The anticipation of an Americas Cup is the most exciting bit, especially when the pair have never met
In 24 hours, the answer to months of speculation as to who will win the America’s Cup is likely to be painfully obvious. There will be plenty of ‘I told you’ from some quarters and plenty of red faces and excuses in others. That’s the fun of the America’s Cup, especially on the eve of the first race.
As the sun goes down over the Darsena and the huge media circus makes its plans for how it will cover an event that’s proving to be as challenging for organisers and spectators as it is for the teams themselves, the Spanish public has descended on the event. Many been here all day to stroll around the harbour, collecting free posters, buying team clothing and eating and drinking in the bars and food stalls that sprung up overnight.
I spent a large part of the day chasing Alinghi V eight miles offshore in a breeze that started at 7 knots and faded gradually to nothing. During that time I had a chance to take some happy snappy video while getting my stopwatch out to try to get a feel for how quick this beast is, as well as how long it takes to tack and gybe. The results were pretty revealing.
In 7 knots of breeze we tracked the cat at a steady 19knots with the code zero set. A gybe took around 1min 30sec to complete and a total of around 2min to get back up to speed. A tack was quicker at around 40 seconds. Admittedly this was in light airs and it was impossible to tell whether the crew were fully in race mode.
But, impressive thought she is, Alinghi V revealed little to suggest that she can outmanoeuvre USA-17.
Popular opinion suggests that the Swiss cat is better suited to light conditions than the American trimaran but I’m not so sure. When the tri goes into a tack she looks more like a sail board in a carve gybe and she appears to have little trouble in flying both her hulls in single figure wind speeds.
All of which could prove to be significant in the pre-start.
When the preparatory gun is fired, USA-17 will come in from the starboard side, Alinghi V from the pin end on port to cross the diagonally set entry line which provides greater opportunity for the port tack boat to cross the bows of the starboard one. After that, the question of how much lead and follow circling will take place is the source of yet more debate. If it does, the more manoeuvrable boat will clearly have an advantage.
Then it’s a timed run back to the line which, given the speeds of these boats will start from a long way back. Again, the boat that proves to be most nimble will most likely have the edge, especially if it can pin its competitor out, deeper in the box.
After that it’s anybody’s guess what happens next. Yet, if previous America’s Cup experience and wisdom is anything to go by, we should have a good idea as to who has the upper hand and who looks most likely to lift the Cup.
All of which would be fine if it weren’t for the huge issues of; a) reliability and b) the vagaries of the wind over a 400 square mile course.
That’s what the dice are for on my desk.