At last we can set sail and test ourselves against our rivals at the World Series

It’s exciting to be on the cusp of racing at long last in this 36th…

It’s exciting to be on the cusp of racing at long last in this 36th America’s Cup cycle. After all the frustrations of this year, the delays, the uncertainty, the cancellations of the America’s Cup World Series events in Sardinia in April and Portsmouth in June, we will finally get the chance to test ourselves against our rivals on Thursday with the start of the four-day World Series event here in Auckland.

The result is of secondary importance this week. It’s about developing the boat. In a perfect world, yes, we would love to dominate the regatta and lay down a marker ahead of the Prada Cup Challenger Series, which begins in a month’s time. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will. A hydraulics issue last week meant we missed practice racing. That cost us valuable time on the water.

But it is the Prada Cup that will ultimately decide who goes on to face Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup in March, that’s the focus.

What we do know is the Kiwis have clearly hit the ground running and it is up to the rest of us to close the gap. But this is their Cup, their rules, their patch. So in some ways you have to expect that and react to it.

We will focus on ourselves. The fact that we missed last week was frustrating but you have to look at the positives. It was a lot better that we discovered our issues when we did rather than have them malfunction in the challenger series when it might have been terminal to our campaign. In many respects it feels as if we have dodged a bullet there.

We’re certainly not feeling sorry for ourselves. We still have a handful of key upgrades to come before the Prada Cup. And the team itself is working brilliantly out here. I’ve been so impressed by the way in which everyone has responded. I don’t think there are any sports more challenging than the America’s Cup in terms of day-in day-out graft. Some of the guys in the systems and shore team are working quite literally round the clock. They never stop. It’s incredible to see that commitment and you couldn’t do that without great team spirit.

In terms of our sailing operations, I feel we are making some good gains. We’ve made a few simple changes to how we fly the boat, bringing in Luke Parkinson to share flight controller responsibilities with Leigh McMillan who had effectively been performing that job on his own. Parko performed that role when we won the SailGP regatta in Sydney earlier this year and I know what he can offer.

All of the guys are looking lean and mean. Probably a bit too lean for their liking — we had our official crew weigh-in on Monday for which we all had to lose a couple of kilos to make the 990kg limit across 11 guys. We need maximum power to sail these boats to the limit, hence pushing the weight.

They have earned a few mince pies at Christmas. The last fitness tests before this week’s event was their best ever. We’re probably 10-15 per cent fitter than we were in the last Cup four years ago, which is a phenomenal gain. If you went to Dave Brailsford and said ‘I can give you a 10-15 per cent gain he would bite your arm off.

And then Giles Scott and myself at the back of the boat have been working really hard with our manoeuvres and tactics. We feel like we’ve really developed as a partnership since Bermuda four years ago.

The lack of racing up until this point means there’s almost certainly more on the table than there was in Bermuda. These remarkable America’s Cup boats are so complex that it will be a steep learning curve for all the teams. There are huge gains still to be made. It’s going to be flat-out now to implement our upgrades and to keep pushing until the start of the challenger series on January 15, 2021. In this game, speed of development is key and it’s not over yet.

  • The America’s Cup World Series & Christmas Cup is live on Sky Sports, YouTube and www.ineosteamuk.com from December 17-19, 2-5am (GMT) every day. 

Source Article