Front Rudder – by Mark Reid

More Than A War of Words

The Prada Cup so far may be lacking in races, but it’s not missing drama on or off the water. As the remainder of the racing calendar moves into the waning days with critical matches yet to be decided, one thing is clear, all four teams competing in the 36th America’s Cup have been deprived of crucial days on the water.

The Prada Cup lights up the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

Be it over Coronavirus and scheduling delays or the typical fluky weather that besets New Zealand every summer, or at least the ones in which they host the America’s Cup. We have all been deprived, most importantly the competitors, of the opportunity to see this exciting new class of foiling monohulls develop in the way the technology and money that was spent by all afforded them to be.

The best certainly lies ahead of us in the coming weeks as the America’s Cup finals begin on March 6.

Normally in the America’s Cup the fastest boat always wins, not this year as fate would have it.

To date, Emirates Team New Zealand has been blazingly fast, but they are forced to sit and wait until the Prada Cup produces a worthy challenger. Will it be the surprising INEOS Team UK with Britannia who earned a pass to the Prada Cup finals? Or will the Italians overcome the pitfalls of twin helms and finally put it all together for a complete race to allow Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to succeed after 21 years of falling short?

Can the American’s make “magic” after destroying a superfast, but unpredictable metallic jet-black Patriot which just a short time ago was heading to the bottom of the Hauraki Gulf after going airborne and capsizing (more on that later)?

But first, how did we get here. Let’s look at the quirky Prada Selection Series races and the unfolding drama encapsulated within as the Americans, Italians and British scrap for every point. It has been more than just a war of words; it hasn’t been scraping paint yet, but close!

Let’s start with the deciding race for Sir Ben Ainslie and the Queen’s command.

A Race For The Ages

INEOS Team UK hopped, skipped and jumped to the Prada Cup Final as they will face the winner of the American Magic versus Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in a best of seven.

The British team stays unbeaten to date by narrowly beating Luna Rossa in one of what was probably the closer races we have seen so far with nine lead changes throughout the amazing hook up, which saw a top speed exceeding the 50.29 knots by the Brits.

The breeze shifted back and forth across the racecourse prior to the start, preventing the race committee from setting a fair course. The start was pushed back more than an hour, then came word that INEOS needed to play a newly deployed “delay card” of 15 minutes as they struggled to repair a problem with the Cunningham which controls gearing for the mainsail, allowing the boat to throttle up, especially going downwind.

As precious minutes ticked away toward the start and the end of 15 minutes of “grace,” INEOS had to settle for a “set and forget” solution tying it in place at a 17-knot wind setting which locked it in place. Though the solution was far from ideal leaving them vulnerable, the shifty wind conditions of the day turned out to be their best friend!

The start was on when the winds did settle in as the needle approached 20 knots, but conditions remained very shifty. Both teams headed out towards the left-hand side of the course as INEOS was first to tack away. Luna Rossa followed shortly afterwards, and when the pair came back together on the right-hand side of the course, they were still drag racing neck and neck.

Luna Rossa tacked underneath, but their modified longer wings on the foil were slow out of the tack as INEOS rounded the first gate two seconds ahead. It was back and forth heading into the final leg, and by the top mark there was just one second between the pair as they headed downwind. Both boats raced for the boundaries to make the most of the narrow racetrack as they headed for one final cross at closing speeds of more than 90 knots with Britannia on the port, but could lay the finish and the dynamic duo of Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni couldn’t and tried to get the British on a port starboard.

Spithill would later say they got “a piece” of INEOS and called for a protest after a fair bit of showmanship or a “Hollywood” as they claimed they had to avoid the give way boat.

The umpires didn’t agree. The Italians had played their last card, and it hadn’t worked.

INEOS crossed the line 33 seconds in front of Luna Rossa who didn’t seem to be in a hurry to finish second. Both teams needed to stay and complete “ghost” races (starts) against an invisible American Magic, who was still in the shed being “resurrected” and unable to compete.

