There is no better word to describe the dismissal of the New York YC’s American Magic challenge from the Prada Cup over the weekend in Auckland.
Brutal was watching American Magic skipper, CEO and tactician Terry Hutchinson’s raw emotions flow on the back of Patriot in his post-race interview. Three-plus years of deep personal investment and hundreds of millions of dollars. Poof. Just like that, they’re out of the game, having failed to win a single race in the Challenger Series. No America’s Cup appearance.
Brutal was the viewing experience of race watchers and American Magic supporters alike who collectively harbored hope that the sailors of Patriot 2.0 would be the comeback kids of the Prada Cup. But on this fine summer day in Auckland, that was not to be.
It was wishful thinking that the Americans would be at the same level as the Italians of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team. They showed up for Races 3 and 4 of the Prada Cup Semifinals race ready and confident they could do away with their rivals, put an early end to the best-of-seven elimination series and get on with the business of developing their AC75 and preparing for the Finals with Ineos Team UK in a few weeks.
Whatever Race Management Software issues that had been nagging Luna Rossa co-skippers Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni in early rounds of the Prada Cup were non-existent as they entered the starting box on time in Race 3. Over pre-start onboard comms, both teams noted the starboard-end bias and better winds on the right side of the racecourse. Control the right and you control the race.
Luna Rossa, with its early port entry and sharp timing in Race 3 were quickly set up to win the starboard end and positioned precisely to weather as the Americans raced with full pace toward the port end in the final seconds.
Both boats crossed the line on time with American Magic leading Luna Rossa into the left-side boundary tack. The Italians matched the turn with a perfect leebow tack and within seconds of powering their sails, they were locked into a higher and faster mode, soon flicking Patriot back to the middle. On their first cross shortly thereafter, the Italians were in complete control of the match, and control it they did, tacking on shifts and dictating the outcome every step of the way.
Yes, Patriot was fast at times, just as they were before their capsize, but so too was Luna Rossa. American Magic was chipped into the Italian’s lead on the first downwind leg, but it wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding.
With the first blow dealt, Race 4 was a true do or die moment for American Magic. Both entered on time, but in the final wind up, American Magic set up slightly early, allowing the Italians to sail over the top of them as they sprinted toward the port end of the line. The Americans were forced to tack across the starting and set up an early split, but with stronger wind now the left side of the course, the Italians streaked away to an early lead once again. Luna Rossa owned the first cross, but the Americans were quick, eating in their lead and pushing them hard.
Then, it happened.
As Barker set up for a tack onto the port layline at the top of the course, he triggered the weather board to drop. Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing. Off the course they sailed, coping a boundary penalty that meant nothing.
When they were finally able to get the board to drop, they were already upwind of the marks, and bore away to pass through the gate and around the right-hand mark. Barker was still concerned with the issue, and rightfully so. As they attempted to jibe away at the boundary, there was no movement in the board again, forcing them to drop the boat off the foil before, as Barker noted, “it gets ugly.”
Once it did finally drop, allowing them to jibe, barker headed up to build speed and get going again, but now the team was on high alert as Hutchinson noted over his headset: “the lights are flickering kinda funny.”
It took all their reserves and inner strength to get the boat around the rest of the racecourse safely, knowing deep inside the game was over. It was a brutal ending to a brutal Challenger Series. There was no better word for this ending, for a campaign with so much potential—cut short by one brutally destructive capsize.