It was an ignominious end for American Magic who leave the Prada Cup having failed to win a single race

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli today, Saturday 30th January, won the Prada Cup Semi-Final and will now progress to the Final where they will race INEOS Team UK. American Magic, however, becomes the first team to be eliminated from the competition. 

For the second consecutive day, Luna Rossa took two wins from the Americans giving them a perfect scoreline of four wins and no losses in the first-to-four series. The racing itself has been something of a damp squib this weekend where a couple of factors engineered a relatively easy victory for the Italian outfit. 

Firstly, there was the story of American Magic managing to get their boat back on the water in time to race after their near sinking. You have to say, looking at the evidence we have seen this weekend, the team managed an almost impossible task in getting the boat back on the water, but just fell short of the ultimate goal of getting the boat ready to race. 

And then there is the marked improvement in the Italian team. Better communication, better windy weather performance, simply better. How much better they were is hard to judge such were the dire straits the Americans found themselves in with a boat that was only just able to make it around the course. 

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

Tough test to come in the Prada Cup Final 

In sport we always have to read between the lines. What professional sportspeople say openly is often different to the message they are trying to convey. Francesco Bruni, one of the two helmsmen of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, consistently said yesterday that all the Italian outfit were thinking about was the next race and getting that bit closer to to the Prada Cup Final. 

However, it was notable the number of times Bruni mentioned how much quicker they were than when they last sailed the British team. The message seemed clear, ‘look out Ben Ainslie, we’re coming for you’. The theme continued today as the team crossed the line in the second race of the day, securing Prada Cup Semi-Final victory when Luna Rossa’s other helmsman, Jimmy Spithill, simply said to his crew “INEOS next”.

Luna Rossa are clearly quicker than they were, and sailing better too. But the question is how much better, how much quicker? Against the relaunched, and clearly not back to her former self, Patriot of American Magic, it is very hard to say. 

What we can say, though, is that Luna Rossa looked to be a class act today and it is difficult to find any fault in their racing. In low to moderate windspeeds of around 10-13 knots they looked particularly quick upwind where they were higher and faster than the Americans all day long. 

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

Even in it’s crippled state, though, Patriot looked to have legs on the Italians at times downwind. This is an area INEOS Team UK has looked quick too, so you can imagine this will be something the Italians are looking to strengthen.

Francesco Bruni after the racing admitted the Americans looked to have the edge downwind, but also felt that the weather exacerbated any advantage: “Downwind I think they might have an edge, but it is a bit of a trick as there is more pressure at the top end of the course so that is why it feels like the lead boat upwind is extending when going upwind and losing downwind,” he explained. 

American Magic knocked out

What can be said of the American team who looked so promising just a few short weeks ago? On the one hand, their efforts to get the boat back on the water after their capsize have been undeniably impressive on the other, they have been found wanting.

The sheer determination to get a boat back on the water and able to make it round the course rightly deserves huge amounts of praise. Ultimately, however, delivering a boat that can make it around the course, and delivering a boat that might provide some chance of putting up a fight are very different things indeed. 

In truth, the die was cast the moment water ingressed the hull two weeks ago and totalled their electrical systems. Re-doing from scratch, a system that has taken several years to refine, composed of over 17,000 connections in the course of two weeks, was simply too tall an order, no matter how much money and resources you throw at the problem. 

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It’s hard not to feel sorry for the team members of American Magic as they sailed the second race trying to deal with a problem that caused their foils not to function properly. The team spent much of the their time on course exceeding boundary limits, desperately trying to get their boat to function. 

It was an ignominious end to the campaign, as they eventually crossed the finish line of their final race almost four minutes behind their opponent. A tearful Terry Hutchinson thanked his team for their efforts saying: “I have nothing but pride for what we have done over the last three years. Our measure is the result sheet and without question that is the disappointing part. 

“All we can do is take it on the chin, understand our strengths and weaknesses and try to learn if we are fortunate enough to be in the 37th AC.”

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

It might be easy to look to their capsize as the team’s undoing but we should take a moment to reflect on a campaign that has not gone to plan even without that incident. American Magic exit the competition having failed to win a single race. 

There will be time later for a full analysis of what went wrong and the America’s Cup is the toughest game there is, the vast majority of teams who enter do not make it very far in the competition. But to leave winless will be a bitter pill. 

Whether it was a lack of trust in the newly relaunched boat or something else, today American Magic did not look like a team who thought they had a chance, they did not sail like a team that was up against it. 

Ahead of the racing, the assumption was that they would come out fighting in the pre-start and try to lead away from the startline by hook or by crook. Surely with a boat that may well be in trouble, this is the one place you might be able to take the fight to your opponent.  But they lost both starts to Luna Rossa and worse they barely put up a fight. 

Perhaps the reasons for this will come out. And certainly in these boats, capable of 50 knots, the margin between aggressive and dangerous is very slim, but one thing is for certain, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli never looked remotely troubled by their competitor. 

And so the Italian team go through to the Prada Cup Final in the quickest way possible. We now have a fallow weekend before racing for the right to challenge Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup proper takes place on 13th February. 

We are in for a battle royale between the Brits and the Italians. And based on their thrilling last race of the Prada Cup Round Robin, it is all to play for between these two.

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