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Modes and Moods

by Mark Jardine 21 Feb 05:23 GMT 13-22 February 2021

There are many sailing phrases: high and fast, low and slow, tweak it up a bit, glamourous, in the groove, climbing off them, falling into the dirt. Nothing beats that feeling when you know you're quicker, with the ability to choose your own tactics, conversely when you're slow a race can feel like having a tooth pulled in slow motion. In the rarefied air of America's Cup land there are no hiding places when you're in the slower boat, and the role of skipper can feel a very lonely place.

In Race 7 of the PRADA Cup final, INEOS TEAM UK had the slightly better start, in the leeward position, ready to squeeze up Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli towards the left-hand side boundary, but the Italian team had the high mode available to keep air clear. As we've seen previously, if Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill on Luna Rossa get their noses in front, especially in the light stuff, then it's game over.

We watched the race play out and the moods on board the two boats were obvious. All was serene and calm on board the Italian boat as they simply sailed away. On Britannia the communication was a note more subdued and Ben's crosses of the boat noticeably a notch slower.

The stats at the end of the race were telling. The speeds of the two boats were similar, but INEOS TEAM UK had sailed 1500 metres further than Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. It's been well documented that the British team prefer sailing in the higher winds and in the light stuff the Italians have all the right modes, giving them the ability to simply sail a shorter distance between the marks.

Post-race Francesco Bruni was saying all the right things about it still being one race at a time, but he was right in his assertion when he said, "We definitely had the high mode".

With the Italian team on match point, the British couldn't afford to leave anything on the table in Race 8. In a potentially tricky position beneath the lay line Ben Ainslie threw Britannia into a tack on to port in front of Luna Rossa. Jimmy Spithill dialled Luna Rossa up to try and catch them port-starboard, taking their boat over the line early in the process, while the umpires ruled that Ben had kept clear.

With Luna Rossa having to lose 50 metres due to their starting penalty Britannia had an early lead, but this was short-lived as the Italian team used their modes to work ahead. These boats are incredibly fast, the final race only taking 30 minutes to complete, but this was the conclusion of four years of work and INEOS TEAM UK's 36th America's Cup campaign.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli can savour their PRADA Cup victory today. The scoreline was emphatic and their performance was close to flawless. The America's Cup veteran Jimmy Spithill simply said, "Let's head in for a beer" at the conclusion, while an ecstatic Francesco summed it up with "Fantastico!". They will celebrate tonight, but it'll be straight back to work tomorrow for the team as the America's Cup match versus the ominously fast Emirates Team New Zealand awaits in March.

The debrief for the British team will be painful but necessary if they are to mount a competitive challenge for the 37th America's Cup, wherever that may be. The reality is that the crucial decisions on design were made a long time ago. INEOS TEAM UK is composed of incredible sailors and many brilliant minds but as Ben said at the finish, "we need to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do".

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