After a dramatic week, the Prada Cup final between Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK returns this afternoon.
Today’s racing will have some extra spice to it, with Challenger of Record Luna Rossa ruffling a few feathers this week by effectively forcing racing to continue despite Auckland's snap lockdown and current Level 2 restrictions following community cases discovered in the City of Sails last Sunday.
The current restrictions – which means fans can’t gather in groups larger than 100 people – have led organisers to rule out using courses B and C to mitigate the chance of large public gatherings.
Organisers slammed Luna Rossa for pushing ahead with the Prada Cup at Level 2, saying they are only thinking of winning and not the safety of New Zealanders. INEOS Team UK then jumped on and said it was a “shame” such actions were being taken as it means fans will miss out on enjoying racing.
"Since Sunday, we have worked really hard on behalf of everyone in Auckland and all Kiwis to give [Luna Rossa] the opportunity to demonstrate some honour and respect for this country and delay the Prada Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into Level 1,” America’s Cup Events chair Tina Symmans said.
“Clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patricio Bertelli at the opening press conference who spoke about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant Covid restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to deliver great sportsmanship and the Prada Cup to be a major sporting event.
“This plea has fallen on deaf ears and it’s clear that their focus is solely on Luna Rossa taking the Prada Cup rather than the greater good of the country who have worked so hard in order to be in a position to stage this event.”
Luna Rossa disagreed though.
"We honour and respect this country and as I've kept saying, we're honoured and privileged to be here and involved in such a great event," Luna Rossa spokesperson Francesco Longanesi Cattani said.
"I don't think insisting on respecting the calendar and the rules is dishonour and disrespect towards the country - quite the opposite."
With all that drama boiling away in the background, the Prada Cup will head out to course E near Waiheke Island today.
Despite Luna Rossa’s persistence to get racing going again though, there's a good chance today’s action could be delayed with winds forecast to be at the lowest possible limit for 4pm.
Race management are hopeful of getting the event underway on time but expect there to be some sort of delay.
Wind is expected to pick up for 5pm and hold at around 7-10 knots through and past 6pm, but racing cannot begin any later than 6pm, meaning a delay of more than an hour would likely mean only one race would be sailed today.
Race director Iain Murray said they probably wouldn't have a clear picture of what the conditions and wind direction are doing until 3pm.
Luna Rossa enters today’s racing up 4-0 in the first-to-seven series with the first race scheduled for 4:15pm.
TVNZ will broadcast racing live on TVNZ1 and online.