Jimmy Spithill leads Luna Rossa to Prada Cup Final victory
© Lukas Pilz/Red Bull Content Pool
The Australian co-helmsman will be hoping for a third America’s Cup title as he sees his team take a convincing win over INEOS Team UK.
Jimmy Spithill steered Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to a crushing 7-1 victory over Britain’s INEOS Team UK in the Challenger Series final in Auckland. The Italians will now take on holders Team New Zealand in the 36th America's Cup.
Taking place in Auckland, the best-of-13 race series was contested over the course of one week, with Luna Rossa excelling in the early rounds as they secured a 4-0 lead.
The action resumed on Saturday and the Italians continued their dominance as they won the opening race of the day. However, Ben Ainslie’s Team UK responded to secure their first victory of the series.
The action got back underway on Sunday and it was INEOS Team UK who made a confident start, but Luna Rossa raced past their rivals to take control heading into the first gate and never looked back, moving into a 6-1 lead.
In race eight, Luna Rossa conceded a penalty for an early start, but Spithill and co-helmsman Francesco Bruni found an extra gear to coast to victory by 56 seconds and secure the series win.
“We kept the mistakes down, stayed calm, made good decisions and the boat did the job. It was a pretty good day at the office,” said Spithill.
We kept the mistakes down, stayed calm, made good decisions and the boat did the job
Spithill, 41, was skipper and helmsman for Oracle Team USA when the Americans won the America's Cup in 2010. He successfully defended the title three years later in San Francisco, but lost out to Emirates Team New Zealand in 2017 in Bermuda.
Luna Rossa, who have won 11 of their last 12 races, will now face reigning champions Team New Zealand in a repeat of the 2000 America’s Cup final.
He went on to defend it twice, both times against Team New Zealand, first successfully in San Francisco then unsuccessfully in the 2017 Americas Cup in Bermuda.
In this America's Cup he's one of two helmsmen on Luna Rossa, steering starboard tacks while Bruni steers the boat on port tack.
"Let's get those sails down, boys, and get in for a beer," said Spithill as they approached the finish line.
"Time for high fives," Bruni said. "Bravo to the team, bravo Italy. Fantastico.
"It's a great day for us, it's a great day for Luna Rossa and it's a great day for Italy. We're in for a great fight for the America's Cup now."
Team UK skipper Ainslie is Britain's most celebrated modern sailor, a winner of four Olympic gold medals.
"They've got about two knots faster, so it's pretty hard to race against that," Ainslie said. "We've been trying everything to get on top of it but clearly we can't.
They sailed brilliantly and deserved to take the final
"I know it's a big deal in Italy, getting to the America's Cup final again, so congratulations to Jimmy and the team," he said. "They sailed brilliantly and deserved to take the final."
Luna Rossa, who have won 11 of their last 12 races, will be having their second tilt at the America's Cup against Team New Zealand.
The two teams previously went head to head in the 2000 America's Cup match in Auckland and in the 2007 Challenger Series final in Valencia. TNZ swept both ties 5-0.