LUNA ROSSA PRADA PIRELLI WIN THE PRADA CUP SEMI-FINAL
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli finally got the redemption they were looking for and, scoring four points in a row, win the PRADA Cup Semi-Final. The Italians started firmly in the driver’s seat ahead of today’s races and needed only two more wins to claim a place in the PRADA Cup Final against INEOS TEAM UK.
The Americans, who had already won their race against the time after their AC75 almost sunk less than two weeks ago, had to find some magic to bring PATRIOT back to the performances she had before and had to win at least one match to keep their Semi-Final alive. But there was nothing American Magic could do. The Italians won the starts and were just faster, steadier and confident. Without any real pressure they didn’t make any mistakes and sailed to two easy wins.
Light winds forecast proved wrong and stable breeze from North East between 12-16 knots allowed the Race Committee to start both races right on time on Course A.
This was it, do or die for the American campaign and the chance for the Italians to move straight to the Prada Cup final. The breeze was now up to 16kts throwing another set of conditions into the mix. Could this deliver the difference required to keep the Prada Cup semi-final alive for another day?
This time American Magic were entering the start zone from the left-hand side on port tack and did so with perfect timing and at pace. Next came a hint of a different strategy as American Magic headed out towards the right-hand side of the pre-start zone.
But while this might have been a subtly different opening move, Luna Rossa were still focussed on what had worked before and were aiming to gain control in the pre-start.
As both boats closed in on the starting line as the clock counted down, American Magic were to leeward hoping to force Luna Rossa up, but they weren’t close enough and didn’t have the pace to accelerate into a controlling position. Luna Rossa took the start while American Magic were forced to tack off onto port.
American hopes now were that the right-hand side of the course would be favoured, but at the first cross it was anything but as Luna Rossa passed 130m ahead.
This was not looking good for American Magic, they were on the defensive as Luna Rossa controlled the game perfectly once again. Poised, polished and perfect, it was difficult to see how American Magic could take this race unless the Italians made a mistake. At this stage there was precious little evidence to support anything other than another Italian win.
In fact, things were about to get worse for American Magic as their starboard cant arm refused to go down ahead of a tack onto port. Eventually it did, but not before they had overstood the layline into Gate 1.
By the time the Americans rounded they were 45sec behind, but their troubles weren’t over yet as once again the board refused to deploy ahead of the gybe. Then came a boundary infringement and a penalty, not that it made much difference, the distance to Luna Rossa was now 1500m.
And from there the news for American supporters simply got worse as the cant arm issues continued.
By the time the Americans rounded Gate 3 Luna Rossa were 2min 42sec ahead. By Gate 4 the time difference was 2min 36, the distance over 2,000m.
Only a disaster on the part of the Italians would reverse what looked like the inevitable. As it happened the breeze had built further and keeping a cool calm and collected was becoming increasingly important to avoid tripping up.
A few minutes later Luna Rossa crossed the finish line to win their fourth race in a row, a win that now launches them to the Prada Cup final against INEOS Team UK.
Their victory had been well deserved. Since the start of the semi-final the Italian performance had been pitch perfect across a wide range of conditions, in just a few days between the Round Robin and the semi-final they had turned their performance around.
“Now the INEOS boys,” said Jimmy Spithill as they crossed the finish. While they would doubtless celebrate this win, the Italian team’s focus had already shifted.
Despite the Herculean effort of putting PATRIOT back on the water, American Magic are now eliminated from the PRADA Cup.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli progress to the Final against INEOS TEAM UK less than 2 weeks away. The Italians who seem to have find another gear and another click of speed after a limping Round Robin will be strong opponent for the British.
With such change in fortunes since the first AC75 match on the 17th of December, it’s impossible to predict who will be the 36th America’s Cup Challenger and there is plenty to watch out for in the coming weeks.
The 13-race Final between the two leading teams, will start on the 13th of February, the first team to score seven points will win the PRADA Cup and face the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup Match starting on March 6th.