The one and only Americas Cup World Series event for 2013 kicks off in Naples
There is something quite fitting about charging around a race course nose to tail in Naples. In a city where you are more likely to discover the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow than a car without a dent in it, living life on the edge at close quarters and shouting the odds as you do so, is what this part of the world is all about.
Tomorrow, Thursday the AC World Series racing gets under way for real here in Naples and will run through until Sunday. With a 10-12 knots sea breeze set to build by lunchtime each day, conditions look good for the event, a stark contrast to last year when the weather was jammed at max for much of the week.
But this is an odd ACWS event. Not only is it the only one of 2013, following the cancellation of the event in Venice and two that were planned for New York, it will be the last in this current cycle of the America’s Cup. Of the three challengers and one defender that will be competing from July this year for the Cup itself, only Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa have sent anything like their ‘A’ teams. The absence of the big hitters from Oracle or Artemis adds weight to the speculation that despite the early promises, the new style of Cup racing has deviated from the original strategy once again.
With a reduced TV plan for both the Louis Vuitton Cup coverage and the series of mini documentaries that were already in motion, there have been further cutbacks in the media output.
Yet a walk along the quayside and it is clear that this city has no interest in such woes or changes. Naples is going nuts for an event that they know from last time will bring thousands of spectators to watch the racing. In their preparations, a half mile long stretch of road that runs alongside the sea wall has been closed off and now plays host to the AC park with everything from coffee to cars and kids colouring available in a string of stalls along the shoreline. Every night so far there has been a live concert on a big stage and the city has been buzzing into the early hours.
For an event that has no significance in the overall scheme of the 34th America’s Cup, it is encouraging, if not a little bewildering, to see that there are no less than nine boats competing. The practice racing over the last couple of days has been close at the front and has demonstrated an interesting shuffle of performances that doesn’t necessarily match the anticipated form come the Cup. Among them, Dean Barker and his crew have not only found themselves trailing Luna Rossa’s Chris Draper by quite some margin, but have struggled to fight their way out of the middle of the pack.
Ben Ainslie is here with his team for what will be only his third ACWS event. Although a bit disappointed with the lack of sailing he has managed to do in the last six months following the Oracle capsize and setback, he and his J.P. Morgan BAR team are certainly working hard at this event to form stronger relationships with both sponsors and potential team members as they look forward to the next Cup cycle.
But for those that just want to watch quality racing and have little interest in Cup politics or jostling there is good news from Naples. Despite the cutbacks, the free online live broadcast of the races will take place just as it has done previously.
Racing starts at 1345 local on Thursday and then 1405 on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday the first start is planned for 1330 local.
In the meantime you can get into the swing of things by honking your horn repeatedly in traffic, shrugging your shoulders at any request you don’t fancy and turning your palms to the sky when things don’t go to plan.