“That race was one for the fans and a pretty awesome race to take part in,” said Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS’s Team principal and skipper. “Lots of lead changes, neck at neck all the way to the line, credit to the Luna Rossa guys for pushing hard. We had few issues leading into the pre-start as we were missing one of the key settings. The guys did an awesome job getting us around the track in one piece and getting the win.”

“We lodged the protest that both of us were doing 45 + knots. We had to avoid Britannia so it was a bit surprising that the (umpires) thought it wasn’t close enough,” said Spithill. “At the top we didn’t pull off a couple of tacks as we should have, but it was really shifty. A continuous up and down the entire racetrack and that’s why we saw so many lead changes. It was a good effort from the guys on board and congratulations to INEOS. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we certainly learned a lot from that one.”

“It’s not so easy in these boats. We made a couple of mistakes,” said Bruni. “I think we had good moments, they had good moments and it all came down to that last cross. It was a very close race.”

“The race was interesting, but also very complicated with big shifts in wind direction and intensity,” said Max Sirena, skipper and LRPP team director. “We need to analyze our performance in all aspects that were not perfect and understand where we can do better. On the downwind (legs) for example, INEOS seemed to be very fast. Now we are preparing for the semifinal against American Magic, and I expect it to be very close and competitive.”

INEOS Team UK now has three full weeks to develop their boat and get it ready for the Prada Cup, whereas Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and American Magic have a short turn around and a high hurdle to get race ready, with the loser packing their bags and heading home as the pressure dramatically ramps up.

A Capsize Of Epic Proportions

Jubilation and confidence turned into trepidation and shock in a horrific way on a windy rain swept racecourse on the lumpy Hauraki Gulf, as American Magic’s jet-black Patriot launched into mid-air and capsized during a questionable bear away gybe while rounding the final gate with a comfortable lead over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, after catching an unexpected blast of wind.

Patriot lies on its side after capsizing in a race under challenging conditions. Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/

Compounding the dramatic situation, Patriot almost dropped to the bottom as the concussion blast of hitting the water at an uncomfortable angle blew a gaping hole in the side of the boat.

If not for the quick actions of Patriot’s crew, their support team, chase boats from the other challengers and New Zealand Coastal Authorities on the scene, the American Magic AC75 would surely have sunk.

Out on the Gulf watching the race was the ETNZ led by helmsman Peter Burling, along with Luna Rossa’s Shannon Falcone who was out on the course supporting his team and quickly arrived on the scene as all their combined efforts in short order and little panic were not in vain as they placed more than 16 water pumps into the boat that was sinking and managed an amazing rescue.

Patriot was in danger of sinking, if not for the combined efforts of the other teams, notably ETNZ, Luna Rossa and multiple New Zealand coastal authorities. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team was awarded the victory on the capsize DSQ. Then following the live TV feed in horror as American Magic’s hopes and dreams seemed to have come to a dramatic conclusion, it turned into a scramble to find alternative means to view the ongoing drama.

Viewing it from afar we were “rescued” by the Live Sail Die media team that was covering the race and gave us an excellent view of the dramatic event that was unfolding in front of us by streaming the action first on their Twitter page and then on Facebook. Beck Morgan, who was a guest on board LSD’s chase boat provided an excellent impromptu narrative of all the action as she was unwittingly press ganged into her journalistic role.

The gravity of the situation took hold when an orange buoy was attached to the top of Patriot’s mast so it could be found if it had plunged to the bottom of the Hauraki. Fortunately, the waters were only 12 feet deep, but still the boat would have been destroyed.

“We need to recognize the heroic effort by everybody in the Auckland community that came forward to rescue Patriot from despair,” said Terry Hutchinson, American Magic’s CEO and skipper. “The local authorities, the police, the fire and rescue and then finally our competitors. They were spectacular. When you think about that family, our sailing community, it was awesome to see the show of support.”

