The sight of the two multimillion pound racing yachts becalmed provoked lots of debate about the lower wind limit and whether it needed to be raised to ensure no more embarrassing days like this.
But Ainslie s team – who are bankrolled by Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe – have bigger worries. They need to find a solution quickly if they are to keep their challenge on track. The Prada Cup challenger series starts on January 15, just over three weeks from now, with the winner going on to face defenders New Zealand in the Cup match in March.
Both Ainslie and tactician Giles Scott denied that morale was an issue after whispers in the sailing community last week of discord within the team. “Morale is actually unbelievably good and I’m not just saying that because I’m sat in front of the world’s media and trying to string you guys a line,” Ainslie said. “This Cup process has been difficult for all of the teams, with the global pandemic, and our team has always reacted incredibly well. And they have reacted incredibly well to this situation.
“Our designers, our shore team, continue to pull all-nighters. And the sailing team – I’d be surprised if anyone was listening to our comms and thought there were any issues there. I think we’ve been incredibly professional dealing with our challenges in a very high-profile environment. I couldn’t be prouder of the team and how we’re responding. That’s the mark of a very strong team and that’s why we can come through it.”
Scott added: “The beating we’ve received over the last few days has united us as a team across sailing, design and shore.”
A suggestion to restage the Christmas Cup at some point before the Challenger Series starts, in order to give teams further practice racing, met with differing views from the four teams. Ainslie said it was a trade-off between time on the water and time in the shed.
“There are pros and cons to it for us. Any extra time on the water is valuable, you are going to learn from it. But at the same time we have to make some changes.”