Finally, the America’s Cup 2021 is in sight as the three challengers continue to race in the Prada Cup to see who will take on the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand
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. It will decide 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.
What do we know?
In a normal Cup cycle we would have seen plenty of competitive racing by now and would have some idea what to expect, but with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting plans for America’s Cup World Series events in Sardinia and Portsmouth racing has been extremely limited.
However, with the Round Robin series now concluded, we are starting to get a much better understanding of how each of the challengers compare at this early stage.
Our first real chance to see the AC75s racing one another was the America’s Cup World Series, Auckland which took place in December 2020. This should have been followed by the Prada Christmas Cup but that too was called off – due to a lack of wind after just one lacklustre race between Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Team UK, which saw both teams all but drifting around the race course.
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From the racing we did see in the America’s Cup Word Series, we know that the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand look like they will be tough to beat come the America’s Cup match itself. INEOS Team UK looked to have the most work ahead of them with a very disappointing showing at ACWS Auckland.
Brits win Prada Cup Round Robin
The British team, however, have worked incredibly hard and came out of the blocks fighting and have since won all five of their Round Robin races in the Prada Cup, signalling their intent with an impressive double win on day one.
More wins followed for the British team and, having won the Round Robin series, they 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, 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.
The biggest news of the opening weekend of racing was the dramatic capsize, damage, and near sinking of the American challenger, American Magic.
On Monday 18th January, American Magic announced they would take no further part in the Round Robin racing for the Prada Cup with the damaged sustained by their yacht, Patriot.
Who is in the Prada Cup Semi-Final?
From all the comms coming out of the camp, it seems the American outfit is now confident they will be able to get back on the water for the Prada Cup Semi-Final, which will take place between themselves and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.
These two team, as second and third place in the Prada Cup Round Robin will go into a first-to-four-wins Semi-Final which begins on Friday 29th January.
The winner of the Semi-Final will go through to the Final against INEOS Team UK and the loser will be out of the competition.
How does the rest of the Prada Cup work?
Once the Prada Cup Semi-Final has concluded and we see the first team leave the competition, which will leave a Final taking place between INEOS Team UK and the Semi-Final winner.
This Prada Cup Final will see the two teams racing a head-to-head event with the first to seven wins going through to the America’s Cup itself, where they will face America’s Cup Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand.
The Prada Cup Match itself (the final) will be held throughout February.
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?
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!