“As competitors, we sit here a majority of the time and we argue with each other about things,” said American Magic’s Terry Hutchinson. “But at the end of the day, you couldn’t come across more sportsmanship or more generous teams that we have around us.” Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

American Magic had sailed a strategic, controlling race over the Italians, and by the time they had rocketed towards the final mark rounding at more than 40 knots, Helmsman Dean Barker over concerns voiced from tactician Paul Goodison made an aggressive move by launching a bear away gybe as an unexpected blast doubled the wind speed in a matter of seconds as rain bore down for a short squall as Patriot rolled the dice on what shouldn’t have been a Hail Mary maneuver.

A tack bear away is tricky on any boat, but at that speed, in that place with a controlling advantage to put it all on the line has become the subject of debate.

“We struggled through that maneuver because we got a puff at about the same time we were bearing off and we were accelerating,” explained Hutchinson. “In that exact moment, the runner was a little bit fetched up on the mainsail, the sails were eased and the boat was accelerating but we were still building up to our top speed. Those are the unfortunate consequences of racing in an incredibly turbulent condition.”

“I don’t know much about what happened. I’ve seen a video of the maneuver and it’s just horrific,” said Ainslie looking back on the incident. “You don’t want to see that happen to anyone, either your own team or any other team. But everyone is okay, which was the primary concern.”

American Magic’s Terry Hutchinson faces the press in wake of Patriot’s capsize. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

“We go out there and race hard against each other, but at the end of the day it’s a sporting contest, and we want everyone to be safe, and we want everyone to be racing,” continued Ainslie. “I feel for those guys, Dean (Barker) and Terry (Hutchinson) and the rest of the team, and I really hope they are able to sort things out and get back on track. No one wants to see that.”

“It was a full-on day. We had between five and 25 knots on the racecourse and big sea waves out in the Hauraki Gulf. It was a big challenge,” said Ainslie. “The team did an incredible job dealing with the sea state in particular. We had a few near wipe outs and were very close to losing our rudder out of the water. In those conditions you just have to hang on and muscle your boat around the course, and the guys did a really good job.”

“The conditions were very hard. It’s no surprise there was a capsize,” recalled Bruni co-helmsman of Luna Rossa Pirelli, who was at the wheel when Patriot went over. “The conditions were very puffy and gusty, and still some chop around. It was very hard to do some maneuvers because it was a one-way track, so the Americans decided to do a tack bear away which is a very hard maneuver to pull off in those conditions.

“They were brave, I feel sorry for them.”

“If you look at the boat speed through the trajectory of the turn, we were going 47 knots. Inside the boat there is transverse structure and then longitudinal structure,” said Hutchinson. “The boat popped quite a wheelie, the leeward foil came out of the water and we got a reasonable amount of bow altitude up. When the boat slammed down … it’s fine if it lands flat on its keel, but if it lands on its side basically the structure inside the yacht just guillotined the panel and out it popped.”

In light of the capsize, Race Management Director Iain Murray who has held the post since the America’s Cup was in San Francisco in 2013 tweaked a couple of rules and the racecourse that will serve as the most likely “playing” field for the races going forward. It also provides spectators with the best viewing areas and opportunities as well.

“It has become very clear to everyone that when a boat capsizes it’s 99% out of the race. We are trying to bring the safety forward to make it as efficient as we can,” said Murray. “After reviewing what happened last weekend when they took nearly five minutes for that assistance to be given, we felt there was a four-minute window of opportunity that help could have been directed straight at the yacht.”

“We want to get there, we want to get a head count and make sure everything is alright,” continued Murray. “Our target is to do that within a minute and we want to render assistance straight away. It’s a small change to the rule, but automatically it allows people to get on the job.”

“We were fortunate that we got both batteries out of the boat and that all the hydraulic fluid inside the yacht stayed inside the yacht, it’s a closed system,” said Hutchinson. “At the time it felt like the boat was going to sink. We were doing everything we possibly could to prevent that from happening. Everybody around us, from the other teams to the local authorities helped us get the pumps in the boat, and we ended up with 16 pumps inside the boat.”

