10 July 2007

Second America's Cup commentary by Ricky of California

Dear ZEN’ers,
we have for you, somewhat after the fact, the second of a series of posts from a friend (if I may), a man I’ve corresponded with through our passion for Truth, and the Floyd Landis case of unproven Tour de France doping, which you can trace through these posts (one, two, three, more).

Ricky hails from the USA, and loves sailing as much as we both love cycling.
Ricky has permitted me to archive some posts, which he began providing to answer questions from some of us land-lubbers!

They are impressively well-written, I’ve slightly reformatted and edited them for precision. I believe this first post covers the third regatta.

Take it away, Ricky from California!:

Today's race could have been a classic AC slugfest, but equipment failure took the slug out of the fest. Deano did a great job of forcing Alinghi over the start line before the gun went. As you know, both boats must be on the correct side of the line before the gun. Baird was fortunate to be able to sail way off to the right and into the spectator fleet.

Why would he do this? Because the Kiwis forced him over the line and as weather boat he was obligated to keep clear of the leeward boat which was doing everything to stay just to leeward of them. The spectator boats offered salvation to Ed as he went forward of a big old cruiser and NZ went behind, This gave him enough room to jibe and get clear of NZ. On the drag race back to the start line, Ed trailed the Kiwis and managed a decent start half a boat-length behind NZ on starboard, headed out to the correct side of the race track.

In a case of role reversal, the Swiss drag raced out to the starboard layline just to leeward and behind NZ. T

his is a minor violation of Ricky's fifth rule of match racing:
When behind, do something.

For you students of match racing, remember, if you're the trailing boat, the closer you get to the layline, the fewer options you have. If you just give up and trail the windward boat out to the edge of the world you run out of options and you've just handed the weather boat the leg. If you are smart and aggressive, you tack well before the layline and move the game back to the middle of the chessboard. By doing that, you give your opponent opportunities to make mistakes and you open up possibilities for passing that are only a dream if you've sailed out past the layline.

So, Brad and the boys are content to trail the Kiwis out to the layline.

What did we learn from this? Well, the most important lesson is that in 14-15 knots of wind, NZ is every bit of the boat Alinghi is, contrary to popular belief. Before today the smart money was betting that in 15 kts and above, the Swiss owned this event. I liked seeing Deano living large right there on Alinghi's weather hip. That'll give the Swiss something to think about tonight.

So NZ rounds ahead of Alinghi by a boat-length or two. Knowing Terry as we do, we're sure he's going to point NZ deep and stay between Brad and the mark.

Uh oh, the bowman is on the horn and he says we've got a bit of hole in the luff of the whomper.

Terry:"How bad is it, can we sail the leg with it?"
"I dunno, boss, she looks pretty bad to me." says Jeremy into his waterlogged mic.
"Okay, get the A2 on deck and hooked up. We'll hoist it as soon as you ....whoooaa…shit, The kite just blew!!! Get the other kite up NOW!"
Jeremy, "Wait, wait, I don't have the sheets and guys hooked on....Oh noo!"

The second kite goes up without sheets and guys, which means it might as well be the Swiss flag.

Ernesto (Bertarelli, the Swiss billionaire owner of Alinghi) is busy taking a bearing with the rangefinder, but he forgets the numbers on the display as the sight of NZ's shredded kite fills the viewfinder. By then every one on Alinghi is watching as, unbelievably, there are two kites flying on NZ, one in tatters and the other out like, well, like the Swiss flag. Ironically, Switzerland's flag is red with a white cross on it. I'm sure, however, that the boys on both boats weren't thinking in metaphors at that particular moment.

Anyway, here's NZ, wallowing down the course with two kites up (neither drawing), and the big Swiss boat rolling by like the TGV. Brad, not doing too well in this regatta, breathes a sigh of relief. He wants to wave to Terry as the go by but he knows Ernesto doesn't like his boys fraternizing with the enemy.

The Kiwis struggle to get another kite up, but they're running out of the damn things. You can only carry so many of them, you know. So they rummage around in the bottom of the boat and find one more asymmetrical that looks like it'll hang together and they hoist it and trundle on down to the leeward mark.

The rest of the race is pretty unremarkable. The Kiwis keep chipping away at Alinghi's lead, but nothing is going to keep the Swiss boat from winning this one unless they break a sail or Brad has another brain fade.

So what have we learned from today's racing? Well, the first and most important thing is that the Kiwi boat is more than just a light air sliver. the boat seems to be a match and more for Alinghi in everything except for the 10-14 knot wind range. In that range, the Swiss boat may be a bit faster, but we're expecting winds more like what we witnessed today for the rest of the regatta, so the Kiwis have to feel fairly comfortable with the horse they brought to this event. On the other hand, Ricky sees some vulnerability in the Swiss side.

Mainly, they appear to have come to the regatta thinking they had boatspeed on the Kiwis, and the Kiwis may have been playing a bit of a head game, letting the world think they were bringing a knife to a gunfight.

For us spectators it means that for the first time in about 20 years the AC regatta is proving to be extremely interesting. I could go on about the nuances in the design of each boat, which is by itself very interesting if you're into such things.

Anyway, the commentators are all atwitter over the 'momentum' of Alinghi, but if the Kiwis can keep their boat together, they stand a good chance of recouping the cup.

(This is PART TWO, of FOUR America's Cup posts, featuring commentary by Ricky of California: click here for Part ONE, Part THREE, Part FOUR)

Thanks Ricky - Premier Guest Commentator at ZENcentral!

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