Prada Cup: How to follow the Final

Finally, the America’s Cup 2021 is in sight as the three challengers become two for the Prada Cup Final. One of either INEOS Team UK or Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli will win the right to take on Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup.

Ineos Team UK’s foiling monohull Britannia II will be racing competitively for the first time in the America’s Cup World Series Auckland. Photo: Facebook/IneosTeamUK

The teams are there, the boats are there, and racing has finally started in the Prada Cup, the official competition to select the challenger to take on Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland.

The Prada Cup, as it is now named, used to be called the Louis Vuitton Cup – or Challenger Selection Series. The event decides which of: Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli; INEOS Team UK; or American Magic will take on Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2021 America’s Cup.

Following their 4-0 straight victories over American Magic in the Semi-Final, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli now go through to the Prada Cup Final where they will face INEOS Team UK. For the American team, the dream is over as they become the first to be eliminated from the competition.

American Magic was the first team to be knocked out of the Prada Cup. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

What do we know?

With the Round Robin Series and Semi-Final now concluded, we are starting to get a much better understanding of how the remaining challengers compare.

The British team has worked incredibly hard and came out of the blocks fighting and have since won all of their Round Robin races in the Prada Cup, signalling their intent with an impressive double win on day one and going on to win ever race they have sailed so far in the Prada Cup.

Having won the Round Robin series, they were able to go straight through to the Prada Cup Final.

Though the Brits have looked very strong, and have made some changes to their boat, it is difficult to discern much difference in boat speed between the teams, with all boats seemingly performing pretty similarly across the wind range – though there have been small advantages for each in various wind speeds and directions.

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Although the Brits have beaten Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in every race they have sailed, these have been far from easy victories and the margins have been very tight indeed.

Many of the races between the two teams could have gone either way, with a prime example being the final race of the Round Robins where the teams were involved in easily the best race so far, which saw the lead change on nine occasions.

The British team has been able to get more testing time on the water. COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

The good news for INOES Team UK is that, having secured their position in the Final in the fastest possible fashion, they are rewarded with increased development time. It might not be a huge boost, but the five days between them winning the Round Robin and the start of the Semi-Final were all days the Brits could be putting in time to development. The Italians, on the other hand, needed to prepare for Semi-Final racing and then race over the course of two days.

The Brits have stated that much of their development time between their poor performance in the America’s Cup World Series and the start of the Prada Cup went into fixing their problems, so they were unable to bring any of their other planned developments in. This additional time, should offer them the chance to test out some of these developments which have been waiting in the wings.

However, Luna Rossa have been able to make their own strides too. The team looked quicker, with slicker crew work and decision making in the semis than they had in the Round Robins. In fact, Luna Rossa claim they have made a 10% performance gain from the final race against the Brits to their Semi-Final.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli looked to have made performance improvements in the Prada Cup Semi-Final Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

It is slightly difficult to quantify performance in these outright terms, and with the secrecy and mind games that are associated with America’s Cup racing, the 10% figure can be taken with a fairly large pinch of salt. But they have certainly improved and it is fair to say that the Luna Rossa which raced the Semi-Final would probably have had more success about the INEOS Team UK in the Round Robins.

So with both teams developing and improving, the question now becomes, who has managed to make the biggest improvements ahead of the Final?

How does the Prada Cup Final work?

Now the Semi-Final has concluded, we are down to two boats who compete in the Final. The Final itself (officially known as the Prada Cup Match) is longer than the Semi-Final and takes the form of a first to seven wins head-to-head competition. The winner of this match will go through to the America’s Cup itself, where they will face America’s Cup Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand.

Racing is scheduled to run on weekends and in some cases in the week. Each race day has two races scheduled with the exception on the final day on Monday 22nd February, which will be the tie-break race, should it be needed.

The first weekend of racing is on the weekend of 13-14th February, then there are a further two races on Wednesday 17th February. In theory, should one team win every race, they could conclude the series by the first race of the day on Friday 19th February.

All this means that the second race on Friday 19th, the two on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st, and the final race on Monday 22nd are all ‘if needed’ and so may not go ahead.

What is match racing?

As is tradition for America’s Cup racing as a whole, each of these races will see one team racing a single other team, or ‘match racing’ as it is known. Match Racing is a unique discipline in the sport of sailing and is explained well by INEOS Team UK sailing team member Matt ‘Catflap‘ Cornwell in the video below.

How can I watch the Prada Cup?

All of the Prada Cup races will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, NBC Sports, TVNZ, RAI, and Sky Italia, as well as on the America’s Cup YouTube channel and Facebook page.

You can also watch via the Ineos Team UK website, which will also feature daily pre-race shows, hosted by Georgie Ainslie.

There is clearly no shortage of options available, the problem for European viewers is likely to be the timezone difference, with the Prada Cup Round Robin and Semi-Final racing taking place between 0200 and 0400 GMT, while the Prada Cup itself will take place between 0300 and 0500 GMT, so if you want to watch live, you’d better set your alarm clock!

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