The America’s Cup is full of big moments. Announcing a challenge, raising the money, building a team, building a boat, executing a campaign strategy, and organizing the logistics for an assembly of more than 100 staff and moving them to the other side of the world, a Cup campaign is a massive operation with plenty at stake.
And yet even then, when compared to winning the America’s Cup, that’s still the easy bit. The quest to win on the water can be a brutal, morale sapping experience when things go wrong and picking a team up that has been delivered the kind of body blow that American Magic have suffered can make the day to day stress of campaign logistics feel like an easier battle.
But the Cup is also full of extremes as the opening round robins of the Prada Cup Challenger Selection Series displayed.
While American Magic were picking themselves up and racing against the clock, INEOS TEAM UK were quietly patting themselves on the back for an impressive turn around in performance.
While their pre-Christmas crisis hadn’t broken their boat, they knew what it was like to have their hopes and aspirations pulled out from beneath them during a humbling public display. But now, they are a completely different package, quick, promising and confident and yet American Magic’s crash has had a knock on effect for them.
With the Americans having declared that they will no longer be able to compete in Round Robins 3 & 4 on January 23-24, the schedule has been changed for INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli:
January 23: Luna Rossa vs INEOS Team UK – Start at 16:00 NZT
January 24: INEOS Team UK vs Luna Rossa – Start at 16:00 NZT
While this change might sound like a formality, Cup campaigns are run on the basis of analyzing every detail, on and off the water to establish where the potential gains and losses are. As we saw with the American Magic crash, it takes a small slip to start a chain reaction. No one wants to leave anything to chance.
With four wins from four starts so far, INEOS TEAM UK only needs one more win to advance to the final. If they get that win on January 23, they’re done.
On the other hand, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli need to win on both days to jump to the final. Two wins would take their score line to 4, equaling the British team. The tie break would fall in the Italian team’s favor as winners of the most recent race.
In addition, whichever team wins the round robin series will be awarded the PRADA Christmas Race trophy in recognition of being top qualifier.
Whichever team loses will then race American Magic in the semi-final, the first knockout phase which starts on January 29. And by then the pressure ramps up dramatically.
Four losses and your team is on its way home, and until the 36th America’s Cup has been won, there is no indication of when, where, and in what boats the next event will take place.
The Challengers of Record Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are every bit as aware of the snakes and ladders that lie ahead. They too will have looked at this new schedule with intense scrutiny and for them it holds a big challenge.
Win on both days and they allow themselves time to refine, develop, and train as their winning strategy would have planned for. Lose just one of those races and they will have to fight their way to the final by beating American Magic in the semi-final.
For INEOS TEAM UK, the route to success is simpler, yet no less stressful. Win the race on the first day and they will deny Luna Rossa any more time to collect data on the British campaign and the way that they set up and sail Britannia II.
So, for the Italians, winning twice may prove more challenging but should they succeed they will have extracted the maximum from the available time. Which as it happens, is precisely what American Magic are endeavoring to do as they rebuild their boat and their campaign.
Whether teams are afloat or ashore the pressure is on for all.
Prada Cup Scoreboard (wins-losses)
American Magic (USA): 0-4
INEOS Team UK (GBR): 4-0
Luna Rossa (ITA): 2-2
The PRADA Cup is a series of four round robins (Jan. 15-17 and Jan. 23-24), with the winner of the series qualifying for the PRADA Cup Final and the remaining two Challengers going into a Semi-Final Series (Jan. 29-Feb. 2) for the right to join the Round Robin winner in the Final (Feb. 13–22). The winner of the PRADA Cup will then face the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, in the America’s Cup Match beginning March 6.
Published on January 21st, 2021