Prada Cup Final Day 2
14 Feb, 2021
I’m beginning to wonder whether waking up on race days with palpitations is a sign of being totally immersed in this Cup and living the competition to the full, or whether it’s simply a result of eating too late. I’d like to think it is the former, although waking up feeling nervous reminds me of being a teenager on exam mornings. It’s not a great way to start the day but it is an apt reminder as to what is at stake for some down here in Auckland. I get anxious enough every morning of a National championship, whether it’s on the water or in the air and I simply can’t imagine the level of stress that crews must feel as they prepare to head out, let alone how they deal with it. Today would have been a good case in point. The forecast was for stronger breezes, somewhere up in the high teens with gusts to 22kts. As a result and with the outgoing tide pushing against the breeze, the racing area had been moved to the flatter waters of course E, the Back Paddock as it is known locally. Now, you may ask why pro sailors would be worried about 20kts, but when your machine will do 45knots in just 15kts of true and you have 50-60 kts of apparent breeze, twenty is plenty as they say. INEOS Team UK must have been feeling the pressure. The first day of the Prada Cup Final didn’t go as they had planned and resulted in the first two races they have lost this year. The last thing they wanted was for the Italians to get on a roll with more wins. It’s a cliché but the pressure was on. Luna Rossa must surely have been feeling the heat too, although there were no lead changes, the opening matches had been tight. Just one mistake was all it would have taken to change the result and the mood of the series. They knew that the Brits would be smarting and that their ‘Guvnor' (Ainslie) would be piling on the pressure. The funny thing is though, I went over to the Luna Rossa base for the dockout session today and was blown away by the atmosphere. It wasn't at all what I had expected. As families streamed in on their bicycles from tiny kids to teenagers all face painted and ready to cheer at their dockout, the music was cranked up and the party began. The shoreside buzz was more festival than hardcore regatta. Over the course of the next half hour the sailing team and support vessel crew were drip fed out of the team building and ambled their way across the compound en route to the boat to kiss and hug their families before walking down the gangway to the cheers of the crowd. There was no rush, no queue, no rigid routine, just genuine excitement as each person walked down the dock, pausing to savour the moment before climbing aboard. The big guns were the last to arrive and as they boarded the boat the music had moved on to AC/DC and the tempo was raised. By the time they left everyone was pumped…even me. So, in some ways it was no surprise to see them deliver such a pitch perfect confident performance in both of their races. I hate to say it, but by comparison both of the British starts looked like they were trying too hard to deliver a killer blow and ended up tripping over their shoelaces in the process. And as we saw, they never recovered or got into a position where they looked likely to get past. The Italians were all over it. I say that in the full knowledge that it’s easy to sit watching a number of screens and being an armchair analyst….I couldn’t do what they do and am full of admiration for them all. But the fact remains that the Italians delivered an incredibly confident and slick performance in both races evidenced by the way they were happy to split from the Brits to take their preferred route up the beat even when the margin was simply a few seconds. Today Luna Rossa were a seriously impressive team, just as they had been yesterday. The hard fact remains that in four races across a range of conditions, not only have the Italians won all of them, but they have never relinquished the lead. That is a big change from what we saw in the Round Robin. But it’s not all doom and gloom for British supporters. Had Ben and the boys been able to get ahead at the start, or indeed at any point, there’s a good chance they too would have been able to control the game as it seems that these two boats are very evenly matched. Jimmy says it, Bruni says it and so does Ben and they’re not just doing it to sound polite or for a sound bite, they genuinely believe it. But this evening the entire event took a blow as Jacinda Ardern the NZ PM announced that Auckland was going into a level 3 lockdown. For the next three days the party is on hold, only supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies will be open. We all need to work at home, face masks will be required…..you know the score. So, for now the Cup is on pause and maybe tomorrow I won’t wake up with the wobbles. https://youtu.be/Q5UsJcpZWok Ps. If this Cup wasn’t a steep enough learning curve I managed to climb an even bigger one in trying to build a Cup Blog on which to post these scribblings. I thought I had got the hang of online after building a YouTube channel but clearly there’s plenty more to learn! Anyway, it’s here and it’s set up for your laptop, tablet and phone so that you can read it in the largest or the smallest room in the house.