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The first day of the final stage...

Today is the first day of the last stage of the Prada Cup 2021 - but it could be a case of: suddenly, nothing happened.

If the wind obliges, today,

two European-based countries will vie to take on Emirates Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup. There are two races scheduled per day, starting today at 4pm in New Zealand and 4am in Italy.

This is my prediction: that the first team to seven wins will win, but I’m stopping there because my America’s Cup predictions are often wrong.

But, this is what we know:

1. The top wind limit in which racing will begin has been kept at 21 knots, rather than raising to 23 knots for the Prada Cup finals as previously agreed.

2. The 15-minute rule is back, allowing a team to request a 15-minute delay up to three minutes before the race begins, to address a last-minute issue on the boat.

3. Both teams look to be significantly stronger than the last time they met.

At the pre-regatta press conference, Max Sirena of Prada Pirelli and Ben Ainslie of Team Ineos UK were both asked what advances they had made since the last time they met. Because of awkward questions like these, all America’s Cup helmsmen/skippers go to college to learn how to say it best when they say nothing at all.

Max Sirena: “Since we raced INEOS TEAM UK last time, we have new foils, a new modified mast, a new set of sails, a lot of development on the software system on the boat and a lot of improvements especially in the communications on board. We made a lot of mistakes when we raced against INEOS TEAM UK and we want to come out with one mistake less than them this time. “I think at the beginning of this campaign we were a little bit off the pace in big breezes. Mainly because, for some reason, we did not encounter many windy days when we launched the boat. But when we finished the Round Robins we started to sail in the big breezes and were able to work on what was needed and now we feel very confident in the full wind range.”

Ben Ainslie: “We have worked very hard over the period and our team has stuck to the task of trying to get every ounce of performance out of the boat. It’s been a tough period, especially for the shore team. During the last ten days or so we’ve been back on the water trying to get the intensity up and making sure we are match fit.”

Max said that racing the semi-finals had been an advantage: “We probably raced less than 10 times so every racing day is gold.”

Ben: “We worked hard to get that spot [going straight through to the finals] because we knew we still had a lot of work to do on the boat.”

Let the games begin. Oh, right, they already have.

Interesting note: the PRADA Cup was created by Australian designer Marc Newson and handcrafted by Florentine silversmiths – but with a scarlet-interior nod to Christian Louboutin.

Photo credit: Carlo Borlenghi.

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