“We had a jib wrapped around the hole and then the fire and rescue units deployed what I would categorize as two ‘airplane-style’ life rafts that we wrapped underneath the bow of the boat and inflated. That really stopped the bleeding from that moment on.”

The priority Course Z zone that runs from North Head out to Rangitoto Island has been expanded to take in parts of Course B along the Takapuna and Milford area and Course D that runs along the eastern bays and out to Browns Island.

“It became obvious to me being here and looking at the winds and reviewing this on a daily basis that there’s a very good area in Course C, and the priority for the regatta was to make it work in Course C,” said Murray.

It provides more options with the various winds that funnel around Rangitoto and North Head. Course E, which is situated east of Maraetai provides a “safe zone” to get racing under way in a broad range of winds, particularly with the summer sea breezes.

“I’m not surprised by the quality of the work being done in our shed,” said Hutchinson. “Over the last three years, our team has always exceeded expectations and they’ve always delivered our gear on time and to a standard that is very high.

American Magic’s crew hard at work putting Patriot back together again as boatbuilder AJ Dudley and Benjamin English sand that black hull into shape. Photo courtesy of ailing Energy/American Magic.

“Patriot is coming back to life. They’re turning the boat on, and really the heartbeat of the boat is going again, which is really exciting.”

As We Go To Press

Nine days of intense boatbuilding and systems work inside the American Magic’s team base, and facing a measurement deadline, Patriot returned to the Waitemata Harbor roughly 48 hours before her first Prada Cup Semifinals matchup with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

“We had a pretty good setback,” said Hutchinson. “But the measure is always going to be how we respond to it. We can’t dwell on the past; the only thing that we can control is our future.”

Patriot will be reborn. Photo courtesy of ailing Energy/American Magic.

The rollout launches and dock-off were a sequence that has been completed nearly 50 times since Patriot’s christening a few short months ago. Nevertheless, this relaunch was anything but routine for the team’s families and fans as they crowded the shoreline of Auckland’s Wynyard Basin. Nine days of feverish production work and high-stakes engineering decisions had been accompanied by thousands of messages, both digital and tangible, sent to American Magic from supporters around the world.

Patriot gets her finishing touches in the shed, prior to relaunch. Photo courtesy of Sailing Energy/American Magic.

“It’s awesome to have so much support, support from the families, support from back home and support from the New Zealand community,” said James Lyne, sailing team coach for American Magic. “It’s a great feeling.”

The crash and capsize on Jan 17 ripped a sizable hole in Patriot’s port side hull, just ahead of the foil arm. Images of the damaged yacht being lifted free of the ocean in near-darkness, the hole clearly evident, had reverberated around the world in the days after the jet black AC75 had disappeared inside her hangar.

When Patriot reemerged, she sported a prominent message of thanks to the other teams and the Auckland community at large, which had rendered timely and invaluable assistance during the Jan 17 incident. The bandage-shaped graphic, which was also directed at the team’s global group of well-wishers was placed over the previously damaged section of the hull.

A “bandaid” gratitude has been affixed to Patriot’s hull to thank ETNZ, Luna Rossa and INEOS for their help in saving the American Magic’s boat in a welcoming gesture of universal sportsmanship. Photo courtesy of Sailing Energy/American Magic.

Patriot spent nearly seven hours on the water encountering very light wind early in the session. When the anticipated stronger breeze arrived in the late afternoon, Patriot completed several laps of the inner harbor and conducted drills near Rangitoto Island.

When asked if the yacht felt the same, Hutchinson’s answer was succinct. “45 knots. So yes, it did.”

Hutchinson also noted that while the boat felt good, speed is not the team’s true measure of success. “Our measure is the scorecard. We know that we have to go out and have some good races over the weekend.”

