36th America's Cup: INEOS TEAM UK secure vital race victory in PRADA Cup Final series
The British outfit won race six to go into Sunday's racing with a five-to-one deficit; the first-to-seven wins PRADA Cup Final series continues on Sunday, with races seven and eight from 3am on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, repeated at 8am
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 21/02/21 8:19am
INEOS TEAM UK secured a vital race victory in the PRADA Cup Final series, during another enthralling day of America's Cup action in Auckland.
After nearly a week of debate and conversation surrounding the future schedule of the PRADA Cup Final series, and whether its conclusion would happen on the water, the attention turned back to tactics and race strategies.
Going into the day's racing, Sir Ben Ainslie's team were on the wrong end of a four-nil deficit in this decisive first-to-seven-wins series. This series is a straight knockout between the British outfit and their Italian rivals, and after those four successive losses, Ainslie and his sailing team arrived with the mindset of focusing on each race as it came.
With lighter airs predicted, and the knowledge that race wins needed to arrive quickly, INEOS TEAM UK's crew outfit showed outstanding poise to hold their nerve when it mattered most on Saturday.
Earlier in the series, Ainslie had said to Sky Sports that they "needed to take more risks" if they were going to beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. However, during races three and four, pushing the tempo arrived with costly mistakes.
On this occasion, even though INEOS TEAM UK were penalised in race five which gave Luna Rossa the advantage they needed to claim another victory, by one minute and 20 seconds, it sent a clear message to Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill that the Brits meant business.
The second race of the day (race six) was a corker and it showcased the best of the personnel on board both boats.
Following even starts, INEOS TEAM UK read the course well and after securing an eight-second lead at gate one, they held onto their favoured position on the course.
With a 32-second advantage going into the final lap, British fans watching at home may have been quietly confident. However, a shift in the breeze and a drop in its strength created a nail-biting finish.
With every moment, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli closed in on their rivals, but Ainslie and his team stayed focused. They sailed cleanly and ultimately had done enough to be able to cross the finish line in front for the first time in this PRADA Cup Final series.
PRADA Cup Final - Races Five and Six
|Race Five||Race Six|
|Course: E||Course: E|
|Current: 0.2 knots @ 353||Current: 0.2 knots @ 353|
|Wind: 8-10 knots||Wind: 8-12knots|
|Winner: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – 1:20||Winner: INEOS TEAM UK - 0:14|
"The team did a great job. They just don't give up, they are going to keep fighting all the way. We got one back, we needed it," Ainslie said on the water afterwards.
"I think it seems to be that on 13 knots and above, the boats are pretty even, but beneath that, we struggle. They know, and we know, that is the challenge.
"I can't say enough about the team, they have been great. When the wind dies down, it's a tricky situation, Giles did a great job there, we were concerned we might be losing it there."
Scott: Sights still fixed on winning series
At the end of the day's racing, despite still having a mountain to climb, INEOS TEAM UK's tactician Giles Scott shared that their determination remains stronger than ever.
"We want to take this series all the way. We absolutely still have our sights on winning this," he said. "Luna Rossa are 5-1 up now, it's in their favour as they have two to win and we've got six. It's as simple as that.
"If we get through tomorrow in that light breeze, then there's a big change in the weather and that's what we've got our sights on. We need to get through tomorrow and then get into some windy racing."
For Ainslie, the tactic to really attack Luna Rossa during the pre-start in race five (which picked up penalties) is one that he didn't regret. Instead, he said that it showed what type of team they are.
"It's part of racing, you take those decisions at the time," he said about receiving the penalties. "In the lighter airs, you've got to push hard."
I'm not the kind of person and we're not the kind of team, that are just going to sit there and just let someone sail away from us. We're going to get stuck in and if that means taking some risks, then I'd rather race that way than just let someone get away.
Sir Ben Ainslie (Image - COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi)
After securing their first victory of this PRADA Cup Final series, Ainslie shared what it meant to the entire outfit.
"I was really proud of the team - the boys on the boat and everyone at the base," he said.
"Our shore team, in particular, are working incredible hours to get the boat as perfect as it can be, and the designers are working with us as sailors to get maximum performance out of the boat.
"So that was a really big race for the whole team. It [a win] helps, it gives us some momentum going into tomorrow and we all know that in sport, momentum is a pretty powerful thing."
The series now continues with races seven and eight on Sunday, and it will continue with two races each day until one team reaches seven victories.
Watch every moment of the America's Cup challenge, live on Sky Sports. Coverage continues with the PRADA Cup Final on Sunday from 3am on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, repeated at 8am.