SIR Ben Ainslie’s bid to lead the British to America’s Cup glory suffered a huge setback after losing the opening two races of the Prada Cup final this morning (Saturday).
After going unbeaten in the round-robin races of the Prada Cup, Ineos Team UK suffered a narrow loss in the second, preceded by one of a greater margin.
Race conditions seemed to suit the Italian entry, Luna Rossa, as the winds stayed lower, in the first two events of the best of 13-race series.
Ineos team UK, with Seaview’s Ainslie at the helm and fellow Island, Leigh McMillan, one of two flight controllers in the outfit, had returned to racing after using the past 20 days to develop and refine their race boat, Britannia.
During the post-races press conference, a disappointed Ainslie said: “I think we did sail enough. We clearly wanted to make some changes to our boat to try to get more performance.
“That’s the trade-off — between time in the shed and time on the water. It’s a balance we’re always trying to strive for and get right.”
The Italians developed an advantage and never relinquished their lead in the opening race, after Ineos fell of their foils during the first tack.
However, the second race was a different kettle of fish as wind conditions had intensified to around 16 knots.
Ineos enjoyed a higher octane pre-start, as both teams looked to gain the optimal route over the start line and, in turn, force the other into a position they did not want to be in.
Both boats surged over the start line together and then showed a similar speed, before they decided to take different sides of the race course.
The Italians edged it around first top mark, as two high-quality outfits pushed each other to the limit.
“The Italians sailed really well today — in both races. The first race was a case that one boat could get out of the water and one couldn’t,” added Ainslie.
“The second, was a really close race. They just got it slightly better than we did.”
As the six-leg race continued, the Italians just had that little bit of extra pace in their armoury — enough to gain a 450m lead on the final leg and victory by 26 seconds.
- Watch the next two races live tomorrow morning (Sunday), with coverage underway at 3am on Sky Sports Mix.