AIn the end there were no more questions. The Italians had shown themselves to be too careful in the past few days. The y fought resolutely – on land with lawyers, on the water with sailors also from Australia. On Sunday afternoon, after two more victories on the Hauraki Golf over the British team, they finally won the right to challenge the New Zealanders in the America’s Cup at the beginning of March.
Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.
Luna Rossa won the Challenger Prada Cup with seven wins in eight races from Auckland. After six campaigns, this is the second time they have made it to the finals of the 170-year-old America’s Cup. The British campaign, marked by enormous sailing strength and an estimated expenditure of more than 100 million dollars, evaporated on Sunday afternoon in New Zealand after almost six years.
“You sailed brilliantly, the best overall package and deservedly won”, Sir Ben Ainslie, who led the British, congratulated the Italians while they were still in port. Under the guidance of their Australian helmsman Jimmy Spithill, they proved the whole series about bite, which allowed them to exhaust all – including legal possibilities. At the same time, the Luna Rossa proved to be superior to the Britannia, especially in the light wind conditions of only twelve knots of this weekend. The Italian AC75 was able to travel more and more altitude at the same speed at the cross.
Task impossible even for Ainslie
The team around four-time Olympic champion Ainslie won the first start on Sunday morning. On the first cross, however, the Italians played their slight advantage and led on the windward barrel by 16 seconds. The y then brought their sixth victory over the line at no risk. “From now on it’s actually very simple: We have to win every race from now on,” said Ainslie bitterly after the sixth run.
That seemed impossible even for a stand-up man like him, who is world-famous for his victories in hopeless situations. At the Olympic Games in Athens 2004, Ainslie was still in 19th place on the second day to get gold in the end. At the 2012 Games in England, he was six races back before taking Olympic gold for the fourth time.
And a year later, the top sailor who was flown in especially at the America’s Cup off San Francisco helped the American team Oracle to make a 9-8 triumph from a deficit of 1: 8 wins and to win the cup. Many consider this victory to be the greatest resurrection in sport. At the time, the young American helmsman whom Ainslie supported was called Jimmy Spithill.
Against him, the old master led on Sunday after the start of the second run – the last chance for the British. At the windward buoy, however, the Italians had again worked out a lead of around 160 meters. “We have to do something special now,” Ainslie said to his tactician, Giles Scott, who was also decorated with Olympic gold. But even the right side of the course, which the British chose to break away when the wind continued to be light, no longer led them to success.
At the finish, Luna Rossa led by just under a minute. Spithill, whom they call “Pitbull” for a reason, strengthened his image as a hypothermic athlete. After crossing the finish line, he told his team: “Get the sails down and let’s go ashore for a beer.” When they had knocked off the mainsail, the Italians set a huge red flag on the mast. “Winner” was written on it in white letters.
Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who financed the British team through his company Ineos, applauded the Italians from on board “his” Britannia. “Our job is not over yet. We can learn a lot from the races. Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand have been in this business for 20, 30 years. We took a lot with us and we want to win the cup, ”said Ainslie on Sunday afternoon, indicating another campaign for the British.
At this point the big loser of this Prada Cup had already made his peace with the result and was thinking beyond the day. “This boat class is a huge success for the America’s Cup, the AC75 is the best boat I’ve ever sailed and the class has the“ wow factor, ”said the Briton. From March 6th, Italians and New Zealanders will meet again on the Hauraki Gulf, as they did 20 years ago in the same bay. Back then, the kiwis had won, and the world’s oldest sports trophy stayed in New Zealand.