Are You Scared?
Ah, Valencia, city of Calatrava.
City of Festivals.
Birthplace of paella.
Home to America’s Cup 33.
The announced plans for Saturday included an Owner’s Press Conference conference with the two major players in the same room—Ernesto Bertarelli the Defender and Larry Ellison the Challenger—which sounded like a photo op for a wide lens. Better make that a magic double-wide. Because Larry says he’s not going.
There were individual press conferences last night at both Alinghi and BOR and, to a direct question on the point, Ellison responded, “Russell has been explicitly excluded, by name, and if he’s not going I just can’t find the time to go myself.”
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
For anyone who needs a recap: Russell Coutts has won more America’s Cup races than anybody. He skippered when New Zealand won the Cup from the USA in 1995 and he skippered the defense for New Zealand in 2000. Perhaps all was not well, internally, with the team when he accepted the blandishments (and big bucks) of a Swiss pharmaceuticals heir named Bertarelli and took most of the Kiwi team with him to become the Alinghi team that won the Cup away in 2003.
And then had a bit of a falling out with Mr. Bertarelli.
Coutts,who is masterminding the BMW Oracle Racing challenge—he has the title of skipper, but may or may not sail on the boat—goes around here saying things like, “Tell me the weather forecast and I’ll tell you which boat will win.”
Meaning, there is a general assumption that the catamaran, Alinghi 5, will like the light stuff, and the BOR trimaran—newly renamed USA—is a better all-rounder but will like a touch more breeze. Thinking back to 2007 and all the predictions made regarding Alinghi versus Team New Zealand, most of them off the mark (and those were highly-developed examples from a well-researched design rule), I won’t read too much into a general assumption regarding two hugely different machines.
If the Defender were not afraid of the capabilities of BMW Oracle’s trimaran, would he be so dedicated to sailing in the least wind possible? The recent decision of the International Jury, striking the wind limit (15 knots at 60 meters) from the Sailing Instructions and returning the responsibility to the Race Committee, is a leaky bucket from the Challenger’s point of view. Sounds good for the American tri, except . . .
La Socit Nautique de Genve, the yacht club that in principle possesses the Cup, is for practical purposes the Race Committee. (Was that really Vice Commodore Fred Meyer on the Race Committee boat?) The Alinghi line is all about safety, which is only a smokescreen. They really really really don’t want to race in a breeze.
And I wonder, would I be the only person brought up short by America’s Cup posters brandishing the phrase, Bring It On? Somehow that phrase doesn’t work for me anymore.
American tactician John Kostecki—an authentic American in an international team—says the biggest performance increase in the development of the trimaran came with installing the wing, a difference marked in speed, maneuverability, and ease of tacking. How maneuverability will figure in the equation, no one knows until the two boats meet. It seems unlikely that the two drivers are going to go for a starting line kill. There are too many unknowns. Will there be a lot of maneuvering up the course? I doubt it. Remember those long boards in 2007?
Kostecki says, “In the previous America’s Cup you would focus on the first wind shift, so you’re looking one minute up the track after the start. This is going to be very different. We’re going to have changing conditions over a 40-mile course and so it’s going to be more oriented towards offshore style sailing, where you’re going to be racing through different conditions. It’s going to be big-picture strategies.”
Hmm. I see from the BAMA forum that Golden Gate Yacht Club commodore Marcus Young has invited members of the Bay Area Multihull Association to watch the race feed at GGYC. This really is a big moment for multihull enthusiasts, and anyone fascinated by technology. Too bad it’s a grudge match, but it’s the real deal. Recently I interviewed Gino Morelli, part of the BOR design team, not about the Cup boats but about multihulls now and looking forward. You can read that story at sailmagazine.com.