Update from Valencia

These days are getting very redundant. Valencia: 0 for 4. What are the odds of this? I asked the great meteorologist Roger “Clouds” Badham this morning, “less than 1 in a million” was his reply.

For sure this is a record that will stand for a very long time. I have been sailing for 40 years this year. The only time I can think of that I was at a regatta and did not race for four days in a row may be at the 1978 Star North Americans in Toronto. We took up lawn bowling on that occasion!

There may be one good reason that there hasn’t been any wind for four days. You may remember that +39 broke its only new mast during the fleet racing two weeks ago. They were hit by the Germans and it was the Germans’ fault. The Germans offered to give +39 one of their spare version 5 masts…the latest. The jury was willing to make the necessary changes to make it happen but the challenger group voted it down. So +39 put in an old Alinghi mast and has been “ready to race” with that mast since the beginning of Round Robin 1. Meanwhile their shore team has been working night and day to repair the broken mast. The mast will be put in the boat tonight and +39 will sail at 0800 tomorrow to tune the repaired rig. Being an Italian team, maybe someone above is taking care of the justice!

The agitation amongst the teams and sponsors is growing. The television teams are going crazy trying to figure out how to handle their audiences.

For me at La7, today was my busiest day. At 0830 I met with Roger Badham and we filmed and 5 minute piece on why there has been no wind here for four days. Roger explained that there has been virtually no gradient (system driven winds) wind around Valencia in this period. In this case, we need to rely on a thermal wind, also known as a sea breeze. A sea breeze is a circulation of air; cooler air onto warmer land, which heats up and rises to a few thousand feet and then heads out over the cooler water, where it cools and descends back down to the surface and then is sucked back over the warm land. The problem hasn’t been the heat and temperature differential. The problem has been that the little bit of gradient aloft is in the opposite direction to that of the recirculation warm air aloft, going out over the water to be cooled. This has blocked the circulation and the “pump has not been able to get primed”.

Next I went to +39 to see their mast repair and do a piece on the role of the Pit Man onboard one of these boats. With all the halyards and foreguy, topping lift, etc. in that area one realizes pretty quickly that an octopus would be the best animal for that job.

Then we went live at 1400 for 10 minutes and maintained a vigil in the studio waiting for the start of the race. It looked more promising than other days as the boats were sailing, heeled upwind, gennakers downwind. Yet the committee did not feel the wind was stable enough to give start.

So at 1730, La7, my TV station, ran a 30 minute special. First, we showed the piece with clouds filmed earlier this morning. Then we did a piece on Luna Rossa who played soccer this morning. Then I did a “stand up” live, on the importance of righting moment to a sail boat. The subject of righting moment has come into focus since the unveiling on April 1.

There is speculation over here that Alinghi has found a away to increase their righting moment by moving the keel while racing. Photos of the Alinghi keel show a “buldge” in the top 30cm of the fin section nearest the hull. Some are speculating that the “buldge” is the housing of some sort of trick mechanism to control the keel laterally. As the rules strictly prohibit this, I think it is more likely that if anything at all, they may have found a way to reduce the amount of deflection of the keel fin while under load, upwind. It may even be that the attachment of the keel is done in a trick way so as to make use of the loads on the keel or mast. Any reduction of leeward deflection of the keel would translate into greater righting moment. Some teams seem very distracted by this and others less. It is also possible that the keel fin is simply thicker there which would reduce deflection. Of course there is a cost to having a thicker fin, that being drag. But the designers make calculations on the tradeoff of the gain of having the bulb held closer to centerline versus the added drag of the thicker section. It is even possible that there is nothing to it and that Alinghi is just enjoying the disruption that this is causing some of the challengers. It would not surprise me if that was the case.

So as is typical of the America’s Cup, the pot is being stirred. Never a dull moment even while we are setting records for numbers of days without sailing a single race!