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America’s Cup: Why day 2 made things exciting and confusing

Matthew Sheahan checks in from Auckland after the first two days of America’s Cup racing

I am going to need therapy after this America’s Cup. In 30 years of covering events as a journalist/commentator I can’t think of one that has so consistently delivered the opposite to what was expected.

It’s enough to have you question your judgement every day. Fortunately, it seems that even the real experts are as confused as I am as to what to expect and have eaten so much humble pie over the last few weeks as to put on weight through opinion alone.

But no one is complaining.

Today I had a natter with INEOS grinder Freddie Carr at the Cup’s favourite gossip venue about what he was reading into the Cup so far.

I was delighted and relieved to discover that he too is changing his mind as quickly as the rest of us. But, what makes his views so interesting is that he’s looking at things from a point of view of someone who’s been there and is used to analysing the opposition.

If you want to know more about how the teams compare it’s worth listening to what he has to say.

Meanwhile, as far as this America’s Cup Day 2 is concerned, after talking to regatta director Iain Murray this morning I started off thinking that there was a good chance that we wouldn’t see any racing today.

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As a result, I started thinking about light weather sailing and what we might see and this had me thinking about an advert that’s been on Kiwi TV screens for at least the last three months.

It’s a commercial for Kiwi sponsors McDonalds and features a young lad and his dad in a model boat race where they win by deploying a code zero fashioned from a cheeseburger wrapper, (I have yet to run this past North Sails president Ken Read but suspect there’s a new technology here too).

When I got up early this (Friday) morning to study the weather and write the online morning briefing the penny dropped. Just a few days ago we had seen the Kiwis sailing with a new, high clew code zero. And while they were being coy about whether they would use it or not, they didn’t challenge the suggestion that perhaps this would be an insurance policy just for the last leg to the finish.

Surely it would make sense?

They had got caught out in the America’s Cup World Series when they dropped off their foils when the breeze dropped and lost out to Luna Rossa.

Looking further back to San Francisco (for the 2013 America’s Cup) they had been unable to finish a race that could have helped to deliver a Cup win when they ran out of time on the last leg.

Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

But what if they wanted us and more importantly their opponents, to think that?

What if instead, they had some way of using a code zero throughout the race simply to stay on the foils and to get to where the breeze was? As with any light airs racing, getting to the breeze is often more important than the direction you are sailing and in these boats it’s even more crucial.

And what if they could deploy it in the pre-start?

I’m probably going wildly off piste here, Ken tells me that a code zero would be flapping in the breeze as soon as the beast got up on the foils and therefore useless for this. I guess he’s right, so I blame the caffeine and hanging around for Cup races for my wayward thinking.

Anyway, fortunately what the speculation hasn’t done is make me hungry enough to want a quarter pounder… yet.

But all this speculation turned out to be a waste of time for Day 2 as we got sailing where none was expected, and once the stray spectators had been cleared off the course, racing got away largely on time.

As I’m sure you know the scoreline ended up with another draw and while there were no lead changes and therefore little in the way of tension, (something that the naysayers will leap on I’m sure), the fact that we are even-Stephens after two days is pretty unusual. Add to this the fact that we are in a brand new class where the teams have done precious little racing when compared to years gone by and it’s interesting to see how far we are down the development line already.

Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

But if what you want is a quick synopsis as to how the teams compare, the answer is that the first race showed us that the Italians are indeed quicker in the light, especially upwind. The Kiwis have the edge downwind and that the starts are critical.

The second race of the day demonstrated that much of what we thought we knew from the previous races had to be reconsidered. After the Kiwis had won the start and bounced Luna Rossa off to the right when the left was the side that paid, the Kiwis simply stretched out their lead leg after leg.

The bottom line is that after two days and 4 races we are as good at predicting the outcome as we are the weather. And that booking some time on a couch after all this is over may be a smart move.

To read more of Matthew Sheahan’s thoughts from Auckland, head over to his blog at: www.planetsail.org.

The post America’s Cup: Why day 2 made things exciting and confusing appeared first on Yachting World.

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