Copa del Rey, Day 1, Races 1 & 2

Palma de Majorca, Spain

On Tuesday the TP 52 fleet raced races 1 & 2 on the bay of Palma de Majorca, Spain in mild conditions of 8-11 knots from the SSW. The wind was shifting quite a bit and was anything but steady. In both races the left side of the course was heavily favored and the leaders always came from that side. The exception was on the second windward leg of the second race when Bribon, with King Juan Carlos onboard got a private right hand shift of about 10 degrees, which brought him up from a distant 7th to equal for the lead. It is called the Copa del Rey! In the end Bribon finished third.

Vasco Vascotta had the best day with a 1, 2 score followed closely by Siemens/Matador of Alberto Roemmers with a 3, 1 and with some guy named Cayard as tactician. Third for the day was Platoon with 8 points and Jochen Schuman(Alinghi) on the helm and John Cutler(Desafio Espanol) tactician. The fleet is filled with the top talent in the sport in every position. There will be many ups and downs before the week is over.

The racing continues through Saturday.

For complete scores go to www.medcup.org

WORLD SAILING LEAGUE UNVEILS SPEED MACHINE DESIGN

Today, the World Sailing League (WSL) unveiled the innovative design for their futuristic 70 ft catamarans that will be raced in the new global Grand Prix series, the premier annual sailing competition. The spectacular speed-machines represent the next evolution of sailing and will be the fastest one design boats ever built.

With towering masts of over 98 ft and foiled hulls sitting at almost 40 ft wide, these catamarans represent the forefront of design technology. The boats will be crewed by nine professional sailors and one select guest and will be capable of speeds up to 40 knots,

Designer Vincent Lauriot Prévost of VPLP explained the design philosophy: “We are very excited about this catamaran because she represents a step towards the future of racing. If we consider that monohulls were the racing standard, then multihull design has stretched the performance possibilities and now ‘outmodes’ the mono. Now these multihulls armed with foils will be the next generation that will overtake the conventional multihull. WSL will spearhead this new evolution.”

For WSL event owner João Lagos, the design launch represents an important step forward in the development of the World Sailing League: “We’ve been working hard for a long time to create all of the areas of WSL and have accelerated our efforts since our launch in February. Whilst venue development is an exceptionally important aspect of the project, the boats and their spectacular performance characteristics are integral to the WSL vision for creating fast, equally matched and coast hugging fleet racing. We always wanted to create something new and exciting in the sport and I believe that with this new design is the first important piece of our vision.”

Under a strict one design, no compromise philosophy the catamarans will combine speed, manoeuvrability and the ability to sail close to shore for optimum spectator viewing whilst the high mast and foils will ensure thrilling racing in a wide range of breeze.

The central pod and hulls will be constructed from carbon fibre prepreg foam sandwich to minimise weight, with single skin carbon fibre autoclaved prepreg used for the mast and beams. The centreboard on the pod will be 4.25 metres deep, with the option to raise it to 3.5 metres for racing close to shore. There will be five sails available to the teams, ranging from the 72 m2 staysail to a 260 m2 gennaker.

Legendary sailors Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard, founders of WSL, have been heavily involved with the design and planning process. Coutts commented: “Paul and I have been working on this project for some time now, so it’s fantastic to be at the point where we are starting to build these catamarans. These boats are going to be extremely quick and should represent the future of fleet racing. Vincent (Lauriot Prévost) and his team have done a great job and we can’t wait to take the first one for a test run on the water.”

With the design now finalised, fourteen of these spectacular catamarans will be built in Portugal, with the first due for completion in June 2008. The remaining boats will be built over the following 18 months, in time for promotional regattas around the world in 2009 and the first full year of the World Sailing League in 2010.

The name of this exciting new class will be announced at the unveiling of the first boat in July next year.

Design specifications

~ Weight: 5,700kg

~ LOA: 70ft

~ Width: 12metres

~ Mast height: 30 metres

Sail specifications

~ Main 168m2

~ Solent 115m2

~ Staysail 72m2

~ Code 0 155m2

~ Gennaker 260m2 (approx.)

America’s Cup-Race 7

Alinghi defends the America’s Cup for the first time in European waters with a 5-2 win over Team New Zealand. The two yachts were so evenly matched that it was the small things that made the difference in the series.

