America's Cup Diary: Day 2 - Valencia, Spain

Winds of change?


It is blowing 30 knots at the end of the harbor wall at Valencia today-too much for either camp to consider racing. The first sign of any mutual agreement around here! Down at the BMW Oracle Racing dock, the team is nursing its 223-foot high wing mast, trying to keep it head to wind, fearing that a gust could capsize their monster trimaran at its mooring. They work in shifts round the clock whenever the winds are 10 knots or above. Sailmakers need not fear these wing sails taking the sport by storm and putting them out of business! As we wait for another attempt to hold the first race for this contentious 33rd Cup, one can't help but reflect on the fact this whole multi-million-dollar circus is but a whim on the part of two protagonistic billionaires: American Larry Ellison, and Ernesto Bertarelli from Switzerland. The millions they have spent on their 90-foot-by-90-foot multihulls, the colossal infrastructures and supporting teams that go with them, and all those appearances in the New York courts would be obscene to some-surely more than the GDP of many a third-world nation-in reality however, these vast sums are little more than pocket change expended on what has become something of an obsession. As far as the Cup is concerned, of course, it was ever thus. Rereading the history books on those great Cup races at the turn of the last century, New Yorker Wilson Marshall poured $750,000 into building the 187-foot schooner Atlantic, and JP Morgan raided his own bank for a similar amount to build the 143-foot Cup defender Reliance, which set more sail on a single mast than any other yacht in history. What would $750,000 be worth in today's money? I'm am told it is a little more than Messrs. Ellison and Bertarelli have bet on the outcome of this best-of-three match! Yesterday, the America's Cup web site attracted just over 250,000 visitors-half the number for the first race of the last Cup in 2007. That number could well be beaten if we actually get a race in tomorrow!