The America’s Cup is nothing short of spectacular. Since the 1800s that’s been the case. The spectacle is shaped by a seemingly incongruent balance between its status as both the oldest international sporting trophy yet also the very pinnacle of yacht design and new technology.
Before hoisting the America’s Cup trophy, challengers must survive the Prada Cup. The winner will face off against the defender in the proper America's Cup Match. It’s do or die right now for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, New York Yacht Club American Magic, and INEOS TEAM UK.
The Prada Cup is must-watch television. For us Harkenites, our everyday reality is masked up, socially distanced, and riddled by constant reminders of an impending need to shovel the snow-covered driveway…AGAIN. When it’s an AC race day, we shake that up. We flip on the television a few minutes before 8 p.m., when it’s completely dark outside, and we’re transported to another planet. It’s incredible to see maskless spectators packed in, shoulder-to-shoulder, in t-shirts and flip flops. It’s summer there, literally and figuratively.
Escapism aside. Simply put, it’s great entertainment. Every race, something new happens. It’s a roller-coaster! We’re Switzerland; we don’t have favorites. There’s Harken equipment aboard every boat, and we work with each team in one way or another. But to be close to the action is to know some of the challenges teams face. All we want is for some great racing — for everyone to reach their potential. No flukes. No terrible mishaps. But that’s not the reality of the road to the 36th America’s Cup.
America’s Cup World Series Auckland event (ACWS) this December was the first glimpse of official racing in this Cup cycle. INEOS TEAM UK came out of the gates with 0 wins and 6 losses, slower around the course and struggling to get on the foils as early as the other teams. It was tough to watch. After ACWS, they clicked into a new gear and turned their fortunes around. They shook it up. They made critical decisions without even an opportunity to test them against the competition. And it worked. Their bravery paid off. At the Prada Cup, they started winning races. Next thing we knew, we were on the edges of our couches, popcorn spilling all about, and the Brits were undefeated! From 0-6 to 6-0. Cinderella. Such a turnaround tells you something profound about the team’s character.
The dynamic changed in dramatic fashion. The fast, very competent American Magic started to take a few losses at the Prada Cup after coming in ranked best of the three challengers. Well, suddenly they’ve now lost three races in a row. It was a complete reversal. The audience was now wondering what’s keeping American Magic from winning. Finally, in their fourth Prada Cup race they pulled ahead and held a steady lead against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. Clearly they found their form and turned on the jets. A huge puff rolls down the course just as they’re turning the final windward mark, and they CAPSIZE.
In a moment with so much on the line, it was powerful to see everyone come together. While the Cup hasn’t always seemed like a “friendly competition between foreign countries” as dictated in the Deed of Gift, but when disaster strikes, it’s clear everyone is willing to help out. From here on out, it’s all hands on deck.
You’re not trying to win the Christmas Cup. You’re not even trying to win the first weekend or the semifinals of the Prada Cup. As I write this, the Prada Cup ending hasn’t been written, but the drama is real. So, grab your popcorn, hold on tight, and enjoy the racing.
© C. Gregory / INEOS TEAM UK
© Harry KH / INEOS TEAM UK
© Carlo Borlenghi / INEOS TEAM UK
© Sailing Energy / New York Yacht Club American Magic