Open and Shut
“We just opened the door and they (the Italians) took the opportunity and walked right through it,” said American Magic CEO and skipper Terry Hutchinson. Unfortunately for the Americans, that was an understatement. Quicker than you can say Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, it was over for the New York Yacht Club team. They were vanquished 4-0 and quickly swept out that door in a humiliating fashion.
Yet it was an honorable exit for American Magic. Their fight to save Patriot, assisted by three of their competitors and New Zealand’s finest, became the story that resonated with those around the world who watched, listened, and read about the heartbreaking accident.
“The competitors showed an incredible amount of sportsmanship and really demonstrated what sailing is about at the highest level when they all reacted to Patriot’s near-sinking,” said Hutchinson. “It’s just heartfelt. We always felt that we were prepared, and that we’ve done things in the correct manner to be on the right side of things.”
In a weekend where things had to go perfectly for American Magic, each race went from bad to worse. Just as it seemed that Patriot would make a match of it in the fourth and what turned out to be the final race, the team experienced a critical software failure when the starboard cant arm refused to go down shortly after the start. Time and time again for the remainder of the race, the board refused to deploy. After a few choice expletives by helmsman Dean Barker, it was game over, and the Italians sailed off into the distance to capture the series.
Luna Rossa had finally earned the redemption they were looking for to claim a place in the Prada Cup Final against INEOS Team UK beginning on February 13 in a best-of-13 match for the right to face off against the formidable Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup.
“We have the utmost respect for Luna Rossa and what they’ve done over the course of eight weeks of development. They’ve done an incredible job,” said Hutchinson. “With these things, it’s all team efforts and not just one person. We wish them the best of luck into the Prada Cup Finals.”
“The boat was going very well, and we have made some big improvements. The boat is sailing better and fast, more consistent and stable,” said Francesco Bruni, Luna Rossa’s co-helmsman along with Jimmy Spithill. “Congratulations to American Magic for doing a fantastic job for being out there racing. It wasn’t easy for us, and it wasn’t easy for them. I’m very proud of my team, the shore team, everybody. We have made big improvements this week, and the boat is a lot better than it was seven days ago.”
For the entire month of January, it wasn’t even close. American Magic’s only ‘victory’ was getting Patriot back on the water in time to be measured in just 10 short days after a catastrophic capsize and near-sinking.
As short as those days were on the calendar, they were long days in the shed. The entire boat had to be rebuilt from scratch with just two days to spare before Patriot had to be on the starting line for a hungry Luna Rossa team, who were champing at the bit and salivating at the opportunity to put American Magic out of its misery.
While the Americans spent the time frantically rebuilding, the Italians were just reloading. It was over before it began.
American Magic came out of the America’s Cup World Series in December confident enough with their performance that it seemed as if it was just a matter of when, not if, they would face off against the Kiwis for the America’s Cup.
The team showed tremendous determination in returning to the racecourse. Nevertheless, with the loss of critical racing and training time while repairs were carried out, American Magic was never able to recapture the ‘magic’ and speed it had shown previously before being torn apart by the capsize.
Luna Rossa demonstrated noticeably increased speed and efficiency in every race. The end result seemed more like a foregone conclusion than an upset. American Magic displayed poise and grace in defeat, leaving the American Magic nation wanting more, hoping that the team won’t end here and that they’ll be back for the next America’s Cup, wherever that may be.
“I have the highest praise for the entire American Magic team for what they did to get the boat out on the water,” continued Hutchinson, who was visibly distraught afterward and tried valiantly to hold back his tears. “There is not a person on our team that likes losing. We are proud to represent the team and the NYYC. They’ve been in the game longer than most, and so in that light, I think when I look back, it’s without question my greatest honor to be involved. At the same time, you feel the sting of defeat.
“If we’re fortunate enough to be there for the 37th America’s Cup, we’ll learn from these mistakes and be better for it.”