America’s Cup 2021: Catastrophe for Ineos Team UK against Luna Rossa after spectators foil start of sailing

Ineos Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie had a moment of concession in their final race in the America’s Cup World Series, seemingly ignoring a penalty because it would “come off soon”.

In the race against American Magic on Saturday evening, Team UK were penalised in the starting box and as a result had to drop 50m behind the American team.

However, the British crew, who have struggled all regatta, continued sailing toward the starting line as usual.

When reminded of the penalty by chief umpire Richard Slater, Ainslie responded: “don’t worry, Richard. It’ll come off soon enough mate”.

He wasn’t wrong, as Team UK fell 50m behind early in the first leg and never posed any threat to the Americans, who sailed to a win by more than five minutes.

Eventually, Ineos didn’t even finish in a disastrous ending to their World Series regatta, as AUT Sailing Professor Mark Orams described in the Herald’s live blog.

“Now Ineos has had to go outside the boundary…now they are tacking outside the boundary. They will stop. This is a nightmare. Sir Ben has had enough.

“They are retiring, not because of a breakage, but because they cannot reach the finish line.

“Sir Ben Ainslie is going to take another hammering in the press…it’s not just being beaten, it is the embarrassment of a foiling boat which can’t stay flying. It’s not as if there is no wind. Most boats love these kind of conditions. The package he has got is just not working.”

Ainslie and Co failed to win a single race during the World Series and had trouble with their foiling cant system all week – with Ainslie on Thursday blaming Team New Zealand for their woes.

The British were also blitzed in their first outing of the day, against Luna Rossa, but the bigger story was a delay caused by an almost farcical situation with the spectator fleet.

The first race today couldn’t start until 4:20 – a delay of more than an hour – as race management and marshals struggled to clear the large flotilla of boats.

It didn’t affect Luna Rossa – who won the shortened five-leg race by a huge margin and looked slicked around the course – but will need to be tidied up before the start of the Prada Cup next month.

The course had to be realigned on Saturday, as the wind shifted around, which necessitated the moving of a large number of craft.

But that wasn’t easy, with many boats either seemingly unaware of the need to shift, or unwilling to do it with any sense of urgency.

It was absurd at one point – with race director Iain Murray posting a large digital sign displaying “MOVE BACK” as he zipped between the spectator craft.

Once they were eventually cleared, Ineos Team UK again had issues before the start, as they struggled with their Race Management Systems (RMS), which aids the navigation before the start, though the delay gave them more time to fix it.

Both teams got their time and distance spot on before the line, taking advantage of a larger start box – but Luna Rossa edged ahead almost immediately with superior speed upwind and led by 30 seconds at the first mark.

The advantage was extended to more than half a kilometre in the second leg, before the British boat fell off their foils before the second mark. That was the end of the contest – as Ben Ainslie’s crew still looked uncomfortable with any kind of manoeuvre.

“They look like a beached whale in shallow water,” said Peter Montgomery on Newstalk ZB, as they floundered around.

The Italian lead had stretched to more than 1500m by the end of the third leg, as it became painful to watch the British boat. It was embarrassing at the end, as Luna Rossa finished the race almost a leg ahead, while the British incurred two penalties as they sailed outside the boundaries.

“When you’re sailing on foils, this is one of the most painful situations you can put yourself in,” said TVNZ commentator and Herald columnist Phil Robertson.

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