Valencia's vacuum continues as racing is postponed once again at Louis Vuitton Round Robin 1. Matthew Sheahan reports
This is agony. Watching the weather on such a ludicrously small scale and willing it to step on the right side of the line has drawn more daily wagers than the racing itself. The anguish stems from the pure frustration of seeing the breeze build to a gnat’s hair short of that sufficient to get racing underway. After eight days of heading out onto the race course, just three out of the 11 planned flights have been raced. It’s difficult enough to watch but who would want to be a race officer in such testing conditions?
Yet the daily tension is also fascinating at times. Watching these overweight, yet anorexically shaped sailing greyhounds behave in conditions that are better suited for golf, barbecues and family days on the beach.
Give a pair of latest generation Cup boats 8 knots true and within minutes you’ll forget that there’s barely enough breeze to blow out a candle. Yet in 8 knots these highly developed machines can make impressive wake trails on the water as they slice around the race course heeled to 20 degrees as they do so.
Drop the true breeze to 6 knots and while the boats can still sail, the picture is completely different. With such high ballast ratios, (83 percent, double that of a typical cruiser racer), just two knots less makes it difficult to heel the boats, the rig comes upright an no amount of beef cakes on the leeward rail will heel such a skinny lead mine in an effort to artificially shape the sails.
“Bad things happen,” said race director Dyer Jones at a press conference where the revised programme was announced. “But our job is to run fair races in which either yacht has an opportunity to win.”
Fair comment, but perhaps it was what he said afterwards that was of more significance.
“In 1983 I was running the races for the America’s Cup in a match between Liberty and Australia II. The first day we went out to run the match but had to postpone the racing because of light winds just as we went into the starting sequence. At a press conference I was asked by a member of the press what it was blowing out on the race course at that time. Of course, by then it was beautiful sailing breeze but it was two or three hours after we would have been permitted to race.
“Sitting next to me was Alan Bond who grabbed the microphone and he said, ‘I want to win the America’s Cup, but I don’t want to win in a fluke.'”
“I think what’s important in these few days is that the competitors all want to go out and win and they don’t want to win them on a fluke. But more importantly they don’t want to lose races on a fluke.”
Had we seen a hint of that today when Shosholoza, who know their boat is quick in light airs, appeared far keener to get racing than their opponents Luna Rossa, who meandered around the race course area with their boom tent up, apparently in no hurry to go anywhere?
Or perhaps we’re just reading too much into too little. With so little else to watch it’s hardly surprising.
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