36th America’s Cup: Everything you need to know about the PRADA Cup and the challengers

This week, the road to lifting the Auld Mug continues as three teams take to the Auckland waters in a bid to become Emirates Team New Zealand’s challenger in the 36th America’s Cup match.

Soon, INEOS TEAM UK, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team and New York Yacht Club American Magic, will all be competing against each other, live on Sky Sports.

Every team has enormous pressure on their shoulders because if they do not perform in the coming days, then years of work will have been for nothing.

Poor performances and losses will mean they will not have the chance to compete in the America’s Cup match. It’s brutal, but it’s the name of the America’s Cup game.

For the defender of the Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand, the challenge will be to continue improving and staying sharp, while the others battle it out on the water.

  • Sir Ben Ainslie: I couldn’t be prouder of the team
  • Emirates Team New Zealand win America’s Cup World Series

36th America’s Cup – Live on Sky Sports

The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series will take place from January 15 until the end of February. It begins with four round-robin sessions and the winner qualifies directly for the PRADA Cup Final.

The remaining two teams will then compete in a first-to-four point PRADA Cup semi-final. The victor then progresses into the final, and the remaining two boats enjoy a first-to-seven-points duel.


The British charge is being led by the most successful Olympic sailor in history – Sir Ben Ainslie – who won four golds and one silver medal during a 16-year period from 1996 to 2012.

When it comes to the America’s Cup, he was integral in Oracle Team USA’s remarkable turnaround victory against Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013.

He then started his own team to contest for the 35th America’s Cup and has returned again to build on the lessons learnt in Bermuda.

The America’s Cup is the pinnacle of sailing, so to be racing for the Cup, is an incredible opportunity. There’s no better platform in the sport of sailing. Great Britain obviously has a very proud maritime heritage and we’ve won just about everything else in sport, the America’s Cup is the one thing we’ve never won. That hurts, and it’s 170-odd years of hurt.

Sir Ben Ainslie (Credit: Point Photography – Paul Laurie)

“As a new team, we were playing a game of catch up all the way through the [last] campaign and it was a steep learning curve,” he said on INEOS TEAM UK’s website. “Although we didn’t achieve our ultimate goal of winning the America’s Cup there were many highlights from the campaign.”

One of Ainslie’s returning crew members, David ‘Freddie’ Carr, also believes the campaign in Bermuda taught them a lot, and has shaped how they are now.

“Out of all of the America’s Cups that I’ve done, I learnt the most by a mile [in Bermuda],” he said.

“We had some moments in the build-up which were really bad. We had rudders blowing off the back of the boat, we had all kinds of stuff going on within our foils and we just kept going.

“We knew that the whole world was looking at us, but we stayed really, really solid. Wherever we could, we laughed it off, but it was hard.

“In today’s day and age, it’s really good that middle-aged blokes like me can talk about their mental health. There were a few of us who had to go to the pub, have a few pints and talk really honestly.

“When I started my Cup career 20 years ago, you’d have been laughed at for having those conversations. But, that openness has set this open culture that we have now.”

The culture of INEOS TEAM UK has been tested already after December’s PRADA America’s Cup World Series Auckland and the PRADA Christmas Race found the British boat to be somewhat behind their competitors.

“The morale in the team 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 after the final warm-up day.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the team and how they are responding to this. That’s a mark of a really strong team and why we’re going to come through it.”

New York Yacht Club American Magic

The New York Yacht Club has a significant place in America’s Cup history, having created the longest winning streak in sport by successfully defending the trophy 24 times from 1870 onwards.

“When you walk into the door of the New York Yacht club, you come in and there’s this table that is empty,” Terry Hutchinson said. “It has a light shining down on top of it and that’s reserved for one trophy…”

“As a sailor, you wake up every day and pinch yourself a little bit. Even though it is hard, and there are a lot of landmines that you see, and don’t see, you can’t help but be thankful for the opportunity.”

As a sailor, you wake up everyday and pinch yourself a little bit. Even though it is hard, and there are a lot of landmines that you see (and don’t see) you can’t help but be thankful for the opportunity.

Terry Hutchinson – (Image credit: COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi)

In December’s warm-up races, New York Yacht Club American Magic showed their strength by beating the defender in one of their duels and performing strongly as a team.

With a New Zealand native Dean Barker as their helmsman, he knows the Auckland waters extremely well, and Hutchinson’s 22-year chase for the Cup is driving their every move.

Needless to say, they are in a good position going into the PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team are led by skipper and team director Max Sirena. He’s a two-time winner, who is taking part in his seventh America’s Cup challenge.

Sirena has already said this competition means everything to him and a team representing Italy have not ever tasted victory after an America’s Cup match.

At the moment I’m nothing. I won with another team which is great and an amazing experience, but to be real and to be a real winner, I want to win with Luna Rossa.

Max Sirena – (Image credit: COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi)

“It is an obsession because you only live for the Cup during the campaign, there’s no time left for family, friends or your personal life,” Sirena admits.

“It takes everything from you, and you give everything you have to the campaign and the team you’re working with. You forget everything else.”

Now, as the hours tick by, every team will continue to work night and day in order to prepare for the forthcoming races.

While Emirates Team New Zealand have the luxury of being able to continue to tinker with their race boat and train, it’s showtime for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, New York Yacht Club American Magic and INEOS TEAM UK.

Watch every moment of the America’s Cup challenge, live on Sky Sports. Coverage continues with the PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series which starts on January 15.

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