Ahead of the America’s Cup INEOS TEAM UK, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, received good luck wishes from Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge in her capacity as Royal Patron of the team’s official charity, the 1851 Trust.
However, Royal support was not enough to help the team in last month’s World Series event in Auckland. In fact, in their six races the British team was unable to take any points, failing to win a single race.
After day 1 of racing, in which each of the four teams raced twice, it was New York Yacht Club American Magic that was leading the ranking after winning both their races.
Just minutes before the start of their first race, INEOS TEAM UK participation seemed in doubt as they reported technical problems, but with seconds to go they confirmed that they would compete. American Magic took the lead, which was accentuated following control problems aboard the British boat.
“It is completely locked out here, the rudder just lost grip,” said skipper Sir Ben Ainslie over the crew comms as Britannia crashed onto port following a gybe.
Control issues continued and American Magic cruised to victory five minutes ahead. However the British team had no time to re-group. They had just minutes to ensure that their boat was ready to face Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. The bad luck continued with a penalty for Britannia for breaching a safety zone before retiring with a technical failure.
“We had issues with the ‘one design’ supplied foil cant system,” explained Team Principal and skipper Ben Ainslie. “We tried to race but ultimately the battery failed. We did not have control of the boat all day.
“It is clear that the teams need to come together and fix this (the FCS). With the amount of time and energy that goes into these campaigns it is certainly frustrating to lose a day’s racing.”
There appeared to be little sympathy from ETNZ who, in a statement, said: “All teams are responsible for the installation, ongoing maintenance and operating procedures of their own systems. In Emirates Team New Zealand’s experience, if all maintenance and start up procedures are followed correctly, the system operates as designed. As far as The Defender is aware, INEOS TEAM UK’s Foil Cant System is fully operational.”
By the end of day two New York Yacht Club American Magic and Emirates Team New Zealand were tied with three wins each. Despite some close boat-on-boat action INEOS TEAM UK still had no wins – although they did at least complete the two races, both against ETNZ, although they finished 1min 32secs and 1min 42secs behind the Defenders.
On the last day of the World Series the British faced Luna Rossa who beat them after INEOS TEAM UK struggled to stay on the foils. Things did not improve for the Brits when, in their final race against American Magic, they were dealt a penalty for an early entry into the start box. From here there was little real engagement and the Americans went on to win by a large margin.
The World Series was followed by the Prada Christmas Race, a one-day event with no reserve days, which was the last chance for the teams to measure themselves against each other before the new year. Due to light winds, only the first semi-final between ETNZ and INEOS TEAM UK was started, but the race exceeded the 45-minute time limit and was terminated and no winner was declared.
Racing will resume for the Challengers on 15 January in the PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series, while the Defender will need to wait until the America’s Cup Match on 6 March.
The overall World Series results make unhappy reading for the British team:
● Emirates Team New Zealand: 5
● NYYC American Magic: 4
● Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: 3
● INEOS TEAM UK: 0
Read the PRADA Cup preview on page 27.