On the eve of the America's Cup, there is still little consensus as to who will be on top. Matthew Sheahan reports
Two press conferences down on the eve of the main event and few Cup watchers in Valencia are any the wiser as to who will dominate in the first race of the 32nd America’s Cup. On the face of it, Alinghi appear supremely confident in the speed of their latest boat, SUI100, a boat that has never raced against a competitor outside the Swiss camp. Skipper Brad Butterworth emphasised once again, that the fastest boat would win the America’s Cup, there was little if any, mention of boat handling, tactics or strategy playing a part in this success.
Perhaps more surprising was his comments on time, stating that Alinghi, ‘didn’t need any more time they were ready.’ A comment that is rarely heard in this event.
“We’ve used our time efficiently, we’ve done all we can do,” he said.
His opponent Dean Barker took a different view.
“You’ve always got a list of things to do which is longer than the time you’ve got. Our list is there and we still haven’t ticked everything off,” he said. “You can always be better, be it in crew work, tactics, starting or the likes and we’ve still got plenty we’d like to look at, but it’s time to get into the racing.”
The bottom line appears to be that the Kiwis seem hungrier for victory, calmer, more settled and confident. During the week Alinghi has been embroiled in a debate with the measurement committee over the positioning of topmast backstays that is said to have become so intense that the measurement committee threatened to resign after they were instructed by the Jury to reconsider the wording of several technical details.
As yet another Public Interpretation was issued on the subject, few understand why Alinghi have been so adamant on this issue. If the object of the exercise was to destabilise the Kiwis, the opposite appears to be the case. Perhaps tomorrow we will see the reason behind the Swiss case.
But for all the talk, tomorrow’s weather could prove to be the deciding factor with a breeze that starts at around 12-14 knots and decreases during the race towards the zone where the Kiwis are considered to be strong. Having won the toss to choose the side that they enter from, Terry Hutchinson and Dean Barker opted for a starboard entry which should give them an early advantage. A small difference perhaps, but as we’ve seen during the Louis Vuitton Cup, sometimes this is all that is required to start the roll.
Beyond this the weather looks as if it could play further into the Kiwis’ hands with lighter breezes anticipated for Sunday.
Whatever the talk of tactics, boat speed or the weather, one thing is for certain – from the moment that the boats enter the starting box and for the ten minutes that follow, there will be no other yacht race in the world that will be followed so closely.
Racing starts on Saturday 23 June with a warning signal at 14:50 local (1250 GMT)
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