America’s Cup-Race 1

No surprise in the result. Alinghi 1, New Zealand 0

However, I think there was a bit of a surprise for everyone in the way the Swiss achieved this victory and the strengths demonstrated.

The conditions were 13 knots of wind, with a moderate to large sea. Alinghi was a bit faster upwind, but not by much. By contrast, they were very fast downwind.

This is very telling to me. It means that SUI 100 is more all around than most people thought. Less dominant upwind, less dominant in strong wind but not as weak in light wind. So rather than a crossover…a condition in which we could find Team New Zealand being faster, we may see the Swiss boat just a touch faster in all conditions. This is still a guess, but it is my impression.

The Kiwis made no mistakes. In fact, they had a slightly better start, they had the right side of the course which I would have picked, and for the first five minutes the Kiwis gained. Slowly the Swiss came back, party due to their speed and partly due to a slight left shift. At the first cross, 15 minutes after the start, and off to the right side of the course, Alinghi held a 20 meter advantage that they used to push the Kiwis toward the layline. It seemed that Alinghi gained slightly on each of the eight tacks that ensued.

Near the top of the first windward leg, Alinghi actually made a slight mistake in not tacking right on top of TNZ and allowed them to save the two extra tacks that a trailing boat is usually obliged to make. This made the first run a bit closer than it would have otherwise been.

It was on the runs, the downwind legs, that Alinghi impressed me the most. The Swiss gained 7 seconds on the first run and 21 seconds on the final run to the finish. This is the part of today that really surprised me and is most telling.

Neither team made any mistakes in their crew work or sail selection. These are pros at the top of their game. One thing that needs to be said is that Alinghi created a fair amount of in-house competition to get their crew work to a very high level, without having 30+ official races as Team New Zealand did.

Tomorrow for Race 2, we should have a seabreeze, possibly a bit lighter and with less seaway than today. Let’s see if this changes the relative performance of the boats.