America's Cup Diary: February 8, 2010 - Valencia, Spain

Hurry up and wait.


05:30. I am in Valencia to watch the first day of the America's Cup. The crews are setting off from their bases to get aboard their behemoths. We are told if we hang around long enough, we may be able to get some flash photographs as they leave the dock. The racing is 40 miles away, and separation between the two multihulls could be as much as 20 miles. If we blink at the start, we could miss catching them in the same frame altogether. The boats are fantastic machines dripping with technology, but absolutely no use for anything else but this best-of-three match. Rolf Vroljick, the head designer of the BMW Oracle tri says that they are not capable of breaking the sailing speed barrier, or racing across oceans. "They are strictly coastal," said Brad Butterworth, Alinghi's skipper. I've been covering these Cup races since 1980, and this will be the first virtual-reality boat race I have witnessed for real. As far as the press, all cocooned in the media centre, are concerned, they could be racing a windward-leeward course around the moon and back. We have only the TV pictures to tell us differently. I foresee a new shed going up at Long Beach, California, to house these boats alongside the Spruce Goose.

10:00. So much for the early start. Racing is postponed. The promised 5- to 12-knot winds have failed to show. But it begs the question: How much wind do these behemoths need? The Alinghi catamaran will be happy with 4 to 5 knots. Four days ago she streaked around the 40-mile course in 2 hours, 31 minutes when the anemometer registered 4 knots at the start and 7 knots at the finish. Larry Ellison's crew on the heavier trimaran BMW Oracle would prefer a little more wind-but not a lot. Her 223-foot wing mast is fully loaded in just 7 knots and both craft are flying hulls in this range! What happens if the winds blow above 15 knots is still anyone's guess.

13:45. Racing is canned for the day. The two protagonists are scheduled to reconvene at the same time on Wednesday. We are left to wonder if more action took place in the New York Supreme Court-certainly more hot air was moving!