America One vs. Prada
This series is scheduled to begin on January 25, 2000. This is a best-of-nine series, with the winner receiving the Louis Vuitton Cup and the opportunity to face Team New Zealand for the America's Cup (also a best-of-nine series).
This will be a hotly contested series, both on the water and in the jury room. Clearly, these two teams do not like each other, they may even hate each other. Prada has an unlimited budget and an imagination to match. They are still convinced that the American semi-finalists conspired to try and keep them out of the finals. If the Italians fall behind in this best-of-nine, look for them to file a mountain of technical protests
The last race between these two proved to be the highlight of the challenger series so far. A gybing duel in the final downwind leg saw each team penalized with Paul Cayard's boat coming from behind for a very narrow victory. This was a contentious race with both boats only metres apart, both teams screaming at each other, claiming they were sailing for the mark and that the other was sailing above or below her proper course. In the end, I believe that Paul Cayard's America One will be victorious.
My Prediction - America One in Eight Races (5 - 3)
RESULT - Prada 5 America One 4
Paul Cayard looked like he was going to make a huge comeback after surging ahead 4 - 3 from down 1 - 3. In the end, USA 61 simply didn't have enough boat speed. No question that America One had better, more experienced sailors. They proved that by winning the races where the could read and predict the shift winds. In the last two races, the winds were more consistent, and in what became a drag race, they simply couldn't keep up. After going ahead 4 -3 America One NEVER LEAD A RACE AT ANY POINT AGAIN. If not for being suckered into the same penalty THREE times in three different races, America One could have easily won this series. This despite Prada's unlimited budget, and 3 1/2 years of training. Paul Cayard admitted that maybe he "had too much on his plate", and maybe wasn't as good a sailor as he could have been. The fact that he was outsailed by a team with considerably less match race experience, probably supports that. All in all, a disappointing finish to an exciting series.
Louis Vuitton Cup Final
America One vs. Prada
Race 1 - January 25, 2000
The start is everything..... America One seemingly has the advantage. Prada is assessed a penalty for introducing their bow to America One's stern. Typically a devastating turn of events. However, after the start, both boats split tacks, Prada guesses right, finds a huge lift and pulls out to an early, and commanding lead. So much of a lead that they complete their penalty turn and maintain their lead. Cayard bring his boat back to within a boat length o the final legs, but a couple ill-advised jibes spin the boat, losing speed, and they don't challenge any longer. Advantage Prada. The Ferrari-red boat takes a 1 - 0 lead in the series with a 0:24 win.
Race 2 - January 26, 2000
A much more conservative start for both boats. Cayard cannot afford to be penalized, and risk going down 2 - 0. Again, both boats split tacks, and again Prada calls it right. At the first mark, Prada has a massive 1:49 lead. America One appears to be in trouble, looking at going down 2 races in this best of nine. Things get worse for America One on the fourth leg, after a jibe-set they discover a huge rip in their spinnaker, and look to be doomed. They raise another spinnaker, having lost even more ground. Unhappy with the new spinnaker, they change it again, and sail off to the opposite side of the course, desperate to make something happen. Prada, for some reason, fails to cover, letting America One go. The Americans find a HUGE lift on their side of the course, and temporarily take the lead. Prada rounds first, by two boat lengths, but America One splits tacks again, and AGAIN, Prada fails to cover. A fatal error in match racing. America One finds themselves in the lead. They stretch it out, finding a lift in the fluky Hauraki Gulf conditions, and sail to an easy 2:00 victory. Paul Cayard snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, turning a potential 2 - 0 deficit into a 1 - 1 tie. This series is now a best of seven.
Race 3 - January 28, 2000
Postponed due to light winds (5 knots).
What a difference a day can make. After a postponement due to lack of wind, the new day sees wind speeds that would eventually reach 30 knots. An unbelievable day on the Gulf. Disaster and carnage. This race starts very well for both boats. Although Prada is favoured in heavy air, America One leads by 0:14 around the first mark. From that point forward, it is pure disaster for A-1. They incur a penalty, butcher a spinnaker set, blow their SEVENTH spinnaker, lose their jib overboard, and on the fifth leg of the race, withdraw after hear their carbon-fibre mast crack.
