The PRADA Cup semi-finals will go down in history for two things – the sheer determination of the NYYC American Magic team of getting their boat PATRIOT back on the water in a record time, and the visibly-improved performance of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team. See our visual report of the event with stunning pictures by Carlo Borlenghi, whose selection of beautiful images illustrate both sides of the story.
Along with millions of viewers around the world I watched in awe as we saw the incredible comeback of the American’s. Their nerves a little frazzled, evident when they came to the exact spot of their capsize and in the caution they showed when their boat lifted slightly higher than was expected. After all, they experienced the equivalent of a horrific car-crash on January 17th. And we also had to remind ourselves that they had had just two days of sailing on a completely re-built boat.
The brutal reality
For me the telling moment was when Terry Hutchinson was interviewed at the end of the 4th race. The raw emotion of the last 3 and a half years was evident, the reality finally hitting him that it was now over. And in an interview with Shirley Robertson they were both visibly emotional.
“We’ve had a lot of people support us, and so ultimately you feel a responsibility to that,” Hutchinson said. “I wear these things on my sleeve so this stuff is brutal because what Doug and Rodger and Hap and the club gave us was the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s disappointing to have it end in this manner because I know we’re better than this. There are really no other words because we’re competitors. We’ve done it long enough to know somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, and we always felt prepared and that we had done things in the correct manner to be on the right side of things here”.
He continued, “I think we have to go back and evaluate the mistakes that we made and what we could’ve done better, but I think the word ‘brutal’ sums it all up.”
As he fought to hold back tears, American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson gave a simple summary of his team’s exodus from the Prada Cup.
“It’s brutal. It’s just brutal.”
“I have nothing but pride for what we’ve done over the last three and a half years. All we can do is take it on the chin, understand our strengths and weaknesses, and move the whole game forward. Somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose. We always felt that we were prepared, and that we’ve done things in the correct manner to be on the right side of things here [in Auckland].” – Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and Executive Director @nyycamericanmagic
Sportsmanship at the highest level
We watched as the team on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli did a sail-past on their way back to the dock, applauding the Americans for their sheer determination, resilience and sportsmanship. This was a true testament to this level of sport.
We can’t take anything away from the Italian team. They sailed four flawless races, with aggressive tactics and smooth transitions. There was a marked improvement in communication between the two helmsman, this was evident in the brilliant tactics and manoeuvres and in general the way the boat looked more steady and balanced. Plus we were told – and we could see it – that they had increased their boat speed by 10%!
Helmsman, Francesco Bruni gave us light-hearted commentary between races. But below the humour there was a serious side of “one can never count one’s chickens before they hatch”. Francesco refused to take the bait of one of the commentators who said that after winning 3 races they were own their way to the final.
Jimmy Spithill confirmed that their improved performance in the semi-finals was due to a combination of things, but most importantly it was due to the improved communication between the after-guard and the team. “I’m listening to my gut more”, he said.
Luna Rossa meets INEOS Team UK in the Prada Cup finals on 13 February. Watch the spectacle live on Youtube.