America's Cup 2013 - On Match Point

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Oracle Team USA in action
Oracle Team USA media
Welcome to Sail-World.com's latest Newsletter for the 34th America's Cup

Wind limits once again robbed fans and the sailors of another race in the 34th America’s Cup.

This time the hair trigger on the wind limit was activated just a few seconds before the start – where the wind cannot average more than the 19.9kt limit for more than 30 seconds.

On Monday the whole day was lost due to strong winds, and several other days have been restricted to just one race per day.

The wind alarm was triggered as Emirates Team New Zealand were on Match Point for the regatta. Both competitors ignored the radio call, and kept racing.

Despite starting at the unfavoured port entry into the start box, Emirates Team NZ adopted different tactics and confounded Oracle Team USA, by using a regular timed start to hit the line with pace and were in the lead at Mark 1.

Things being what they are they were well on the way to securing an America’s Cup win, but that will have to wait for another day.

At the media conference, Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie, said he had heard the radio call before the boats crossed the line, but ignored it – in case he had mis-heard, and didn’t want to be accused of botching a vital America’s Cup race on the basis of a misunderstood radio call.

America’s Cup Day 8 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ leads Oracle Team USA on Leg 3 of Race 11

While everyone understands that safety measures were introduced after the Artemis disaster, the effect of these has robbed the 34th America’s Cup of a lot of local following. Particularly when sailing savvy fans know that a normal wind limit is around 25 kts and is not adjusted for tidal flow.

Race 11 was everything that we have come to expect in this America’s Cup.

A close race between two very high speed catamarans, sailed by extremely competent crews, who are developing their boats and sailing techniques as the series progresses, to the point where there is almost no certainty who will win on a given day and if one team enjoyed an advantage one day, it can easily vanish the next.

This is not your father’s America’s Cup, where the outcome of the regatta was known five minutes after the first cross.

This is something the likes of which has never been seen in sailing before, and which may never be seen again.

Hopefully that will not be the case, and the sailing vision which Larry Ellison planned and underwrote is just magnificent sport.

America’s Cup Day 8 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ crosses ahead of Oracle Team USA on Leg 3 of race 11

What slips most people by, when the speeds are discussed, and closing speeds in particular, and comparisons are inevitably made with motor racing or some such anachronism.

The factor that too many commentators put their hand over, is that these boats are achieving these speeds through wind power alone. Until San Francisco in September 2013, it was hard to imagine travelling at power boat speeds (in fact most powerboats couldn’t keep up with these AC72’s) and just powered by wind force alone.

Isn’t that the ultimate green sport?

The ingenuity behind these boats just has to be seen to be believed, and they are a tribute to man’s creative thinking and applied engineering.

As the 34th America’s Cup marches to what most believe will be an inevitable conclusion, thoughts turn to the future.

Certainly most whole heartedly want to stay with this concept of boat, but are aware of the need to get more competitors into the game, and believe that can be done by dramatically lowering the costs.

The only way to do this is to tackle the issue head on, and introduce salary caps, and budget caps. They exist in other sports and the penalties for breach are so eye-watering you wouldn’t contemplate a work-around for fear of being caught.

America’s Cup Day 8 San Francisco. Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie at the Day 8 Media Conference

Fiddling with the boat size won’t work. Even if the regatta were held in a tiny P-class dinghy, you are dealing with a breed that could assemble a 30 strong design team to develop the ultimate 7fter, and add another 30 into the support team.

Simply if the objective is to reduce cost, then the 65% of the budget that is personnel must be addressed head-on.

Anything else is just fiddling around the edges, and will yield the same result as all the other so-called cost cutting measures – failure.

That’s all from me from San Francisco. It’s been a great ride and I’ve enjoyed every moment – and there have been some absolute jaw-droppers on the water.

America’s Cup Day 8 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ’ s Kiwi fans on the end of Pier 23 after Day 8

Full marks to Larry Ellison for creating this event. He doesn’t receive the credit he is due in his home town. He’s been out on the water most days and hopefully he can at least take the self-satisfaction that he has been able to lift the sailing game to a place where it has never been before.

This will be remembered as a fantastic event – but one which can be improved and taken to another level. But those are questions for another day.

Stay tuned to our website www.Sail-World.com for daily updates on how the action finally unfolds in the 34th America’s Cup.

I am heading back to Auckland now and will be heading straight to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to watch race 12 and possibly 13.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell

Sail-World's America's Cup News Editor

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America’s Cup Day 8 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ performance crew are all smiles as they come aboard after Race 11

America’s Cup Day 8 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ enters the starting box