Crusing: Prime Gun on Water with flight key for the America’s Cup struggle

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A rainbow appears on the Auckland skyline with the Sky Tower in New Zealand

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By Alexander Smith

(Reuters) – Three crews from the UK, Italy and the US, equipped more like fighter jet pilots than sailors, are starting a series of dog fights this week to win the Prada (OTC 🙂 Cup in New Zealand.

The INEOS Team UK, the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team and the New York Yacht Club American Magic have the chance to challenge the Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup.

While the America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport, it has always been a design-driven race. The AC75 class of “foiling” monohulls that the teams developed for this event is now state-of-the-art.

Crucial to the teams’ performance in the Prada Cup, which begins outside Auckland on Friday to decide who can challenge the Kiwis in March, is how they “fly” the futuristic vehicle.

The AC75 lift themselves out of the water on hydrofoils and have already reached almost 50 knots (93 km / h). They test the limits of their 11-person crew and make helmets, body protection and emergency breathing apparatus essential for safety.

The race was restricted in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic, but a brief World Series event in December that the defenders attended gave a glimpse of how close the two-boat battles could be as teams sharpen sails, hulls and foils to get around to achieve additional speed.

Although the home team won overall, they were beaten once by American Magic, led by Terry Hutchinson, who finished second, going into the Prada Cup favorites ahead of Max Sirena’s Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK.

The British had a disastrous streak on board Britannia that faced technical issues that prevented them from finishing some races and meant they were much slower at times.

“It’s a development game,” said skipper Ben Ainslie after losing to the Kiwis, and in a number of practice races this week the British have shown significantly improved speed and stability for the boat.

The Prada Cup runs from January 15th, when American Magic first meets INEOS Team UK, to February 22nd, followed by the America’s Cup from March 6th to 15th.

(This story corrects Hutchinson’s spelling in paragraph 7)

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