Prada syndicate tactician Torben Grael has excelled at positioning his boat for victory in the America's Cup challenger yachting series, but admitted he got it terribly wrong here today.
Prada syndicate tactician Torben Grael has excelled at positioning his boat for victory in the America’s Cup challenger yachting series, but admitted he got it terribly wrong here today.
So wrong that Luna Rossa at one stage trailed AmericaOne by more than 2-1/2 minutes, and almost 1km on the Hauraki Gulf course. Luna Rossa ultimately lost by 66 seconds to trail 3-4 in the best-of-nine challenger finals, and now faces a sudden death race tomorrow to keep its America’s Cup hopes alive. Grael could not have picked a worse moment for his error. The two boats were tied 3-3 in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals and the seventh race, delayed a day because of a lack of wind, was critical. AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard, despite three gear breakages on his boat, took no prisoners in wrapping up victory over Luna Rossa and then cranking up the mental pressure on his rivals. He rated as only a 50-50 chance Prada recovering from the psychological loss of being 3-1 up in the best of nine series to now being 3-4 down.
Cayard said the boats might be similar, but the “human” factor would be the key. “People are people, and there’s a human factor to this whole thing. That factor’s on our side.” Grael readily confessed to his mistake. He made the correct first call, asking his skipper Francesco de Angelis to get the left side of the start-line for the first beat. But unbelievably, he called a tack part-way into the leg, and a one boatlength lead turned into a nightmare as the boats split 2km apart.
Team New Zealand were training their two boats nearby, and began a mock race at the same time as AmericaOne and Luna Rossa. AmericaOne’s tactician John Kostecki watched the New Zealanders and saw the New Zealand boats pick up the wind shifting to the right.
When Luna Rossa tacked to go further left, Kostecki asked Cayard to stick with the right and it paid off, giving the Californians a 15-boatlength lead at the first mark. “There are some days when you shouldn’t get out of bed and today was one of those days,” Grael said. “I was almost (always) right on a very good percentage of the times. Today was one day that things went wrong. “I think it’s normal, it’s difficult to get it right all the time. We thought the left side was going to be better for more pressure, but we understand that we were wrong.” The tactical calling of Grael and Kostecki has been a highlight of four months of racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup series. Although Kostecki is described by his skipper as the best sailor in the world, Grael has been outstanding.
However, his firm belief in his own ability and his confidence in Luna Rossa’s boat speed, has at times cost the Italians, who have surrendered large leads by not covering their opponents. Cayard said the best thing about having been down 1-3 meant a team felt a lot better when they were up 4-3. “The good news is if you come back you get a lot of confidence,” Cayard said.
“I’d say it’s fair to say we’re pretty happy with the way we’re sailing. We’re going to be going for the kill basically, and that’s what we came here for. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”