“We’ve just got to back ourselves, trust ourselves and do what we would’ve done normally,” said eight-time America’s Cup veteran Sean Clarkson, one of the team’s grinders and the reserve main trimmer. “We’ve got a great boat and a great crew. We’ve just got to do it. We’re very fortunate, very grateful to the shore crew, the design team and the general public. They’re behind us and they got us here.”

“Coming into the harbor I was sort pinching myself (in terms of) how lucky I am,” said Clarkson. “We’ve just got to grab it and win it. One step at a time. This weekend’s a big one, but it’s just one step.”

Connect The Dots

Displacement-mode standoffs and “connecting the dots” tactics define Day 2 of the Prada Cup as American Magic dropped to a frustrating 0-3 start to the Challenger Selection Series.

In extremely light conditions, all three teams spent large portions of both races in “displacement mode,” fighting hard to find any and all pressure on the inner harbor racecourse near Auckland’s North Head.

(L-R) Sir Ben Ainslie of INEOS Team UK, Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

Patriot struggled in both pre-starts and while dramatic comebacks were engineered partway through both races, it was ultimately not enough.

“It’s hard racing when it’s like that,” said Hutchinson. “We had a little bit of discussion in the pre-start about almost racing as if the other team was not there, connecting the dots of the breeze and doing the best job that we could. But it was hard. And, you know, sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield.”

In the first race of the day, American Magic was up against Luna Rossa and the pre-start attempted to inflict a penalty on the Italians took a sudden deep dive into the starting box after entry. It ended up as an expensive maneuver as it caused Patriot to fall off her foils. After the close encounter, Luna Rossa favored the starboard side of the box while American Magic stuck close to the pin. The Italians soon fell off their foils as well and entered displacement mode as the clock ticked down to the start.

However, Luna Rossa was the first team back in the air, foiling across the starting line shortly after the gun while American Magic took approximately 30 seconds to get back up on its foils and cross the line. Though Luna Rossa jumped out to a significant lead, the light and variable wind conditions quickly turned the race into a game of chutes and ladders.

American Magic helmsman Dean Barker has the weighty expectations to deliver victory for the NYYC in the Prada/America’s Cups. Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/

Luna Rossa’s larger foils appeared to give it a slight edge in the marginal conditions as they built on its lead through the second half of the first beat. The Italians, with the Aussie co-helmsman and at least one British grinder, rounded the windward mark while American Magic was stuck in displacement mode halfway up the first beat.

“Were we expecting this? You know, right now we’re sailing statistically in the windiest month of the year,” said Hutchinson. “I think when you design (the boat) and you make these decisions, you’re hedged. If this is the worst of it, then we’ll put it behind us and we’ll keep moving forward.”

Barker and the team were finally able to get the boat foiling and fly around the windward mark while Luna Rossa struggled in a lull midway through the run. The seemingly insurmountable lead for the Italian team quickly disappeared as Patriot foiled past Luna Rossa and built a nice lead of its own before another ill-timed splashdown as the Italians turned puff to puff into a win.

“The other guys were flying and we were stuck in the water a bit,” said Hutchinson. “So, you have to keep (the team’s performance) in perspective. The racecourse was filled with minefields.”

The second race of the day was the Americans against INEOS Team UK, and was again run on the edge of foiling conditions. American Magic struggled out of the gate, mistiming its starting box entry. When it became apparent that Patriot was about to enter the box early, the team turned sharply to starboard, sending the AC75 off its foils and into the water just as INEOS entered the box.

INEOS Team UK gets the better of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in an extremely close race. Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/

In many of these races it’s all about the start. Popping up on your foils in the extremely light conditions is the name of the game and it proved impossible for the U.S. yacht during the pre-start. It wasn’t until roughly two minutes into the race when Patriot finally lifted free and set off in pursuit of Britannia.

