Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS TEAM UK’s team principal and skipper, believes the PRADA Cup final is going to be a “fantastic fight” when INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli take to the water on Saturday.
The PRADA Cup is the winner-takes-all series between the final two challengers standing in New Zealand. The victor will go on and face Emirates Team New Zealand in the 36th America’s Cup match in March, while the loser’s bid to lift the Auld Mug will end.
The America’s Cup was first contested in 1851, it is the oldest trophy in international sport and pre-dates the modern Olympic Games by 45 years.
For a country with a rich maritime history, the Auld Mug is a missing piece of the puzzle for Britain as a British team has never won it.
In Ainslie’s words, it has been 170 years of hurt and now INEOS TEAM UK have reached what they hope will be the first of two business ends, during this year’s America’s Cup competition.
The PRADA Cup final commences with the opening two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday, live on Sky Sports from 3am and repeated again at 8am. It is a first-to-seven-wins series.
Both teams’ boats are packed with competitors who are at the tops of their game and who know each other extremely well. For example, Giles Scott, INEOS TEAM UK’s tactician, was part of Luna Rossa’s team back in 2013 while Jimmy Spithill, the now co-helmsman on Luna Rossa, won the America’s Cup alongside Ainslie when they were together at Oracle Team USA.
“It’s going to be a fantastic fight. That’s why you compete because you want to be up against the best; you want to challenge yourself and you want to be in those situations,” Ainslie said, during the pre-race press conference.
“I fully expect that we’re going to have some amazing racing over the next week or so.
“We saw that with the final race between the two teams, with nine lead changes and the boats being pretty even most of the time, that’s what you want. It’s great for the America’s Cup and for sailing.”
After securing that dramatic victory Ainslie refers to at the end of the PRADA Cup Round Robins, INEOS TEAM UK moved directly into this final while Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had to return to the water and take on New York Yacht Club American Magic in the semi-final.
After, Spithill made it clear he believes their route through to this winner-takes-all final was ‘the best’. On the other hand, Ainslie told Sky Sports it was always the British team’s plan to try and be fast-tracked through.
“We certainly thought that it was [a more optimal route] we were pushing hard to try and get that direct route into the final. We’ve been making a lot of changes to the boat which have been really positive,” he said.
“Again, our team have really stuck to the task of trying to get every ounce of performance out of the boat, as we know we have to in this game,” the team principal and skipper, added during the pre-race press conference on Thursday.
“So, it’s been a tough period, particularly for the shore team, turning the boat around and then the last 10 days or so we’ve been back on the water and try to get the intensity up, to make sure that we are match fit for competition.”