Nine America’s Cup Crews at the Ready in Cascais
(August 4, 2011) Nine of the best sailing teams in the world are making their final preparations in Cascais, Portugal ahead of the opening weekend of the 34th America’s Cup.
The Cascais AC World Series Preliminaries consist of two events over the course of this weekend – the Cascais AC Open and the AC 500 Speed Trial. Saturday will see the first three fleet races of the AC Open as well as the exciting speed test – a timed, sprint over a 500-meter course. On Sunday is the fourth fleet race of the AC Open.
All racing will be streamed live on www.americascup.com, beginning at 1400 local time (GMT+1) on Saturday afternoon.
The forecast for Saturday is for northwesterly winds building to 15 knots, with a possibility of stronger winds late in the afternoon. Over the next two days, the teams and race committee will continue their training ahead of Saturday’s opening races.
Some highlights from Thursday’s press conference, which took place in the media center in the presence of the America’s Cup trophy, which was making its first appearance in Portugal:
Bertrand Pacé, skipper, Aleph: On board, I am the wing trimmer and the tactician. I am getting to grips on board more and more each time we sail. The challenge is exciting, and I am trying to do my best. The wing is really interesting because this is completely new and different than a soft sail, because of its raw power. I am learning more every day about how to control the power.
Terry Hutchinson, skipper, Artemis Racing: We have a new team and we are learning a lot of things about ourselves and catamarans and multihulls in general. So we’ll use the scorecard here as one measure of success, but I think as long as we see performance increases each day that’s another measure, regardless of results.
Mitch Booth, skipper, China Team: It’s really enjoyable. The first time we try to join east and west. The experience is really rewarding. Sometimes it’s a little challenging but when you get it right it’s very rewarding when the team gels. We’re learning how to communicate very quickly on the boat and we’re enjoying every day.
Dean Barker, skipper, Emirates Team New Zealand: Our team has been very focused on monohull sailing over the last few years and had some good results so the transition to multihulls is very interesting. It’s a new game to a lot of us, and there are a lot of lessons to be learned. It’s a challenge.
Loïck Peyron, skipper, Energy Team: You always prefer the turbo engine of the wingsail compared to a traditional sail. These boats are very interesting and a good tool for the game we want to play. But we need to learn. I love learning at least one thing every day and these past weeks I’m learning many things each day.
Vasilij Zbogar, skipper, Green Comm Racing: (Asked about having a crew full of ‘skippers’) When they look at the rudder (to steer) I just punch them! I think our first day we realized that everyone on the boat needs to be a skipper. It’s a full team required to sail.
Chris Draper, skipper, Team Korea: We’re excited. The boats provide a great, level playing field. The wing is a big leveling platform. We’re really excited but we’re under no false illusions. We just want to get started and get racing.
James Spithill, skipper, ORACLE Racing Spithill: I think ‘favorite’ is an interesting term. When you look at the group of sailors here and how quickly everyone has got up to speed, that highlights how tough it’s going to be out on the water.
Russell Coutts, skipper, ORACLE Racing Coutts: We’ve practiced as much as we can and I think we’re ready to get out there and race. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have a chance of winning and that’s as good as you can get at this point.
Iain Murray, Regatta Director and CEO, ACRM: We’ve been working on this for the past 10 months, the creation of the boats, trials and tests in New Zealand and San Francisco and bringing a lot innovation to the sport as well as the way we’ll bring it to spectators around the world. We think it’s going to be spectacular.
Craig Thompson, CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority: I don’t think there could be a more perfect venue for the start of the AC World Series. Cascais is gorgeous as a city, beautiful waters, beautiful beaches and for the first time we’ll be racing along the shore where people on the beaches can watch and be part of this great event. We have the best sailors on the fastest boats, and it’s going to be fantastic.
Patrick M de Barros, Chairman of the local organizing committee: I think this even marks a dramatic change to the history and format of the Cup and I think we owe this to the vision of Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and James Spithill… I wish all of you a great regatta and great winds.
