Matthew Sheahan summarises the opening moves of the 32nd America's Cup 30/3/07
Before any team crosses the start line in the opening race of Act 13 that kicks off next week, all will have to have showed their hands over the weekend.
Sunday is unveiling day and despite the unfortunate date, (April 1), the proceedings will be no joke for those who’ve spent so much time and money shrouding their secrets. On Sunday the skirts must come off for good, for all the Challengers and the Defender.
The occasion will be marked in typical Valencian style with daytime fireworks to grab everyone’s attention at several key moments during the day.
The move to unveil from the start marks a serious departure from the more bashful behaviour adopted by teams ever since Alan Bond’s cup winning Australia II decided to hide it’s innovative wing keel back in 1983.
Last time around it was only the Louis Vuitton semi finalists (Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing) and the then Cup holders Team New Zealand that had to show all which allowed plenty of time for the speculation to brew. In a few days from now the talk will be of interpretation rather than guesswork, yet given the events ability to generate as many opinions as there are visitors, there still will be no shortage of debate.
But before the underbodies are revealed, each team has to declare which of its boats it intends to use. No one’s expecting any surprises here. The rules are clear, the boats have to be version 5 machines and built in the country of the team’s challenge.
Act 13 starts on Tuesday with three days of fleet racing. Viewed by many as a showcase style event with little significance when it comes to the real deal of the Cup, it is nonetheless a clever ploy by Alinghi to race against the Challengers and their new boats. With the series worth triple points there’s plenty of pressure on the Challengers to perform, which in turn helps the Defenders to see what their potential opponents might be made of.
With the results of Act 13 added to the points gained over the previous two seasons a final ranking then achieved to which bonus points will be accredited to teams. The bonus points then count for the Round Robins.
That’s the official bit, but the chatter that’s doing the rounds at the moment, apart from what we will see come reveal day, focuses on whether two teams will make the start of Act 13.
Financial issues continue to dog the Italian 39 team who have not been sailing in the last few days. Furthermore, the dockside chat is that the crew have become so frustrated that they have considered some form of collective action.
The Chinese are facing a problem of a different kind with their new boat struggling to conform to measurement. While no precise details are known, the word is that their problems are not easily solved without power tools.
At the opposite end of the scale, the South Africans are so excited at the prospect of the start of the event that they have decided to reveal their new boat a day early and show all on Saturday.
The Swedes on the other hand, who are towing the line for the real reveal day, have decided to give their team the day off, entrusting the occasion to the children of the team.
Champagne and canapés or jelly and ice cream? I know where I’m going.
PS. Kiwis raced Alinghi today, came from behind and beat the Swiss.