Have the boats and the conditions become so refined that a fair match is now impossible?
Is the America’s Cup about to box itself into a corner? Perhaps it’s already happened.
Monday saw too little wind, yet only in the start area. Twenty miles to windward the weather was just as forecast with 10knots.
Today (Wed), we were playing at the other end of the spectrum where the poor sea state was the reason for the day’s racing being canned.
“We went 24 miles out to sea this morning,” explained race officer Harold Bennett. “As we headed offshore it was rather lumpy at 10 miles. Once we got out to the race area there were pretty big waves with a swell from the north east and the wind from the west. Some waves were 2metres at least. I think I turned everybody on the race committee boat green.
“I wouldn’t have had a problem with starting the race on the grounds of the wind strength,” he continued. “We had 17-18 knots.”
To think that such conditions are at their max for the world’s most prestigious yacht race when we’re talking of wind strengths in the high teens is something that’s difficult to accept, unless of course you’re an ice yachtie in which case it’s a howling gale. Surely it presents a poor picture too for the sport, especially when you consider the money that has been spent and the complexity of the boats. During the bitter uncertain build up to an event that happened at the very last minute but with two of the most incredible multihulls that the world has seen, it was difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that the match would be the greatest head to head in sailing for the highest stakes.
Instead, concern is already mounting that the Cup has designed itself into a corner that will be very difficult to get out of. One trick ponies that can only cope with a narrow range of conditions, a race course that’s too large to present any chance of even winds within the anticipated limits and a best of three series that makes it simply too risky to consider taking a chance.
Of course, when you compare this to previous America’s Cup matches, it’s early days yet. But given the two years of uncertainty, there’s a sense that the Cup circus’ patience has been tested to the limits already.
As we’ve seen over the last two days, the reality seems to be that when the breeze is stable enough in direction the sea state is unsuitable. When the sea state is suitable and the wind speed sufficient to propel these boats at 20 knots plus, the wind direction is all over the place.
A decent sea breeze is what’s required, but it’s still winter and even when we get one here, it’s too weak to extend 20 miles offshore and usually does a better job of tinkering with the gradient breeze.
Then there are the enforced days off as set by the Deed of Gift and the Notice of Race. We are told the latter has just been modified to make sure that the racing can only take place on alternate days, even once we’re in the additional reserve day period that starts this weekend.
I guess the shop keepers in the old town will be happy.