Ainslie demands improvement after another America's Cup setback

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Sportsbeat
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Sir Ben Ainslie nearly suffered a start line wipeout as his America's Cup challenge sustained another blow in Auckland © COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi
Sir Ben Ainslie nearly suffered a start line wipeout as his America's Cup challenge sustained another blow in Auckland © COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi

By James Toney

Sir Ben Ainslie will need to show all those trademark fighting instincts as his America's Cup hopes took another blow in Auckland.

Ainslie's Team Ineos UK came into the Prada Cup final with brimming confidence, unbeaten in the first stage of the regatta and looking the boat to beat.

But rivals Luna Rossa won two more races on Sunday to take a 4-0 lead in the best-of-13 series to decide who faces Team New Zealand in the 36th America's Cup match next month.

The four-time Olympic champion won three races against the Italians in January but they're now unbeaten in eight and sailing flawlessly under the command of co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni.

Ainslie was famously part of Spithill's Team Oracle crew when they came back to win the 2013 America's Cup 9-8, having been 8-1 down.

This head-to-head battle is not quite at that desperate state but Ainslie is certainly feeling the pressure about his £110 million challenge for sport's oldest international trophy.

"We've got to come back fighting harder, we've got to improve and we've got the sail better. We know we can win these races," he said.

"I've been in these situations before, probably too many times. We've got to win seven now but we won't be giving up on any of this.

"One team has come out all guns blazing this weekend and we haven't - we need to regroup and come out swinging. We're not happy where we are and we need to turn it around, we'll move heaven and earth to do that.

"They sailed a really impressive day and made no mistakes and our starts were just not good enough."

Ainslie's team arguably lost both Sunday's races before they'd begun - at one point hearts were racing as their foiling flying machine shot into the air after an error, a flash back to the dramatic capsize of American Magic last month.

And Ainslie's hopes of getting back on track on Wednesday, when wind conditions look ideal for Britannia, are over after Auckland was forced into a snap 72 hour coronavirus lockdown.

"It's a timely reminder of what the world is going through, I'm not entirely sure what the restrictions mean but we'll just do whatever the authorities advise," said Ainslie. "The important thing is we are safe and healthy."

Spithill is a master tactician on the water and pretty stellar at mind games off it - ramming home Luna Rossa's advantage by insisting they still needed to get better.

Just three wins from booking their place in the America's Cup match, the Italians look to have the edge in the important metrics of racing, from boat speed in all conditions to the critical ‘velocity made good' ratio - which calculates how boats can sail the shortest distance at the highest speed.

"We rose to the challenge and we're ready for more," said Spithill.

"The scoreline doesn't matter, all the time and energy needs to go into the next race. We still made plenty of mistakes and we need to review them and be sharper next time."