Remember that Team New Zealand led both Races 5 and 6 on the first downwind leg and then lost both. One for a torn spinnaker and one for a wind shift on the second windward leg. The score could have easily been different. However, it is the general feeling that Alinghi did have a slight edge in boat speed and this allowed them to survive in very difficult situations such as off the starting line today when there was just 40 meters between the two boats with Alinghi to windward. My guess is that this series has had more lead changes than any other America’s Cup in history.

Without going into the details of today’s race, suffice it to say that it was one of the best of all time. The wind was in, up to 18 knots, the waves were big and the race was spectacular. Three lead changes, a penalty for EmiratesTeam New Zealand at the second windward mark, and a 150 degree wind shift on the run to the finish. Then the closest finish in America’s Cup history, one second! Beating the previous closest finish, that of 1992 when Il Moro di Venezia beat America3 by three seconds. It could not have been more spectacular and in a way the finish race was a synthesis of the entire series.

Now what?

Probably a Cup in Valencia in two years. A short time frame is good for those teams who are continuing. Commercially, it seems to be the right thing to do, to keep the sponsors in front of their constituency. However, some tradition is going away. The Cup has always been a once every three or four year event like the Olympics and World Cup Football. There is something special about how Desafio Espanol has been accepted by Societe Nautique de Genève as Challenger of Record. The Spanish put on a great show here in 2007, exceeding many expectations by arriving in the semi-finals and even taking two races off the Kiwis, something Luna Rossa could not do in the Louis Vuitton Finals. For sure they will try to raise their game for the 33rd America’s Cup and being Challenger of Record is part of the complete package that this team is putting together. It also seems perfect to give the real home town team a role in this event.

The market for sailors, designers and managers is in full motion here in Valencia. A Cup in two years would be the shortest ever, so who can hit the ground running right now, with the right people, will certainly have an advantage. Those who have to go look for funding for six months will surely be behind the eight ball.

Will the boat change? The word is yes. It makes sense. With the performance envelope of these boats nearly reduced to one line, the only way the defender can get an edge is to change the class of boat. Of course this is not something Alinghi started thinking about yesterday. A few designs and probably even a few tank models have already passed under the bridge at Alinghi. Tomorrow they will reveal some of the rules to the rest of the group.

When, where, with what? This is the Cup. It is part of the game. The winner decides. It is what makes this thing a Holy Grail. On Thursday, Alinghi will release the Protocol that has been agreed with Desafio Espanol as Challenger of Record and in the following weeks more information will be released.

Big party at Alinghi tonight. Emirates Team New Zealand should hold their heads high. They did a fantastic job. The cruel reality in sport is that there is only one winner!

Thanks for following the America’s Cup with me this spring. In a few days, I will write my thoughts on Valencia and the upcoming announcements.

Paul

Must do better

The two round-robins are now finished. No surprises among the top three. The battle for fourth was a tough one. Mascalzone Latino looked favourite for the final spot after beating Team New Zealand in their very first race, but they could not hold the form and in the end Desafío Español secured that fourth slot.

Having done some work with Desafío this spring, it was nice to see the Spanish grow through the round-robins. They have a good boat, great boat-handling and they steadily improved. For sure they will face a tough opponent in the semi-finals but they have possibly the most potential to improve.

It was interesting to see the differences in the designs and which shapes prevailed. A high-prismatic boat (more volume in the ends) would do better in strong winds and lower prismatic (volume more concentrated in the middle of the hull) would do better in lighter winds and in manoeuvring. Also there are the cross-sectional shape differences. Some boats are very round and some have very hard bilges, almost chines. As the class has got narrower, bilges have been pushed harder to maintain stability and to reduce wetted surface at 30 – 33 degrees’ heel … the upwind target angle in 15kt. But the harder bilges seem to make the boat slower manoeuvring. While on these Version 5 boats with Desafío I often had the sensation I was sailing a shoebox in the prestart, as compared to the 2000 boats.

To my eye, in the top six, high-prismatic boats are Victory and Mascalzone, middle are BMW Oracle and Desafío Español, and the lowest-prismatic boats are Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand. The other big variable is which boats have been worked up to near the maximum of their potential. Obviously the bigger teams, with more money and time and experience, have got the most out of their boats. So from a design perspective we can’t draw any big conclusions simply from race results.