The British lead ballooned before it was INEOS’s turn to splash down, just seconds from rounding the windward gate and American Magic took advantage and closed the gap between the two to less than one hundred meters or so at the gate, before enduring their own painfully slow rounding.

For the remainder of the day, it was a race against the clock as INEOS caught that last magical puff to finish with just a couple of minutes to spare before the 45-minute time limit was due to expire. INEOS found a whisper of pressure, lifted free of the water and soon stretched the “rubber band” formerly holding the teams together past the breaking point of “boredom” as the race management again shortened the course with the American’s opponents well in the lead. Ugh.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli at speed on her foils. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

The weekend filled with extremes, Race Day 2 turned into a maddening game of connecting the dots or puffs in a light air day that edged on the bottom end of the six and a half knot wind range, and dipped to as low as three knots on parts of the “minefield” of a racecourse as the winning team in both races profited at American Magic’s expense as it evolved into a contest of avoiding splashdowns and getting back up on its foils.

The frustration got to a visibly exasperated Barker, who vented some of his frustration at the end of the race comparing the events of the day to a “lottery.”

“You could call (conditions) a lottery, pretty marginal,” exclaimed Barker. “You question why you want to do that as part of the event. But it is what it is. Swings and roundabouts, and it obviously didn’t go that well for us. It was just connecting the dots. Everyone is struggling.”

“We were basically even with them at the top mark,” recalled Hutchinson. “We were having a good displacement battle downwind, and they got a little bit of pressure in front of us and were able to get their boat up and out of the water. It was swings and roundabouts (out there).”

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli at speed on her foils. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

“It’s just about simply keeping our heads down, doing our jobs and not deviating from our program as we’re going forward,” said Hutchinson. “You can’t really hit a panic button or anything like that. It’s not going to do any of us any good. We just have to stay committed to what we’re doing and how we’re racing the boat.”

“It was very challenging out there,” said Francesco Bruni of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. “We are very happy; it was one of those races that you can win or lose very easily. It was really demanding for the boys to produce power. It’s harder in the lighter wind than in stronger winds. So, they have done a fantastic job. The boat was always with enough power to pump, to take off and I’m very proud of them.”

American Magic suffered catastrophic break and splashdowns after a mechanical breakdown with their foil system in the final and deciding race with Luna Rossa. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

“I think that in the light wind we have an advantage due to our big foils. It’s a combination of things: we have power in the sails and power in the foils. We definitely like the light wind, but today it was not so much a matter of speed edge but more the ability to stay in the pressure. And I think we did a good job. To keep calm and collected, it is by far the harder thing… especially for Italians.”

“It was a tough race given what’s at stake. It was toughest for the grinders. They worked hard the whole time, as today it was much more intense to try and keep the boat on the foils,” said Ainslie. “On every maneuver, if you come off the foils, that might be the end of the race. The guys did a great job handling the boat as did Giles Scott trying to find the little breeze that it was. I’m not sure today is an accurate read of our performance because it was so puffy, so shifty and it was really about just trying to stay in the pressure.

“We were off the foils on both starts, so that left us behind straight away. From there we struggled in the light breeze,” said Hutchinson. “On the second race we got a similar situation, we were a little bit jammed up on the entry timing and came off the foil. Again, we sailed up a good bit, got close at the top and it was about who got the pressure and who got pumped first. From my perspective there is not much to turn around, we must stay patient, trust in ourselves and trust in our team, which we do and keep chipping along. There is a lot of meat left on this fire, and we will keep fighting.”

American Magic and Skipper Terry Hutchinson were all class in accepting defeat against the Italians. It was a sad goodbye. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

“Statistically, we are sailing in the windiest month of the year, so I think when you design and make decisions for your boat, situations like today are character building. On the shore tonight, we will have a debrief with the team and make sure we all remain true to ourselves, work hard and keep ready to turn things around.”

On a crucial race day for the American Magic team, under questionable conditions at best the racecourse was laden like a minefield of puffs. In fact, there wasn’t even consistent wind pressure at the start, Race Management had no business starting one race, let alone two!

