Team UK close to America's Cup challenger series final
UK challenger INEOS Team UK faces a win from a direct route to the America's Cup Challenger Series finals and unsure whether the award will be a blessing or a curse.
Team UK and Italian challenger Luna Rossa will face each other once on Saturday and Sunday in the final round robin phase of the Prada Cup challenger series in Auckland, New Zealand.
If Team UK wins the first race on Saturday or the second on Sunday, it will qualify for the final. If Luna Rossa wins both races, the second race will count as a tie and the Italian team will reach the final.
The teams will also each sail a "ghost race" in place of the scheduled race against absent US challenger American Magic. To win the point available in these races, the teams must start a race and sail for a few minutes before the race organizers abandon the races and award the point.
American Magic, whose racing yacht Patriot capsized and was badly damaged in the race against Luna Rossa last weekend, remains in a race against time to be ready for the semi-finals starting next Friday. After the two races at the weekend, you will compete in the semi-finals against the second-placed team.
U.S. skipper Terry Hutchinson said in a radio interview on Friday that American Magic is confident that repairs will be completed by the urgent deadline.
"We know we'll be racing around this time next week," said Hutchinson. "The timeline is as it is, and today we're in a pretty good place to get the boat out on the water. Our goal is to get this thing back on the water and what happened last week is to make a distant memory and start racing again. "
UK team skipper Ben Ainslie said there are pros and cons to being the team that goes straight to the finals. The winning team is gaining time to develop and improve their boat before the semi-finals, but miss the intense race that is likely to take place between the semi-finalists.
"There's a lot at stake for both teams when it comes to finding that straightforward path to the final," said Ainslie. “Obviously it will take you a long time to upgrade the boat further.
“It will buy you time and we are all everything this season. The flexibility to upgrade the boat. Some upgrades can be done overnight; others may take two, three, or four days. This gives you the opportunity to change some things that you might not otherwise get a chance to.
Ainslie said the lack of racing for the finalist is an issue the teams have to grapple with.
“Ultimately, you have a three week window of not racing intense,” he said. "When we put these boats out on our own on the racetrack and try to simulate the training with chases or in the simulator, you have to weigh that against the developmental gains that you may be able to make."
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