by Bob Fisher
Emirates Team NZ shows the fleet a pair of transoms on the Practice Day, Cascais - America’s Cup World Series 2011
Top international yachting writer, Bob Fisher, is in Cascais for the opening round of the America's Cup World Series. He gives his view of the Practice Race:
It’s the day before the first America’s Cup World Series Regatta is due to start and with it, by assumption, AC34. The sun is shining, ashore it is 28° and there is a westerly breeze of 8-10 knots with gusts of two or three more – the ideal conditions for a series of short, testing races.
Cascais is the best regatta venue in Europe and ideal for the high-performance AC-45s to show their full potential to a crowd ashore. Three races were scheduled on this preview day and all three were held for the benefit of the nine crews and the race management team, eager tp prove the technology at its disposal.
There were few surprises – the teams that had put in the most practice with their boats since they were first launched appeared at the top of the race results, which is as it should be, but no one expected that all three races would be won by Emirates Team New Zealand.
The Kiwis were spurred perhaps by the announcement earlier in the day of an additional sponsor for the America’s Cup campaign. Not a surprise perhaps considering the involvement with the Volvo Ocean Race boat as naming sponsor, but more of a shoe-in for Camper.
It was also a trial for the trio of helicopters that over-fly the course to provide both the accurate placements of the boats by GPS and the television pictures. One might say that they are the only fly in the ointment because of the inevitable noise pollution, but silencing helicopters is a step too far for the progress of this event.
One other step too far was the delay in the progress of the Green Comm team’s boat. Late in delivery from the boatyard and late in shipping has given the team led by the ebullient Italian Finn silver medallist, Luca Devotti, beloved in Sydney for lobbing his bouquet to a crowd of girls as he received his Olympic medal, very little time to catch up and after two days of sailing, the boat was needed for branding, in this day and age a singularly important function. But one waits in awe for this team of superstars to make its racing debut.
What is difficult to decipher is the scoring system that will be used for the coming regatta and the reasons behind it, although some of those will need clarifying if logistical thought is employed. Why, for instance, on both Sundays is there only one, 40-minute long, fleet race? It is the day when the heaviest spectator crowds are expected and the opportunity for ACEA to make the most publicity, but, it would seem, the Great God Television controls the calendar.
Tomorrow (Saturday) the regatta begins in earnest with three fleet races and 50 minutes of time trials over a 500-metre course to see which team can record the fastest speed – now that has to be for publicity purposes only. Contradicts the Sunday decision somehow.