Are you sure you are sailing the same boat?
That was the first question posed to Sir Ben Ainslie in Friday's press conference and it probably summed up the feelings of the sailing world.
After being a lame duck in the America's Cup World Series in December – to the point where they could barely get round the course in some races – Ineos Team UK became the big fish on day one of the Prada Cup.
They managed a comprehensive win over American Magic (1:20), then led Luna Rossa from start to finish, before crossing the line 28 seconds ahead of the Italians.
"It's definitely the same boat, it's just had quite a few modifications," grinned Ainslie. "But we were in front of another boat, haven't seen that for a while.
"Huge credit to the team for turning things around. All the sailing team did a great job and we are very happy to have finally won a few races and get things back on track."
Conditions on Friday were ideal for Ineos Team UK, with breeze of between 11 to 15 knots, and they made the most of it, as they seemed to pick every wind shift.
But it was graphic evidence of their transformation since December, when their boat was barely competitive after the start.
"We know where our performances are from where we were three weeks ago," said Ainslie. "We are certainly a good 10 per cent faster in those wind conditions than we were previously. [It's] credit to the designers and engineers for finding [those gains]."
Ainslie laughed off suggestions that they may have been foxing in December – "if we had been sand bagging we did a bloody good job of it" – but admitted there was quiet satisfaction at the end of a pivotal day.
"Relief was the overriding emotion," said Ainslie. "It's been a tough old ride for the team, here and back in the UK. I'm proud of everyone's effort."
The four-time Olympic champion said he wasn't surprised by the transformation, citing the infamous events in San Francisco in 2013 as evidence of what gains are possible when the right alterations are made.
"I'm not shocked, [but] obviously delighted with the turnaround," said Ainslie. "Jimmy [Spithill] and I were together in 2013 and we both know just how quickly things can turnaround, and it doesn't necessarily take that much.
"A few small tweaks that gets the whole package going, the boat gets powered up, sailors get more confident and you get this whole momentum going."
However Ainslie wasn't getting carried away, especially with lighter winds predicted for Saturday and Sunday. The British struggled terribly when the breeze dipped in December and that remains the major work-on.
"We will probably find out [today]," said Ainslie. "We need to be competitive across all of the wind ranges if we are going to progress as far as we want to."
Ainslie also realises the Prada Cup won't be decided until late February and all the teams will improve incrementally.
"This is far from over yet," said Ainslie. "While we have won a couple of races, this is only the beginning and we have a long road ahead of us. We have got to keep our heads down, keep focused and keep on that journey.
"[And the] trick for us as a group [of challengers] is can we progress enough to match the Kiwis? That's the target, that's the goal."
The British face American Magic in the second race on Saturday, preceded by Luna Rossa taking on the New York-based team.
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.