Already the holders of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the Prada Challenge added the Louis Vuitton Trophy to its collection after beating the GBR Challenge by just six seconds in the final of the America’s Cup Class.
The racing by the modern representatives at the America's Cup Jubilee turned out to be closer and more exciting than anyone dared to expect, but in the end, the experience of the Italians won out over the exuberance of the young British team.
The GBR Challenge will be heartened by their performance this week, and the race on Saturday will do nothing to discourage them. Starting helmsman Andy Green did a good job on the start, as he threw a penalty onto Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis who gybed too close to the British boat. Green went on to win the right side of the starting line, and put Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis in a position where he had to tack at the gun, slowing the boat as the race began.
Sailing manager Ian Walker took over the helm from there, and led both boats on a long beat out to the right side of the course. GBR-52 held a handy lead at the weather mark, and although Luna Rossa showed better pace and closed up over most of the downwind leg, two poor gybes on the Italian boat, followed by a torn spinnaker, allowed Walker to round the leeward mark with nearly a four boatlength lead.
The British team maintained that lead on the beat, and looked fairly secure rounding the mark but on the spinnaker hoist, the sail burst as it filled in the breeze, and suddenly, the race was in jeopardy. As the GBR-52 crew struggled to haul in the torn sail and replace it with a new one, Luna Rossa rounded, executed a clean hoist and gybed off to the favoured side of the course.
The boats split, with Luna Rossa on the right side of GBR-52, as the boats steamed down to the finishing line. Both skippers called for a gybe simultaneously, and as the boats converged, it was clear that Luna Rossa was in the lead. As they neared the finishing line, the Italians hoised a jib, readying to complete their penalty turn. With GBR-52 hurtling toward them, the Luna Rossa crew executed a flawless spinnaker drop, turned towards the wind and tacked through, crossing the line just half a boat length ahead of the charging Britons.
"I was really disappointed," Walker admitted after the race. "I'm probably as disappointed as I've ever been in a sailboat. But I'll sleep on it, and I've got a feeling this is part of the learning curve. We're still new at this and I have a feeling this won't be the last time we have a tough ending."
"It's always difficult to sail and race here," said Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis. "But we learn something every time we go out and race, and we're really happy we won."
In the petit-final, Team New Zealand beat the second British entry GBR-41 fairly convincingly. British helmsman Andy Beadsworth was again strong in the pre-start, but simply couldn't match the speed of NZL-32.
"We've had a great deal of fun and enjoyed some really good racing," Tom Schnackenberg, the head of the Team New Zealand programme. "On the other hand, the conditions here are very different to those in Auckland so any lessons learned will only be very general. But it's been a fantastic week."
That sentiment is probably shared among the three America's Cup hopefuls represented in the finals. While both Team New Zealand and Prada can look back at a long history of Cup sailing, for the British Challenge this week was an opportunity to dip a toe in the water, and measure up against the 'big boys'. In that respect, the British Challenge probably gained the most from the America's Cup Jubilee, and can now feel at home on the race course with the best of the best. But Walker cautioned against reading too much into the results on the Solent this week.
"Doing well in the Jubilee regatta here is very different from doing well in the America's Cup," Walker said. "But this has been a very good week for the British Challenge, and a very good week for the America's Cup. We're happy."