Cup Watch: No Safety in Numbers

Never before has the red-hot favored team to win the next America’s Cup been in such a dicey predicament. Some claim that Emirates Team New Zealand has already won the Cup in the design department, but even if that proves true (and frankly, it’s a stretch), it makes the team no less vulnerable to the fortunes of war.  

A capsize doesn’t necessarily destroy the wing on an AC72—Oracle’s wing could have been saved if the tide hadn’t swept its boat out to rough ocean waters after the capsize last October—but there is no such thing as an AC72 capsize that isn’t serious, and there is no such thing as an AC72 that can’t capsize. If New Zealand is the favorite, it is simply because the Kiwis have sailed a lot without messing up, at least not so’s you could notice. And they set the standard on foiling.

As the only team that actually used all of the 30 rule-permitted sailing days between July 2012 and February 2013, ETNZ is much more experienced in the new weaponry than any other team. This includes its training partner, Luna Rossa, though the Italians have shared the benefits of actually sailing alongside another AC72, something neither the defender, Oracle Team USA, nor the challenger of record, Artemis Racing, have had a chance to do yet.

Under protest by Artemis and Oracle for the terms of their partnership, the Kiwis and Italians persuaded the regatta jury that, as long as there was no exchange of data, they were in compliance with item 33.2 of the Protocol for America’s Cup 34. But when they’re not talking to the jury, they have no problem lauding the benefits of two-boat testing. 

As Luna Rossa skipper Max Serena puts it: “We started a year after the others, but we’ve already passed Artemis Racing and Oracle Team USA. I feel pretty strong with our position, but what happened to Artemis and Oracle could happen to us tomorrow. Look at Oracle. They had a two-boat campaign. Now they’re down to a one-boat campaign. Yes, they probably fixed their first boat, but they’re not going to do the Cup in that boat. The doubt is that if we capsize, we’re probably out of the game.

“These boats are fun and exciting to sail up to about 18-20 knots of breeze,” Serena adds. “Over 20 knots, you’re changing completely the mode of sailing because they are really, really powerful. Over 20 knots, you’re not laughing.”

Photo courtesy of AC34/Chris Cameron

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