Personally, I like the mid to high-prismatic boats. I think Mascalzone and Victory are very good designs but both suffered from lack of experience in getting the most out of their boats in the time. Also the detailing, including fin/bulb/rudder, may not have been optimised fully. There is a lot of speed in detailing, tuning and sail shape and trim. There is a lot of speed in the steering and trimming that goes on during a race. Sailing is very dynamic. Not all teams are sailing their boat to the full potential all the time. The good teams can keep the boat ‘in the groove’ 97 per cent of the time while the less experienced teams will get distracted by the race and sail well maybe 85 per cent of the race. I think Alinghi is at least as high prismatic as BMW if not close to Mascalzone. That is why Alinghi are moving the start time for the match to a time that suits! Nice to be able to do that, eh? The others… 11th) China – good first try? Nice to have them in the game. 10th) Germany – first-timers. Nice to have them in the game. Not a terribly slow boat. 9th) +39 – underfunded. Too bad for an excellent group of sailors. 8th) Areva – more of the same from France, a country that should be doing better by now. 7th) Shosholoza – simply the best of the rest. Tomasso Chieffi and Paolo Cian did a great job. A lot of heart and soul in this team. 6th) Mascalzone – huge improvement on 2003. Almost! 5th) Victory Challenge – close but no cigar from a country that has been in the game for a while now. Got going too late.

A quick look at the semi-finalists

Team New Zealand came into play on the last day of the roundrobins. Good to see this type of execution when the pressure is on. The boat seems OK, but not great. It is good in 11kt and under. Fast downwind but these races are won at the start and up the first windward leg. Is there some more in the shed? BMW Oracle look very strong in all areas. USA 98 is a good all-round boat. Brady and Isler are doing a nice job of keeping it all together in the back. The crew are solid. But the question is will they be able to maintain the form when the going gets tough? Luna Rossa are similar to TNZ in design and performance – best suited to 11kt and under. Maybe not quite as powerful upwind. Will these teams be able to improve their range? Luna already have the low CG/high wetted surface bulb. What else can they do? Desafío look to have a similar prismatic to Oracle. This boat has the wheels in 15kt and defends well in 10. The sea breeze should be more regular as we go on and the start time from now on is 1500 which should favour Desafío and BMW… Desafío will be the underdog in the semis but no pressure is a great way to race.

Desafío Español are the only ‘first-time’ challenge in the four. The other three are into at least their second (BMW Oracle) or 6th (TNZ) attempt. The ‘roll-on’ factor is a big advantage. The best ‘first-time challenge’ and ‘bang for the buck’ award has to go to Shosholoza. This team impressed and enchanted. So what is the end game for the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup? Alinghi are waiting. Well, not really waiting. They are working hard testing changes and making their own schedule while the challengers try to win races and develop boats at the same time. After an incredibly well-conceived Protocol which has given Alinghi more advantages than any defender has ever had, the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup can expect not only every card stacked against them but also a very fast boat and well-oiled crew. The Alinghi trimmers are the best in the business so they are getting the most out of their boat more of the time than the rest.

The crew are mostly the same as 2003, so lack of confidence is not a problem! The one weakness may be at the helm. Obviously, Russell Coutts is the best but probably Baird or Holmberg will be good enough to get the job done.

Outlook: Alinghi 5-1. This may be generous to the challenger. Then what? Cup in Valencia in two years? Cup in Dubai? Cup to the highest bidder? Probably. Entertaining Dubai and others just to up the ante for Valencia? Probably.

Valencia has all the infrastructure so it would be a shame not to use it again. Collecting money from everywhere possible has been one of ACM’s most prolific traits… Just ask anyone who ponied up the 500,000 euros for a parking spot in the harbour for a couple of months.

All the hype by ACM about being an objective race organiser is just that – hype. This is the first time ever that the challenger eliminations have been run by the defender. It has never been worse for the challengers and I would be surprised if they accept this imposition again from this group. It is a shame really because the concept of one independent race management for the entire event is a good one.

But this ACM is a subsidiary of Alinghi and little has been done to mask that fact. I think BMW Oracle should send Larry in himself to do the negotiating next time. He seems to do pretty well in the software world.