As Barker described, “it was a lottery” out there. No, it was more like Russian roulette and the Americans drew the bullet both times.

Were they “compelling? Yes, if they didn’t count. This was a day made more for the Xmas Cup than the Prada Cup Selection Series. All the teams deserve another scheduled race day. It was a farce, and the races had no business being counted. It would be the same if it were both the Italians and the Brits on the short end.

Judgement Day Part 2

Our worst fears have been realized as supporters and fans of American Magic (AM). What a difference a month can make. AM came out of last month’s Xmas Cup smelling like a rose. They were the only challenging team to beat the Kiwis and to register at least one win against all of their opponents.

The two races they did lose were in large part due to “gremlins” to their foil cant system or other little technical snafus. At the time, it was chalked up to the fact that after two cancelled ACWS events in 2020 this was the first time any of the teams had raced in “anger” with competitive “rustiness” and occasional equipment malfunctions with these complicated and incredibly sophisticated new AC75 was expected.

What wasn’t expected a short month later is that American Magic would go zero for January on the scoreboard. In some respects, the team that had spent the most time on the water in and out of New Zealand was out of phase from the get-go.

It wasn’t a matter that their yacht Patriot lost races in the preliminary rounds, there was not one race that was remotely close. There was no would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve; it was nada nyet from the first race and the first gate.

I am sure in the coming weeks and months the “experts”, the team and pundits will break down the minutia of American Magic’s demise as never has so much spent yielded so little.

It wasn’t for lack of organizational leadership and structure. Or experience, for that matter. Under Terry Hutchinson’s direction no team was more focused or disciplined than AM, which represented the prestigious New York Yacht Club. There was much confidence in the camp. So much that the NYYC Commodore began speculating in public the type of yacht that the Club was contemplating for their “defense”.

The headlines will read: “Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli defeats New York Yacht Club American Magic 4-0 to earn a spot in the Prada Cup finals against INEOS Team UK.” But it was so much more than this.

After Patriot capsized, the team was driven in their mission of not only putting their severely crippled yacht back together with the millions of sophisticated tiny bits and pieces that go inside, but also possibly making the AC75 better than before. Unfortunately, reality set in. While American Magic spent the week rebuilding, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli spent the week reloading.

Every day, every week these boats get better, not one precious second can be afforded looking back, especially all the way back to square one. It looked like mission impossible, it was.

Hutchinson and company were more than gracious in defeat on the outside, inside they were all crushed and devastated. The Italians were more than prepared and they sailed flawlessly, coasting to a sweep on the water. It wasn’t even close and in the one race that showed that potential, the last one, the foil boards broke down and wouldn’t drop when activated.

Thank goodness this problem didn’t show up the day before with the extreme weather conditions out on the racecourse. The results could have been life threatening, possibly catastrophic. It was dangerous enough in the lighter winds, but in a testament to the team’s resolve they did not give up and completed the race with honor.

The story of American Magic’s fight to save Patriot from sinking which was assisted by the three competitors, Auckland’s first responders, AC36 race managers and many others, resonated with millions around the world who watched, listened and read about the heartbreaking accident and its aftermath. 
“I think the competitors showed an incredible amount of sportsmanship and really demonstrated what sailing is about at the highest level when they all reacted to the Patriot’s near-sinking,” said Hutchinson. “It’s just heartfelt.”

“Somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose,” said Hutchinson, a 16-time world champion who has campaigned for the America’s Cup five times. “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).”

“We all recognized very early on the legacy that we represent with the NYYC,” spoke a tearful Hutchinson. “They’ve been in the game longer than most, and so in that light, I think when I look back it’s without question my greatest honor to be involved. And at the same time, you feel the sting of defeat.”

Acknowledgement go to the America’s Cup Media and American Magic’s Media teams for their contribution on race reports. Write me at