Fountains of champagne and smiling faces on board the beautiful "LunRossa", tears of joy on the face of team boss Max Sirena: This Sunday was all about Italy's America's Cup hunters. With two more victories, the LunRossPradPirelli Team prevailed against Sir Ben Ainslies Ineos Team UK in the challenger final. Patrizio Bertelli's racing team won the PradCup 7-1 and is entering the 36th America's Cup duel for the second time since 2000. As they did 21 years ago, the Italians face New Zealand's Cup defenders. At that time, the PradChallenge was defeated by the Kiwis with 0: 5. This time it should be different.
The Italians celebrate: Co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill (left) draws from the full in this scene, skipper and team boss Max Siren is bathed in champagne
The live broadcast in repetition: How the Italian LunRossPradPirelli team won the challenger final on Sunday
The defeated British could no longer act at eye level with the Azzurri after dominating the preliminary round in the Prada Cup final. The obvious weakness of the light winds of her "Britannia" turned out to be too high a hurdle with mainly light to occasionally medium winds. With two more clear victories, the Italian opponents once again demonstrated on the final day that they had put together the better overall package for the task. Contributing to this was the exclusive idea of competing with two helmsmen who act alternately: the three-time Olympic participant and multi-talented Italian dinghy and yacht sailor Francesco Bruni from Palermo and the experienced Australian Cup heavyweight Jimmy Spithill from Sydney. Team boss Max Sirens said: "Both are very different, but super talented. They are really good, respect one another and drive one another. The good thing is: the team follows them. That is the key to this success."
Just as good with the champagne bottle as at the wheel of the "LunRossa": Jimmy Spithill and the LunRossPradPirelli team celebrate their success
Except for rare exceptions, a symbolic image for the finished Prada Cup final: "LunRossa" in advance, "Britannia" afterwards
Great Britain's most successful sailor in sporting history and his team now have to make do with the spectator bench for this edition. The four-time Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie, his strategist Giles Scott and the Ineos Team UK failed for the second time in a row, but got further than at the premiere in 2017 and referred to their still young team history. Ainslie, who won the America's Cup 2013 as a last-minute hero with Oracle Team US, wants to keep fighting for the historically first British Cup victory. After the end of his team, the 44-year-old said on Sunday: "We wanted to win the cup, but we didn't succeed. It's a huge disappointment. It was great for our team that Jim (Ed.: Racing team owner Jim Ratcliffe) came on board first right after the last race. It's still a bit early, but we certainly hope we can continue. I don't think the story is over yet."
A continuation of the story of his British team in the America's Cup could not or would not promise Skipper Ainslie immediately after the final. He certainly conveyed the hope of this …
British history in this 36th Cup cycle is over. When asked whether the English might be available to the Italians as sparring partners on the water as they prepare for the clash against New Zealand, Ainslie replied: "We have played our part. From now on: May the best team win." Ainslie didn't know or didn't want to publicly suspect which it could be - Italy or New Zealand: "At the moment I don't know which of the two teams to bet my money on."
Cheering back to the port: Italy's Prada Cup winner on board the fast "LunRossa"
For Italy's cup hunters, after the race was before the race. They have 13 days to prepare the boat and team for the showdown on March 6th. Max Sirens said: "We have to work even harder and see if we can find a weak point in Team New Zealand to attack." When asked about his assessment of the New Zealand boat, Siren said: "You have a very nice ship in a pretty color and look very fast. It is always difficult to judge the performance of another boat. You look fast and have been safe since December Now let's face it: It's like Jimmy and Checco (Ed.: Francesco Bruni's nickname) have already said. We have sailed a lot and that could be an advantage. But they are defenders for a reason."
What the skippers, helmsmen and strategists had to say after the Prada Cup final: Jimmy Spithill, Francesco Bruni, Max Sirena, Sir Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott at the press conference
With their entry into the 36th America's Cup match on March 6th outside Auckland, the Italians are making millions of fans at home dream of the ornate silver jug for the third time. Before Patrizio Bertelli's attack at the turn of the millennium, it was in 1992 Raul Gardini's "Il Moro di Venezia" with helmsman Francesco di Angelis and the Brazilian Torben Grael, who put Italy into a collective frenzy when they entered the cup duel. In the cup match itself, Gardini's team later lost to Bill Koch's US team 1: 4. Are all good Italian Cup things threefold, and can the Azzurri shake the New Zealand throne or even push the Kiwis off the same? Bertelli's "LunRossa" racing team has plenty of experience in the sixth summit storm. Under the "LunRossa" flag and under the glow of the "Red Moon", the Italians have now entered the exclusive list of only 36 challengers who are in a race for the America's Cup in the 170-year history of the Cup. What all of this will be worth in a duel with the kiwis has to be proven on the water.
Addendum: The last two and decisive races for the PradCup were again clearly in favor of the Italians on Sunday. Race seven was won by "LunRossa" by one minute and 45 seconds, in the final eighth race the Azzurri were 56 seconds ahead of "Britannia". In winds of twelve knots, she could not prevent a start penalty and surprising last-minute maneuvers by the British thanks to the outstanding speed. "Fantastico!", Francesco Bruni shouted into the microphones after crossing the finish line. The British skipper Ainslie was left with nothing but the fair gesture of the loser: "Well done, LunRossa. Well done, Italy. It's a huge deal for Italy to reach the America's Cup again. Congratulations to Jimmy, Checco and the boys. You sailed brilliantly and deserve victory in this final."