All Guns Blazing to Start the AC World Series in Cascais
(August 6, 2011) The opening races of the America’s Cup World Series – Cascais lived up to the promise of creating close, tactical racing among some of the world’s best sailors.
Under unusually overcast and foggy conditions and in very light winds, three fleet races marked the beginning of the pursuit of sport’s oldest trophy. Despite the extremely light and variable conditions, the wing-sailed AC45 catamarans proved competitive racing was possible in winds as light as three knots (5 kph).
Emirates Team New Zealand was the class act of the nine-boat fleet over the three races and finished the day with a one-point lead over the Swedish Artemis Racing.
“Racing is very different in light winds but it’s really good that these boats can sail in this weather,” Kiwi skipper Dean Barker said. “We are happier with more wind… but with the lighter winds, all the teams leveled. The lack of wind becomes an equalizer. Today all the teams have had their opportunity, so it becomes more competitive.”
Six points further down the leaderboard, in fourth place, was ORACLE Racing Spithill, skippered by James Spithill. His crew, although one point behind stablemate ORACLE Racing Coutts, could claim two race victories. The only thing holding them back was a disqualification in the first race, for crossing outside the course boundaries, and not taking the appropriate penalty.
“We had a problem, our screen (signaling the penalty) blanked out,” Spithill explained. “Apparently we were over the course boundary before the start. And we got a penalty with two minutes to go. But our screen came back on during the first run. Too late for us to do anything but... that's alright. We just had a couple of problems, sorting out the bugs in the system. But I thought it was a great day.”
This was the first time all nine of the wing-sailed AC45 catamarans were on the same race course and the result was some incredible action on the starting line. The more experienced teams demonstrated impressive acceleration at the start gun, which they were able to convert to into leads around the first mark.
For the less experienced teams, the lighter conditions allowed them to focus less on crew work and more on tactics, which translated into a tight leaderboard at the end of the day.
Racing was held close to shore, with the spectator fleet defining the narrow course boundaries. This was America’s Cup racing up close and personal. The racing was also streamed live at www.americascup.com and on the America’s Cup YouTube channel, with over 37,000 views. Archived races will be available on demand online Saturday night (GMT).
The AC World Series – Cascais continues on Sunday with one longer fleet race as well as the AC500 Speed Trial, a timed test for the crews over a 500-meter race track.
The forecast is for more traditional Cascais conditions to return, with moderate to strong winds by race time. The fleet race is scheduled to start at 1445 local time (GMT+1).
Emirates Team NZ Double Winners
(August 7, 2011) Five teams crowded the podium on Sunday at the America’s Cup World Series – Cascais as the opening weekend ended with some champagne sailing across the two events. On Sunday, large crowds on the beach and in the spectator fleet enjoyed front row seats with the racing just meters from the shore.
Emirates Team New Zealand were double winners on the day, claiming top spot in the AC Cascais Preliminaries after four fleet races and then going on to record the fastest run in the AC 500 Speed Trial.
“We are happy how it went,” said skipper Dean Barker. “But we know we have a lot to keep up with. It’s nice; a good feeling to start the week, but there is a lot we need to improve on.”
ORACLE Racing Coutts won today’s long fleet race, stealing victory from Emirates Team New Zealand after a member of the crew fell overboard. The Kiwis did their best to hang on, but Coutts managed to grind down the shorthanded New Zealand crew just a few hundred meters from the finish, giving the American team victory in the race and second place overall, with Sweden’s Artemis Racing in third spot.
In the AC500 Speed Trial, the top three teams needed their third and final runs to record their fastest speeds. The Kiwis, after a disappointing first two tries, had a perfect set-up for their final attempt, screaming down the track at an average speed of 42.35 kph.
They were followed closely by Team Korea (39.28) and China Team (37.43), two of the newer, less-practiced teams in the AC45 catamaran. Despite a relative lack of time on the boats, China Team’s skipper shared his philosophy for recording a fast run: “There are only two speeds to these boats,” said Mitch Booth. “Flat out, and stopped!”
