Should they have raced today? Depends on your point of view

23 04 2007

You can tell a lot about a team from its attitude to light and fluky conditions. There’s no doubt that the wind conditions in Valencia – when they are good enough to actually race in – are a great leveller between the strong and the weak teams. So no wonder the big teams would rather wait while some of the minnows want to get on with it.

Ross Halcrow, trimmer on BMW Oracle Racing, hinted at just how touch and go winning and losing can become in the soft stuff: “In the light stuff a knot more pressure has a huge effect. Pressure is king out there and can easily make you look good or bad. The differences in boats start to come in at around 9-10 knots of wind.” Which presumably is why BMW Oracle are quite happy with the race committee’s decision to keep postponing until the breeze really settles.

And perhaps it’s also why Jesper Bank, United Internet Team Germany’s skipper, would rather have been racing today even if it was on the margins of being sailable. “I think we have to do something about the lower wind limits…[We could be racing in] six knots if you can get the boats moving. You have wind shear when sometimes the wind mixes down very well and sometimes it doesn’t.

“Today you had a pretty good mix nearly all the way down and even with 6.4 knots the boats were loading up nicely. I think you’ll have to play it by ear and I know it will be a huge topic for discussion with some saying ‘no we don’t’ and some saying ‘yes we do’ (agree).”

Another answer for future Cups might be to introduce Super Maxis in the style of Wild Oats or Alfa Romeo, which can get moving in just 3 or 4 knots of breeze, and in 6 knots are capable of sailing faster than windspeed all the way round the course. In fact they can do almost double windspeed downwind.

Once the 12-Metres made way for the current ACC yachts, did anyone ever look back and say, ‘I wish we could bring back the 12-Metres’? Not to my knowledge. Once the Cup upgrades to something a bit racier than these graceful but dated ACC boats, the event will never look back. Once you introduce boats with a higher power/weight ratio, you immediately convert marginal race days into definite race days.