Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli clinched sailing's Prada Cup Challenger Series by sealing a 7-1 win over INEOS Team UK in Auckland, New Zealand, on Sunday (21st February).
The Italian team, led by skipper and team director Max Sirena, now moves on as the challengers in the 36th America's Cup match, taking on the defending champions and hosts Emirates Team New Zealand, for the Auld Mug from 6th March.
One of those racing for the Italians is three-time Olympian Francesco Bruni, who was shared his delight with the win, yelling "Fantastico" into the camera.
“It’s a great day for us and for Luna Rossa and it’s a great day for Italy. It was a tough Final and we are in for a very good fight in the America’s Cup.” - Francesco Bruni to AmericasCup.com
The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli squad entered the fourth day of the final with a 5-1 advantage, and knowing victory in Sunday's two races would clinch the overall victory
The British team, skippered by four-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie, and with fellow gold medalist Giles Scott as tactician, were under immense pressure after suffering five losses in a row at the start of the Prada Cup final series. Victory in race 6 on Saturday boosted the UK's confidence, but the winds in Auckland were not in their favour.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli outraced the British team again in medium to light conditions that proved to favour the Italians. They clinched the two victories on offer to seal the title, with an emphatic 7-1 margin.
"Well done to Luna Rossa and well done to Italy. We are obviously disappointed we didn’t get through but we are to go away, back on the drawing board and see what we can do.” - Ben Ainslie to AmericasCup.com
History repeats itself as Italians pursue maiden America's Cup title
For the second time in their six attempts, the Luna Rossa team have succeeded in adding their name to the exclusive list of just 36 challengers in 170 years that have made it to the America’s Cup.
Coincidentally, the only other time that Luna Rossa made the America's Cup was twenty years ago when the Defenders were also Team New Zealand and the event also took place in Auckland.
Italian skipper Sirena was part of that squad who lost to the New Zealanders. He later went on to clinch two America's Cup titles, the first in the 33rd edition with BMW Oracle Racing and his second in the 35th edition with current Defenders Emirates Team New Zealand.
Having swapped sides for this 36th edition, Sirena has managed to lead the Italians to victory thus far, and will be keen to clinch his nation's first-ever win in the most difficult and oldest trophy in international sport.
The America's Cup Match begins on Saturday 6th March, with the first race of the regatta scheduled to start at 16:00 NZT (03:00 GMT). It's due to be a best-of 13 race series.