Scott admits surprise at flying start to Britain's America's Cup campaign

Sportsbeat
·3 min read
Sir Ben Ainslie's Ineos Team UK competes against New York Yacht Club's American Magic in the Prada Cup, a series of races to decides who faces Team New Zealand to contest the America's Cup.
Sir Ben Ainslie's Ineos Team UK competes against New York Yacht Club's American Magic in the Prada Cup, a series of races to decides who faces Team New Zealand to contest the America's Cup.

By James Toney

Giles Scott stopped short of expressing disbelief in the radical change of Britain's America's Cup fortunes but you could certainly sense his relief.

Ben Ainslie's Britannia had looked pedestrian in lights winds during the warm-up events before Christmas in Auckland, leading to some on-shore sages to write off their chances before the regatta had even begun.

But there is no doubt his Team Ineos UK campaign is very different now.

The breezy conditions of 24 hours earlier, when the British boat won both their opening round robin races, were replaced with light puffs.

And that made their latest outing in the Prada Cup Challenger Series not just a head-to-head battle but a fight with both elements, tide and time.

Ainslie's crew - thanks to a startline howler from American Magic - initially flew down the track only to grind to a halt when the wind disappeared, leading officials to shorten the race distance.

Their substantial advantage would have meant nothing if the race wasn't completed within the 45 minute time limit but they crossed the line, just under five minutes ahead, with only 120 seconds to spare.

"We've had a tough time of it for the past five or six weeks and we needed to dig our heels in and adopt a siege mentality," said Olympic champion Scott, who is calling the tactics for Ainslie before switching focus to his title defence in Tokyo.

"We've just made gains where we could and it's testament to the effort that everyone has put it that it's paid off.

"We're two days into a very long competition and we've got three wins, I think if you'd have told us that a few weeks back we'd have taken a fair chunk out of your arm. We're happy but there is a long way to go and we'll continue to push hard."

Ainslie is a competitor who takes things to the limit, underlined by a near-miss with spectator craft as he pursued every little wind shift down the course.

"There was wind out there, it was just a question of whether we could get to it," added Scott.

"It was a race against the clock and we were pretty concerned that we'd run out of time, it was frustrating and fortunately we got it done."

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American Magic, seeking to return sport's oldest international trophy to the New York Yacht Club, which held it for 132 years between 1861 and 1983, are now winless from three races, after they were also swatted aside by Italy's Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli earlier in the day.

"I've got beaten around enough in my sailing career that it's going to take more than a couple of bad days to get me down," said skipper Terry Hutchinson.

"It's business as usual, we are still committed to our path and process. We know this regatta will be swings and roundabouts."

Meanwhile, Luna Rossa have successfully challenged the legality of a new sail system used by Ainslie's Ineos UK team in a bid to put wind back in their sails.

In recent weeks the Brits have added a new mast, sails and rudder in a bid to be competitive.

But the Italian campaign lodged a claim of non-compliance after seeing the modifications, winning the protest with the British fined and the system prohibited.