But the headline incident on the day was the man overboard on Emirates Team New Zealand.
Winston Macfarlane, one of the big grinders on board, was washed overboard during a fast maneuver at a turning mark halfway through the race. Macfarlane was grinding a winch when the winch handle snapped, meaning he lost his balance as the boat accelerated out of the turn. While Macfarlane swam to safety and hauled himself on to the nearby mark-boat, Barker’s crew was obliged to sail the rest of the course short-handed.
Sailing the second half of the race with just four men meant their crew work was slower and they had less weight on the side of the boat to balance the power of the wing rig. ORACLE Racing Coutts could smell blood and attacked the vulnerable Kiwi crew on the final beat to the finish, finally stealing victory in the final moments of the race.
Despite the loss in the race, Emirates Team New Zealand could claim an historic double win on the day, launching their campaign for the 34th America’s Cup in style.
Winston, a Winch Handle, and a Win that Slipped Away
(August 7, 2011) Winston MacFarlane’s a useful bloke to have on board. So when the bowman fell overboard off the side of the Emirates Team New Zealand AC45, the rest of the team had to knuckle down and do their best to hang on to their lead.
It was during the big turn at the top mark that MacFarlane fell in. He’s the first official man overboard of the 34th America’s Cup cycle. “Probably not something to be proud of,” he smiled afterwards, although his tumble overboard did have mitigating circumstances.
“Unfortunately the winch handle broke while I was putting my full body weight on to it, so over I went. Luckily I didn’t hit the rudders, and I was going to be in the path of the other boats so I swam out of the way and our team chase boat picked me up.”
One of the big guys on the boat, MacFarlane’s power was certainly missed for the rest of the race as the Kiwis gradually saw their lead whittled away by ORACLE Racing Coutts. “I left the guys in a tough position. It’s tough enough sailing these boats with five guys, so it was going to be hard for them to defend the lead with four guys.”
But no hard feelings from the rest of the team. “No, Dean didn’t give me a hard time,” said MacFarlane. And he doesn’t reckon he’s going to be the only crewman to fall overboard off an AC45. “I think it’s going to happen quite a bit,” he said.
A Day Off
(August 8, 2011) Today’s a day off. But a day off means different things to different people. For Russell Coutts and ORACLE Racing 5 it was an opportunity to train up a new crew member to replace the injured Simon Daubney, whose hand injury puts him out of action for the rest of the regatta.
Green Comm Racing was also out there, enjoying beautiful sunny conditions and moderate breezes. The Spanish team has been bringing up the rear in the racing thus far, and Vasilij Zbogar’s team are grabbing every chance to learn as much as possible before the match racing starts on Wednesday.
Other teams craned their boats out of the water yesterday afternoon, and some are taking a day away from the marina. Even though Team Korea have only been sailing together for a matter of days, skipper Chris Draper has opted for a day off. “It’s a long haul, we’ve a lot to talk about, learned a lot over the last days, and we have a lot of races coming over the next few days. We’ll rest up. There’s only five of us, so we’re not in the privileged situation of rotating crew.”
Draper is always keeping a weather eye out for opportunities to go surfing, his favoured hobby for getting away from the pressures of competition. But the surfing forecast around Lisbon isn’t good at the moment, he’d already checked within minutes of finishing racing.
Terry Hutchinson was looking forward to a day away from sailing. “I’ll be going on a couple of hour bike ride, and then a good debrief about the last couple of days.” So why no sailing when there’s still so much to learn? “It’s a whip-in, a diminishing return. You can continue to practise, but if you show up ‘flat’ on wednesday, it’s all wasted effort. If you show up a day less practised, but more refreshed and switched on, that will be as much gain right there.”
Hutchinson is monitoring the balance of work, rest and play closely. “We’ve set out a pretty reliable plan. We have some good coaching staff helping us develop long-term strategies. And it’s good to use these events as little microcosms of what’s working. So that when we get to the end-game 24 months from now, we know how hard to train and push ourselves before the Louis Vuitton Finals and the America’s Cup.”