Four days out and the atmosphere is rising as fast as the infrastructure. Matthew Sheahan reports from Valencia
Four days out from the America’s Cup and there’s talk that one of the teams has yet to decide whether it is quicker to sail upwind with a jib or not. OK, so the comments may have been said in jest, but there appears to be more than just an air of truth to the issue.
In jest or not, it’s amazing to think that several hundred million of a certain currency has been spent creating one of the most extraordinary boats the world has ever seen and yet such a basic issue is still to be nailed down. Yet walk around Port America’s Cup, Valencia’s Darsena, and you’ll see further evidence of an extraordinary event that is defying all odds. With four days to go the media centre is being constructed around us as we write, while outside the public entertainment areas that include bars, stalls, giant video screens and kids playgrounds are springing up in such numbers and at such speed, it’s like watching time lapse photography.
The atmosphere is already electric. For the teams its tension, for everyone else pure excitement.
The last two days have been particularly interesting with BMW Oracle stacking in the hours on the water, while Alinghi has now sailed practice races on full sized versions of both courses. The results were telling – more on that further down this feature.
Meanwhile, today we went out onto the water to take another look at BMW Oracle and it’s amazing wing. This time the crew were sailing with their biggest code zero, a headsail that in 8-10 knots of true wind saw the boat cream along at 25 knots in a sea state that proved challenging given the 1m swell for our 40ft RIB with its 875hp outboards.
Below is a video clip of the beast from astern. And if it all looks too easy, take a look at the crewman who crawls out along the windward beam. He’s an experienced professional sailor, one of the world’s best, with considerable experience of this boat, yet crawls with more care than a toddler to get back to the central hull. Such is the scale of these beasts that it’s difficult to get a feel for what’s really happening, even if you’re there, but it’s clues like this that drive the point home.
It’s easy to spend hours marvelling at either of these boats as history is created in front of our eyes. Yet perhaps the most revealing recent exercise was that of Alinghi’s practice races. Yesterday the Defenders took 2hr 31min to complete the 40nm windward/leeward course in 4-8 knots of true wind.
Her speeds seemed to be typically in the 20-25 knots range, much in line with what we are seeing with BMW Oracle’s USA-17. But what’s fascinating is that given these speeds and the time it took her to get around the course, it would appear that she is sailing far closer to the wind than many had expected. In our own preview in the Feb issue we worked on approximate true upwind angles for both boats of around 50 degrees. It now appears that both boats could be sailing as close as 40 degrees, possibly even tighter.
Alinghi performed two starts, the first in just 4 knots of true wind, saw her early at the line by around 4 seconds. Returning to the line and clearing her OCS indiscretion took 2min 12 seconds! Little surprise then that in their second start they were 8 seconds shy of the line come the gun.
Clearly, incurring a penalty in a cat at least is a very expensive business.
At the end of the race as Alinghi V crossed the line she performed a practice penalty turn around the pin end, a manoeuvre that took 1min 31 seconds in 7 knots of true wind.
And if all this sounds a little too nerdy, remember that neither boat has, or is likely to square up against the other before the big day. Rarely has so little been known about two of the most expensive and sophisticated boats that the sailing world has ever seen.
And that includes knowing whether a headsail really is the quickest way upwind.
Numbers and scraps of data could prove to be invaluable come the heat of the event when just two or three races will decide the America’s Cup
Racing is due to start 8 Feb 2010 with following races 10th & 12 Feb – Best of three series
LINKS & INFORMATION
YW PREVIEW SPECIAL
Check out our previews to the Cup as published in the January and February 2010 issues of Yachting World now available in pdf format and available free online.
YW VIDEO CLIPS
See BMW Oracle hit 25 knots in 6-8 knots of wind
Official 33rd America’s Cup Site
AERIAL VIEW OF THE HARBOUR
Aerial view of Darsena and commercial harbours
WEATHER – FORECASTS
Wind and Waves Valencia – Puertos del Estado
XC Weather Spain – Current National conditions
HOW TO GET TO AMERICA’S CUP VENUE
To Valencia by Air:
The easiest way is to fly to Valencia and then take a taxi. Approx cost of taxi to harbour, €20
See www.valenciaport.com for more information
Unfortunately, at this time of year there are fewer direct flights to Valencia than during the summer season. Therefore an alternative route is to fly to Alicante and either take the train or hire a car. Driving takes approx 2 hours and car rental is cheap.
To harbour from Valencia train station:
A taxi from the train station is about a 20-minute ride.
Heading to Valencia on the A7 toll motorway, connect to the V-15 or V-30 to the port, which is signposted.