The America’s Cup is full of big moments. Announcing a challenge, raising the money, building a team, building a boat, executing a campaign strategy and organising the logistics for an assembly of more than 100 staff and moving them to the other side of the world, a Cup campaign is a massive operation with plenty at stake.
And yet even then, when compared to winning the America’s Cup, that’s still the easy bit. The quest to win on the water can be a brutal, morale sapping experience when things go wrong and picking a team up that has been delivered the kind of body blow that American Magic have suffered can make the day to day stress of campaign logistics feel like an easier battle.
But the Cup is also full of extremes as the opening round robins displayed.
While American Magic were picking themselves up and racing against the clock, INEOS TEAM UK were quietly patting themselves on the back for an impressive turn around in performance.
While their pre-Christmas crisis hadn’t broken their boat, they knew what it was like to have their hopes and aspirations pulled out from beneath them during a humbling public display. But now, they are a completely different package, quick, promising and confident and yet American Magic’s crash has had a knock on effect for them.
With the Americans having declared that they will no longer be able to compete in Round Robins 3 & 4 this weekend the schedule has been changed for INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. And while this might sound like a formality, Cup campaigns are run on the basis of analysing every detail, on and off the water to establish where the potential gains and losses are. As we saw with the American Magic crash, it takes a small slip to start a chain reaction. No one wants to leave anything to chance.
With four wins from four starts so far, INEOS TEAM UK only needs one more win to advance to the final. If they get that win on Saturday, they’re done.
On the other hand, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli needs to win on both days to jump to the final. Two wins would take their score line to 4, equalling the British team. The tie break would fall in the Italian team’s favour as winners of the most recent race.
In addition, whichever team wins this weekend will be awarded the PRADA Christmas Race trophy in recognition of being top qualifier.
Whichever team loses will then race American Magic in the semi-final, the first knockout phase which starts on Friday 29 January. And by then the pressure ramps up dramatically.
Four losses and your team is on its way home and until the 36th America’s Cup has been won there is no indication of when, where and in what boats the next event will take place.
The Challengers of Record Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are every bit as aware of the snakes and ladders that lie ahead. They too will have looked at this new schedule with intense scrutiny and for them the weekend holds a big challenge.
Win on Saturday and Sunday and they allow themselves time to refine, develop and train as their winning strategy would have planned for. Lose just one of those races and they will have to fight their way to the final by beating American Magic in the semi-final.
For INEOS TEAM UK the route to success is simpler, yet no less stressful. Win on Saturday and they will deny Luna Rossa any more time to collect data on the British campaign and the way that they set up and sail Britannia II.
So, for the Italians winning twice on the weekend may prove more challenging but should they succeed they will have extracted the maximum from the available time. Which as it happens, is precisely what American Magic are endeavouring to do as they rebuild their boat and their campaign.
Whether teams are afloat or ashore the pressure is on for all.