A former America's Cup challenger and multi-millionaire businessman predicts Ineos Team UK will not only defeat Luna Rossa in the upcoming Prada Cup final - but that Sir Ben Ainslie's syndicate will go one step further and beat Team New Zealand for the Auld Mug.
In an interview with The Times, 76-year-old entrepreneur and former America's Cup sailor Peter de Savary says Team UK's remarkable comeback after a disastrous World Series in December is proof that they can break Britain's 170-year drought.
Ainslie and Co failed to win a single race - and stay on their foils in the lighter breeze - in December's four-day regatta before sweeping all before them in the Prada Cup round robin to book a spot in the final against the Italians.
The best-of-13 race Prada Cup final starts on Saturday, with the winner advancing to next month's America's Cup match against defender Team New Zealand.
"If I were a betting man, I would not put my money on New Zealand; I would put a lot of money on Ben Ainslie," De Savary told The Times.
"I was obviously concerned for Ben when I saw the performance before Christmas, but I was in no doubt he would put things right and of course he has done that.
"Apart from being an exceptionally nice and pleasant man and a really good, decent person, he is the most phenomenal sailor — he's got a good boat, he's got the best technology he can have and he's got a very well-funded campaign. He's got himself in an absolute pole position."
De Savary, whose 12-metre class yacht Victory '83 was the last from Britain to reach the challenger series final 38 years ago before losing 4-1 to Australia, says Ainslie's ability to adapt and the newfound speed of Britannia has what it takes to trump TNZ.
"Ben has proved he can react very quickly, so there is plenty of room for this boat and this team to improve. I believe you will see that in the next series of races. In the America's Cup, he will react to the New Zealand boat race by race, and adjust his campaign accordingly," De Savary said.
"It is very difficult in this sport to find somebody of Ben's quality, ability and personality," he said. "[He] has shown the ability to give confidence to his financial backer [billionaire co-founder of Ineos, Sir Jim Ratcliffe] and I can't think of an area that's relevant to the America's Cup that he doesn't excel in."
Taking the Auld Mug back to the UK would be the ultimate achievement in sailing, De Savary said.
"Of course if Ben won the America's Cup there would be terrific acclaim ... it will be something we can all be proud of and happy about. It's a good feeling — we need something to feel good about at the moment, so it would be a good tonic against this bloody virus."
Asked what advice he would give Ainslie ahead of the must-win clash with Jimmy Spithill's Luna Rossa, De Savary said confidence was key.
"Ben's a very focused person ... but he must have total confidence in himself and his team. He must not for one minute doubt himself, his team, the boat — there is nothing like strong confidence when you are in any kind of competition and, obviously, this is the ultimate competition for him."
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride.
• Don't forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America's Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.