early, so they got yesterday afternoon kind of off which was nice.
“This morning the panel showed up. I downed the tools to come over here while they were fitting it inside the hull,” he said with a smile. “They’re making really good strides.
“It’s still a little bit early to say when we’ll sail next week, but we look forward to getting back out on the course for Luna Rossa on Friday.”
Todd Niall and Duncan Johnstone review a shortened day of racing where INEOS Team UK continued their dominance of the Prada Cup.
And Hutchinson reinforced comments made earlier that they could not have done it without Team NZ’s help.
“I’m not surprised by the quality of work being done in our shed. But the thing we are reminded of is what the defender has done for us; what they’ve helped us achieve, because certainly without them it wouldn’t have happened.
“In a manpower and hour situation they certainly bailed us out. I have nothing but high thanks for Team New Zealand for what they did.”
Hutchinson admitted he had been impressed by what he had seen on the water on Saturday in what Sir Ben Ainslie described as some of the best racing he had ever been involved in.
“The No 1 thing that stands out about both is they fight all the way to the finish,” he said of his fellow challengers. “That was clearly on display in the last run. INEOS, you give high marks to their onboard communication between [tactician] Giles [Scott] and Ben, and there was a lot more communication today coming off the Luna Rossa boat between Francesco [Bruni]and Jimmy [Spithill] as well. Those are things you watch.
“In racing we did we were critical of some of our decisions at the marks and taking the unfavoured gate to create a split. Both those teams stayed committed to choosing the correct gate at the time for them and keeping the race close. It was a great display of if you miss the first one, it’s not necessarily that one that counts. It’s how you finish it.”
Bruni, meanwhile, said he was not surprised Team UK had elected not to race Sunday’s “dead-rubber” final round-robin race.
“I understand their position,” he said. “It’s always hard to sail in very strong winds, especially when you have a lot to lose and really not much to gain. That doesn’t change the fact we have to try sail as much as we can in order to be as competitive as possible against the Americans, so we are going to go out tomorrow.”