After a week of storms on and off the water Team UK has won one of two races sailed in a shifting breeze to maintain faint hopes of a comeback in the America’s Cup challenger series final against Luna Rossa.
As racing resumed on Saturday after a week’s delay marked by a dispute between teams and organisers, Luna Rossa won the fifth race of the Prada Cup final by 1 minute, 20 seconds to lead 5-0 in the first-to-seven series.
Faced with the possibility of match point, Ineos Team UK expertly called the shifts to win the second race by 14 seconds and keep the series alive after six races.
“It was a great race,” Australia’s James Spithill, co-helmsman of the Luna Rossa, said.
“Full credit to Ineos for getting that one.
“It’s always one race at a time. You never think about the end result.”
Two races on Sunday will decide whether Team UK continues in the series or whether Italy’s Luna Rossa wins its way into next month’s America’s Cup match against defender Team New Zealand.
Even at 5-1 neither team is accepting its fate. In 2013 Team USA came from 8-1 down in the Cup match to beat Team New Zealand 9-8 in one of the great comebacks in sport.
“The guys did a great job,” said Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie, who masterminded that Team USA comeback of eight years ago alongside Sydneysider Spithill.
“They’re not going to give up these boys, they’re going to keep fighting all the way.”
The fact the teams were racing at all had caused plenty of controversy following a community coronavirus outbreak in Auckland.
Luna Rossa earlier this week called on organisers to proceed with the remainder of the final and said racing should continue “behind closed doors” if Auckland remained under strict COVID-19 restrictions.
When the city moved to a reduced Alert Level 2 at midnight on Wednesday, Luna Rossa was eager to immediately get back on the water, a move opposed by regatta organisers America’s Cup Events (ACE) which reluctantly accepted a resumption on Saturday.
Team UK suggested Luna Rossa acted out of self-interest because it knew conditions on Saturday were likely to be to their advantage.