by Bob Fisher
Bob Fisher gets another fix in Cascais, riding shotgun with James Spithill and Oracle Racing
Bob Fisher, one of the worlds top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Cascais, Portugal for the first round of the America's Cup World Series.
Bob is a multihuller from way back, having competed for Britain in the Little America's Cup and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.
Dear Diary – Day 3 and trying not to count - America's Cup World Series - Cascais, Portugal
This junkie had another fix today; well not one but three, and then some. Meeting the right people at the right time (Jimmy Spithill at the welcoming party last evening) and asking the correct question (Got any space for a passenger tomorrow?) resulted in the sixth-man spot on Oracle Racing No.4 for the three speed trials.
With the wind gusting to maybe 15 knots and the starting slots allotted in rotation, there was a modicum of luck involved that decided the final placings. Jimmy would have liked a slightly deeper angle on the course, but agreed that you have to accept the cards as they are dealt. Never mind, they were three quick runs and brought more smiles to may face.
There really is no true justification for these trials, but there were thousands of spectators along the shore and in boats to watch the waterborne gladiators go about their business and they all should have been mightily impressed by what they saw as all nine AC-45s were hurtling down the half kilometre course, one after the other.
I wasn’t allowed, by the rules set down for guests, to contribute much to the performance as I had to be within an arm’s reach of the centre spine of the boat, but I worked out that if I laid flat on the trampoline extension behind the aft cross beam, I could just about reach the centre spine once I had buckled in the middle.
I informed Jimmy of the last time I had been aboard a multihull in a speed-trial over the 500-metre course – it was 1972 in Portland Harbour on the 60-foot proa, Crossbow, with Tim Colman, whose Norwich-based family company is famous for other hot stuff, and the designer, Rod Macalpine-Downie, running up and down the cross beam to balance the boat against the wind while Tim steered in his tiny pod at the extreme. That day we did 26.3 knots.
Today, Oracle 4’s best run was at 37.16 km/hr; it had taken around three-quarters of a minute and I didn’t notice one relaxed crewman on board throughout that time. Fourth best again – save me from being a Jonah someone please – these fourth places simply will not do. They do not however stop me from smiling – that state will need surgical removal.
Particularly so as Jimmy let me steer the boat when the trials were over, but I will not bore you with the details, except to comment that the boat felt truly alive and instantly responsive. It all happens as it should. Ain’t modern materials wonderful. I want one, but don’t tell Dee.
Today’s one race looked to be a runaway victory for Emirates Team New Zealand until Winston Macfarlane took it in his head to win the Mark Spitz Trophy with a head-first exit over the weather side and left skipper Dean Barker with only three men to manipulate the sails on the final beat. The second place to Russell Coutts’ Oracle No 5 did, however, keep ETNZ on the top of the overall standings, and the team also had the compensation of winning the speed trials (with Winston back on board).
There’s a couple of days before racing recommences – time maybe to find another ride. I hope so.