Act 10 is over, but what does it mean and what did we see? Matthew Sheahan reports
Chris Dickson described it as the most innovative America’s Cup Class boat to have been built, others described USA-87 in alternative ways. Ridiculously quick to accelerate, amazingly nimble and superbly balanced were just three of the compliments to be heard time and time again. Whatever the view, USA-87’s nimble nature at the weather mark in her race against Luna Rossa not only put a penalty on the Italians, (who were ahead at the time), but won them the race and brought the Americans overall victory in their first Act win since Marseille back in 2004.
After the race navigator Peter Isler appeared to play down the winning move.
“Remember that for a boat to accelerate faster in the down speed stuff requires two things, a good boat, but a team that can put the sails in the right place and a skipper that can put the boat in the right place,” he said.
He may well have point, it’s a fact that the crew work on BMW Oracle is the best we’ve seen yet, but this was a crucial tight race, just the kind to expose a few more of the weapons the team has up its sleeve. When racing started any one of the top four teams were in with a shout.
The result of this race left Luna Rossa in second overall, having beaten Emirates Team New Zealand in a well deserved victory. The Kiwis must have felt differently. Once again, gear failure left them wanting at a crucial moment. On this occasion it was a luffing match that saw the red Kiwi kite blow out as Luna Rossa pushed them up. As the kite came down the remnants draped over Luna Rossa giving the Kiwis a penalty. Game over.
“To be honest it was a little bit reminiscent of America One,” he said referring to the famous self destructing day-glo kites. “Our guys will look at this very hard as this regatta goes forward into next year the racing’s going to be like that and the gear’s going to need to be a little bit more durable.”
The Kiwis finish Act 10 in third leaving the Cup holders Alinghi in an uncharacteristic position of fourth overall. But do they care? Surely Act 10 was about keeping an eye on the closest competition, pushing them, tweaking their tails and collecting all the information they can on three of the most likely contenders for the big one in 2007.
“We just went out there to sail at our best. Obviously it was exciting to sail against the new boats and as always it was a challenge to bring our skills up,” said Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird. “It feels pretty good to be learning and realise that they’re all going about the same speed of each other.
“It doesn’t seem that anyone has jumped out and got substantially faster than anybody else, but that’s only one wind condition and they’ve only just got in their boats.”
While Alinghi are tight lipped about anything to do with a new boat, others are clearly wondering what’s in store.
“You have to wonder what they have sitting in their shed over there,” said Terry Hutchinson. “Realistically they were at least half a generation ahead with everyone in version five. So if they make another generation jump they’re be another half generation ahead of where the Challengers sit right now.”
And surely the second boat is always faster?
“If you believe that, why didn’t they sail SUI-75 in the last Cup?”
But overall perhaps the biggest question rattling around the bars and restaurants in Valencia is whether we could really believe what we saw in the match between BMW Oracle and Alinghi. After all, at the beginning of the week Dickson had admitted that they might decline the invitation to reveal the potential performance of their boat.
Although not standing up specifically for their opponents, Ed Baird was clear on his view.
“I’ve raced on a lot of teams with a number of the people that race here and it would surprise me tremendously if the teams weren’t making a big effort to come out and do their best,” he said. “If I were any of the Challengers, I’d think it was foolish not to come out here and try your best.”
But aside from all the other issues, there’s one reason why I think I believe what I saw when it comes to the performance of the benchmark SUI-75. Why would they do anything other than sail as fast as possible to push their opponents?
After all, they’re here to watch.
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