America’s Cup Diary: Day 6 – Valencia, Spain

Analysis of one race, preparation for another.

February 14, 2010


Today is a lay-day and the two teams are reflecting on Race 1. For Ernesto Bertarelli’s defending team, yesterday’s 15-minute, 28-second deficit was a pretty comprehensive defeat. New Zealand skipper Brad Butterworth was put on the spot with the first question of the day: “Brad, you have often stated that the America’s Cup is a design race. Has Alinghi failed in its design?”

“What do you want me to say?” answered the beleaguered skipper. “Did you watch it? Then you know the answer. Today [BMW Oracle Racing] certainly showed how fast they can get their boat going. They could not have come off the line in a worse position and they ended up in a very strong position. When you are sitting in front of them and they sail up and around you, that is speed!” Today, Bertarelli and key Alinghi team members are locked away looking for any sort of comeback strategy before tomorrow’s second, perhaps deciding race in this best-of-three match for yachting’s most prestigious prize. Rolf Vrolijk, the head of their design team admitted: “Yes, we were surprised by their performance. We didn’t expect it, of course. We now have to look at our options to reconfigure our catamaran and find some more speed.” Bertarelli added: “Well, we won’t be building a wing mast overnight, that’s for sure. But we still have a few tools in the box. We will sit down and work out our best options.” There was no crowing within the BMW Oracle camp, despite yesterday’s emphatic win. Australian James Spithill, BMW Oracle Racing’s skipper, said after Race 1: “We probably learned more today than in a month of sailing. This was one of the hardest day’s sailing I’ve ever had. It was very puffy and shifty. These were very difficult conditions. We pushed the boat harder than we have ever done before. I’m surprised how well we did downwind and we learned a lot about the crossover point between the two boats today.”

| |Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing.|


One problem BMW Oracle will be considering today is how to stop their wing from icing up. They may be sailing in the usually temperate waters of the Mediterranean, but cold temperatures and the mist encountered when speeding along at 25 knots is causing unforeseen problems. Even the TV camera crews, chasing these mighty multihulls around this 400-square-mile course area, came back complaining of ice on the decks of their powerboats. If that is happening on the surface, consider the temperature difference at the top of BMW Oracle’s 223-foot-high wing mast. “A de-icing system…that’s one thing we didn’t think about when building this mast,” said Russell Coutts, BMW Oracle’s CEO.

The weather forecast for tomorrow’s second race is for further light winds on the 40-mile triangular course. Will the Alinghi team be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat?

Butterworth had the last word: “As long as you’ve got a life you’ve got a chance,” he said.




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