Race 4 - January 29, 2000
A new day for both boats. America One looking to put the previous day's disaster behind them. Everything that could go wrong did. From mechanical failures, crew mistakes, tactical errors, it was an unmitigated disaster. Race four starts considerably better for A1. They lead from the outset. As A-1 round the final mark they have a 0:41 second lead. But with a wrong choice of spinnaker, Prada makes up ground. With 1/4 mile to the finish, Prada gybes, establishes an overlap from leeward, America One, unable to keep clear, touches spinnakers with Prada, and is penalized. Cayard spends the remaining time, trying to draw Prada into a penalty. Although A-1 crosses the line ahead by half a boat length, they lose the race, and fall into a deep 1 - 3 hole in the best of nine series. A great comeback for America One from the previous day's debacle, but making the same tactical error (windward-leeward) two races in a row, may very well cost them a chance to race for the cup.
Race 5 - February 01, 2000
America One looks to get back in this one. 20 knots of wind today. The prospect of being down 1 - 4 has to put even more pressure on A-1. From the pre-start, we see an revitalized, even more aggressive America One. Seconds before the start, they risk a penalty (and probably deserved one) by tacking directly in front of Prada. They lead off the start, call the wind shift correctly, and lead round the first mark. Once again, Prada shows it is faster downwind, cutting A-1's lead down considerably. America One hangs on, and rounds ahead again. Although the don't blow a spinnaker on this day, they do have a rip in one. The highlight of the day occurs on the fourth (a leeward) leg. Prada seemingly gaining, America One reaches into it's back of tricks. Cayard, calls a fake gybe, Prada buys it and loses control of their boom. The booms ends up in the water, causing the boat to spin out, costing them 4 boat lengths. America One never looks back, and cruises to a 0:30 victory. Pressure shifts (somewhat) to Prada, as America One is back in this at 3 - 2.
Race 6 - February 02, 2000
Pressure shifts back onto Prada today. A loss, and this series is all even, making it a best two out of three. A win and they seemingly have a stranglehold on the trophy. A classic match race, with Prada holding a slight lead through the first two legs of the race. However, a bad spinnaker douse rounding the second mark, and part of their spinnaker gets wrapped around the keel. They become obsessed with getting it off, and half the crew spends most of the leg hanging over the side, trying to floss the hull of the boat. It's enough of a hindrance that America One finds a passing lane and moves ahead. Prada challenges on the last leg (AGAIN), but USA 61 holds them off for a narrow one boat length victory. WOW! Series tied at 3-3.
Race 7 - February 03, 2000
It's a best two out of three now, the winner going on to face the mysterious Team New Zealand. A fairly even start, with America One at a slight advantage on the favoured right side of the course. The boats split tacks, Prada to the left side of the course, America One to the right. Halfway up the first beat to weather, A1 has a THIRTEEN boat length lead. Prada picked wrong, refused to tack over and essentially lost the race right then and there. Halfway through the race, A1 has built an enormous 2:30 lead as Prada picks wrong on the downwind leg as well. This one is a horizon job! How bad does it get? America One breaks it's boom vang after crashing down off the wake of a spectator boat, and still gain distance. This one is never close. Francesco DeAngelis and Torben Grael starting to show their lack of match racing experience. The may have the faster boat, and an open wallet, but they are in a deep hole now. From down 1 -3, America One now holds a 4 - 3 advantage, and can clinch the Louis Vuitton Cup in the next race.
Race 8 - February 04, 2000
14 knots of wind today, in a light chop. Prada starts this race on the favoured starboard tack. They are uncharacteristically aggressive today, with their backs to the wall. In the pre-start, they nearly draw America One into a penalty on two occasion as we see near collisions as A1 tries to keep clear. At the start, Prada has better speed and position. They lead all the way up the first leg, rounding a couple boat lengths ahead. On the first downwind leg, Prada suckers America One into a penalty AGAIN. For the third time, America One fails to give way in a windward-leeward situation. Prada bears off to avoid a collision, but a penalty to USA 61 is signaled. Prada spends the rest of the race covering, keeping themselves on a similar tack or gybe, and between the mark and A1. A wire to wire win, as America One never challenges. This series is tied at 3-3. After 48 races by each boat, it comes down to one single race. Winner goes on, loser goes home.
Race 9 - February 05, 2000
The gun sounds in this critical winner-take-all race. Both boats are late to the line. Prada is ahead, on the favoured side with more boat speed. The race is essentially over. They increase their lead on the first beat to weather. By the time they round the windward mark, they have built a 0:34 second lead and never look back. America One never challenges, losing ground on each and every leg. For the first time in it's 149 year history, an American team will not race for the America's Cup. A truly disappointing race by Paul Cayard and crew, they were simply never in it. An agonizing race to watch, Prada for once, follows the textbook, gets ahead, and simply covers for the rest of the race.