The America’s Cup
Monday 2 April 2007
In the case of Team NZ, Ben Ainslie is an excellent choice for the fleet races. Although he is primarily a small boat sailor, his ability and confidence in close quarters racing will give the team a terrific opportunity to outclass the competition.
Alinghi has a different game to play. The fleet racing will give them one last chance to measure their strengths and speed against those of their main challengers. After this regatta, they must go off and hone their skills against their second boat whilst their competitors will gain immeasurably from the intense boat-for-boat match racing that follows. I spoke yesterday to Grant Simmer, Director of Team Alinghi and he said: ‘We benefited from that [match-racing] in Auckland and we have tried to emulate that sense of ‘life or death’ racing within our own team but of course, that has been difficult’. The way that Team Alinghi have tried to overcome this difficulty has been to seek to create nor one, but two teams capable of winning the America’s Cup. It will be interesting to see during these next few days just how successful Team Alinghi have been in achieving this goal.
Looking under the Skirts
This was the first opportunity for the competing teams to have a look at one another’s boats close up and it was interesting to see the mixture of reactions. The laid back, assured ‘seen it all before’ approach of the top teams, compared to the looks of awe and envy visible on the faces of those from the newer, less well-funded teams.
At 11.30, members of the public were allowed into the team compounds for the very first time. And if these boats look impressive out on the water, ashore they looked awesome! At around 25m (82ft) long, a typical America’s Cup yacht weighs in at around 24 tonnes – and up to 21 of those tonnes is contained within a 3m (10ft) bulb keel attached under the hull!
Racing finally gets under way on Tuesday with a series of races featuring all 12 teams. This, the 13th and last of the Louis Vuitton ‘Acts’ which have been played out around Europe over the last two years. We will be following the racing closely during the coming weeks so do check back regularly for the latest race information and up-dates.
When the hull ‘skirts’ fall to the ground this Sunday, 01 April, some of the most jealously guarded secrets in the 32nd America’s Cup will be revealed.
Unlike previous events, all the teams will have to display what lies below the waterlines of their boats. In 2003, it was Team New Zealand’s ‘Hula’ that stole the show. In 1983, Australia II baffled the world’s yachting press with their famous ‘winged keel’.
So why all the secrecy? The fact is that the major syndicates will have spent millions of dollars developing subtle design differences to give their team the edge on the water. Having spent all that money, the last thing they need is for the design information to be leaked to a competitor. One of the ways of guarding the information is to cover the hull with a shroud or ‘skirt’ when entering or leaving the dock.
They have been guarding their secrets so carefully up until now, so how do they feel about revealing all on Sunday, over 10 weeks before the Cup series? Well, those are the rules, but most designers will know that straightforward copying of another team’s modifications will be useless without the performance data that probably took months to acquire.
Unveiling Day Programme 01April 2007
09:00 Fireworks will mark the ‘awakening’ of Port America’s Cup and the beginning of the countdown. There will be pyrotechnics every five minutes until 09:20
09:30 – A loud sound signal and more fireworks mark the beginning of the ‘unveiling’. Team bases must be opened to media, other team personnel and the ‘America’s Cup Family’ (the team responsible for organizing and running the entire operation).
11:30 – More fireworks mark the opening of the team bases to the public
13:00 – Designers Press Conference - Every team will be sending a senior member of their design team to discuss America’s Cup Class yacht design and the innovations of the current generation of boats. Many teams are scheduling their own press conferences to follow
13:45 – Teams may close their bases to the public and go sailing for the day. There will be a 15 minute pyrotechnical show to mark the end of the ‘unveiling’
20:30 – The ‘Foredeck Unveiling’ is marked by the first launch of the Endesa Light Show
Louis Vuitton Act 13
If you have never been close to the start of a yacht race then this will be the most amazing experience – the sheer power of these craft as they cross and turn at close quarters just has to be seen.
After this, the challengers will race against one another in a series of boat-for-boat match races starting 16 April. Alinghi will have to go back to tuning up against her team mates in similar yachts.
This will be a series of head to head confrontations between pairs of yachts, all of them fighting to be in the final four. Expect drama and (some) tears as winners turn into losers and underdogs suddenly become top dogs.
In order to whittle down the numbers, several races may be going on at any one time and the leader board down at the America’s Cup Port will be up-dated hourly as events unfold.
The remaining four are paired-off, giving us two races a day.
Any one of these four - whoever it turns out to be – will be sufficiently race-hardened by now to take on Alinghi and give a good account of themselves. But first they will have to beat at least two other powerful challengers!
The first yacht to win five races takes the Louis Vuitton Trophy. The two yachts that make it this far will be race-hardened and ready to do battle – there will be some spectacular close-quarters duelling as they each seek to prove worthy to challenge Alinghi for the ultimate trophy!
Which will it be – the defender who has known all along what had to be done - or the challenger, already a battle-hardened veteran of over 80 races?
One thing is for sure, neither team will prove to be a pushover. The first to five wins system will be used but it is highly likely that it will all come down to a nail-bitingly close finish.
The 32nd America’s Cup Series is shaping up to be the closest-fought contest since the Cup was first raced for 156 years ago!
©2007/2008 Mike O'Neill
32nd America's Cup
Sir Keith Mills(pictured above,proudly waving the Union Jack), head of LMG, the company that brought us Air Miles and Nectar Points, has announced a British challenge for the 33rd and 34th America’s Cup series.
TEAMORIGIN™ whose name is a reference both to Britain’s involvement in the creation of the America’s Cup in 1851 and to the creation of a new, fresh and innovative force in this sporting arena, is being formed by Sir Keith to build on Britain’s unprecedented yachting heritage. It follows in the wake of recent successes enjoyed by Skandia Team GBR, the British Olympic and Paralympic sailing team which has won more medals for Britain than any other sport in the last two Olympic Games, and the achievements of Britain’s numerous round-the-world ocean racing heroes.
Michel Bonnefous, CEO America’s Cup Management, said:
The launch, coming at this time, recognizes the importance of preparation for an event of this caliber. A decision regarding the location of the team’s base will be made in the next few months.