The remarkable British comeback in the Prada Cup has been labelled “slaughter on the water” as Sir Ben Ainslie’s team continue to collect victims.
A convincing win over American Magic on day two in Auckland sees INEOS Team UK top the points table, unbeaten after three rounds.
Their December debacle has turned into January joy, and it’s a turnaround being lapped up by the British media – both mainstream and sailing specialists.
That even includes British yachting pundit Magnus Wheatley who labelled Britannia “the lamest of lame ducks” pre-Christmas but, to his credit, has been gracious enough to acknowledge the fighting qualities of Ainslie to engineer this stunning revival.
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“That’s three points on the board. Three points from three races!” screamed Wheatley in his Rule69 blog.
“Say that slowly. Ineos are the outstanding performers of the challengers. It’s a devastating hammer-blow laid down on the whole event and as for not being fast in the light well, as suspected, that was a false flag.
“Ineos is rapid across the wind ranges. Combine a stable platform with the best sailors on the planet and the results flow. Let it be said, Ineos has never been behind in the Prada Cup. Never.
“We are in a wonderland. A dreamland. It’s slaughter on the water.”
Wheatley described Ainslie as “steering a team of lions with confidence oozing from every pore (paw?)”.
“Can you just imagine the mood in the base coming off the water? If you could bottle it, you would be a rich man. Confidence is a cumulative endeavour that is so hard to build but when you’ve got it, it’s obvious. Ineos has it.”
Wheatley turned his sword on American Magic, the favourites going into the regatta but yet to record a win, and now a boat of “haunted souls”, none more so than Dean Barker, their Kiwi on the wheel.
“Head scratching all round. Slumped demeanour from Dean Barker – this wasn’t in the brochure. The other challengers seem to have whistled by them on a development zephyr and left them wallowing in a sea of despair. Not quite panic stations but getting close.
“Terry Hutchinson needs to get his arm around Dean Barker and give him a confidence booster.”
The Times have revelled in the change of fortunes from Ainslie, one of Britain’s most respected sportsmen with five Olympic medals and a 2013 America’s Cup win with Oracle Team USA.
“It’s still early days in the Prada Cup challenger selection series, but it is already clear that Sir Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK are a serious force to be reckoned with after the British crew scored a third win in three starts today,” The Times reported, delighted to see the light air performance of Britannia after the boat was so poor in this area in 2020.
England-based Yacht Racing Life said Saturday’s result was confirmation of Britannia’s allround qualities now and they cast aside Ainslie downplaying things this early in a long regatta.
“Well Ben can be cautious if he likes, but for me, three wins out of three across a range of conditions means only one thing: The British are back,” wrote editor Justin Chisholm.
He conceded it was a tough day in the patchy conditions but the British and Italians had handled those much better than American Magic.
“Some will agree with Dean Barker’s assessment that the day was a lottery that is not worthy of the America’s Cup.
“That may or may not be true, but let’s not forget the masterclass demonstration of light airs sailing that we witnessed from the two winning crews.
“Spithill and Bruni, Ainslie and Scott – in the face of monstrously frustrating conditions, both pairings remained calm and focused on the task at hand. For that they deserve our respect and our admiration.”
AT A GLANCE
PRADA CUP – SATURDAY RESULTS
Luna Rossa b American Magic DNF
INEOS Team UK b American Magic by 4m 59s
INEOS Team UK 3 points, Luna Rossa 1, American Magic 0
3.15pm: Luna Rossa v INEOS Team UK
4.15pm: American Magic v Luna Rossa