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Uphill battle for Ainslie as weekend defeats see Team Ineos slip 4-0 behind in America's Cup challenge

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Team Ineos and Luna Rossa during racing on Sunday (photo: COR 36|Studio Borlenghi
Team Ineos and Luna Rossa during racing on Sunday (photo: COR 36|Studio Borlenghi

SIR Ben Ainslie has said his Ineos Team UK team will “regroup” after a desperate start which has seen them lose the first four races of the Prada Cup final.

A lacklustre showing saw Italian vessel Luna Rossa win the two weekend races and means British boat Britannia – built in Hythe by Carrington Boats – is in jeopardy missing out on a place in the coveted America’s Cup.

Already 2-0 down in the first-to-seven-wins Prada Cup series, poor starts cost Britannia in the weekend contests. That fact was readily conceded by Sir Ben – an 11-time world champion who is an honorary life member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.

“At this level you can’t afford to make any mistakes and we made too many. We have to go away, regroup and improve to get our act together and come out swinging,” Sir Ben said.

The next two races had been scheduled for Wednesday but a snap lockdown in Auckland, due to a coronavirus outbreak, has seen them postponed, and Sir Ben said the team would use the time to have a rethink to revive its faltering bid.

Analysing the weekend showing, Sir Ben added: “In the first pre-start we got a bit too greedy going for the hook, we thought it was on for a split second, and got it wrong.

Ben Ainslie (photo: COR 36|Studio Borlenghi)
Ben Ainslie (photo: COR 36|Studio Borlenghi)

“Then in the second race we wanted to be aggressive and were in a good spot to make an aggressive move but lost control of the boat, which you can’t afford to do. We will have to go away and look back at that one to analyse what went wrong.”

Sir Ben, who became the first-ever freeman of Lymington and Pennington after his London 2012 Olympics heroics, added: “That was a tough day. We are not happy with it. We can sail a lot better than that and we need to.

“We just gave two races to those guys off the start line. To their credit they sailed well to keep it tight with two very even boats. They didn’t give us a chance to get back into it.”

The past few weeks have seen Britannia endure a rollercoaster entry into the event. It was humiliated in a pre-Christmas warm up regatta but then stormed back in the qualifying races to reach the Prada Cup contest against the Italians.

The Ineos outfit is bidding to become the first British team to make it to the America’s Cup since Tony Boyden’s Sovereign raced the Americans in the 1964 contest off Rhode Island.

On that occasion the British team, skippered by Paul Anderson, was comprehensively beaten 4-0 by the American defending champions, Constellation, skippered by Eric Bidder.

This year’s race will be the first time the world’s oldest international sporting trophy will be raced on 75-foot foiling monohulls, which lift out of the water to reduce drag.

Despite the uphill task it would be unwise to bet against Sir Ben, since he has already tasted America’s Cup Glory in lifting the 2013 trophy with Oracle Team USA when the US team defeated Team New Zealand in San Francisco after a stunning comeback.

He can also draw on his extensive experience in being the most successful sailor in Olympic history after winning medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1996 onwards. This includes four gold medals at Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London between 2000 and 2012.

Sir Ben is joined onboard Britannia by Richard Mason, who grew up in Lymington and now lives in Southbourne. Richard learned to sail at Salterns Sailing Club and has been involved with the preparations over the last year.

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