INEOS Team UK have denied Luna Rossa of match point with a much-needed victory in the second race of Prada Cup final action this afternoon.
After a wild pre-start earlier today, the second pre-start of the day was much more calm and resulted in both boats crossing the start line on time and close together.
Sir Ben Ainslie and INEOS Team UK took a very small lead early on against Luna Rossa before the two boats came together for the first time on Course E.
Jimmy Spithill opted not to stay with the British crew as they came together, tacking back to the right side of the course instead and giving first blood and a lead to Ainslie.
That resulted in INEOS Team UK getting their first lead at a mark in the Prada Cup final, with Luna Rossa trailing by eight seconds entering the second leg.
An early gybe by Luna Rossa to try and find wind pressure on the other side of the course proved costly as INEOS Team UK’s lead grew to 200 metres down wind and a 21 second gap at the second mark.
Luna Rossa tacked early to head to the left side of the course and found the pressure they were looking for but INEOS wasn’t far behind in coming across and made the most of the changing winds too.
For the first time in the first-to-seven series, Spithill was being asked to conjure something from behind as he watched Ainslie maintain his lead but each time Luna Rossa tacked, INEOS Team UK copied to pin them down.
Despite INOES Team UK’s best efforts though, Luna Rossa cut off three seconds from the deficit and sat only 230m behind starting leg four.
Both teams continued looking around course E for a stronger breeze that could break the race wide open and INEOS Team UK thought they found it with an early gybe down wind.
The move was effective, as the British syndicate doubled their lead down the right side of the course to 420 metres as they approached the fifth leg.
As Luna Rossa scrambled to make their way over to the right side of the course where the wind pressure was, INEOS Team UK’s lead continued to grow and hit 600m as they went through Gate Four.
That resulted in the biggest gap in the race so far with Luna Rossa falling back to a 32 second deficit.
Spithill refused to back down though and found his own bit of wind pressure early in the fifth leg.
It was a devastating discovery for INEOS Team UK as Luna Rossa removed over 400m of the deficit they faced within the first half of the fifth leg.
That resulted in Ainslie resorting to defensive tactics, looking to tack and smother the Italians now they were only within 130 metres of each other but Spithill continued show the aggressive grit he has become renowned for in America’s Cup sailing.
At the fifth gate, INEOS Team UK’s lead had been smashed to just nine seconds, setting up a thrilling finish.
Ainslie informed his team they would continue to be defensive with their lead to finish the race and it proved to be enough as they held on for a 14-second win.
The result sees Luna Rossa leads 5-1 in the first-to-seven series.