my Cup runneth under

Don

Super Anarchist
1,105
43
Melbourne


So that’s that for another three years. New Zealand retains the America’s Cup 7-3. Yet apart from the excruciating – and ultimately unfair – Race 8, and the desperately lucky (for NZ) Race 9, the contest tended towards the monotonous, predictable, even anticlimactic. The faster boat won, as it always has since 1970.

(“Unfair” because the Kiwi splashdown was a clear error of commission – they gybed into the backwind of the Italians while Luna Rossa came off their foils later in that race only because the breeze had momentarily disappeared. And “lucky” in  Race 9 because textbook tactics from the Italians handed the Kiwis an undeserved winning 20% lift.)

The short, narrow courses with boundaries designed for television limited tactical options. There was no room to take a “flyer” or hang on to a favorable shift. Meanwhile, the Hauraki Gulf failed to deliver the expected stiff breezes, so the boats rarely hit anything approaching their maximum speeds.  

For the most part, watching eight of these ten races provided little more than a quick sugar hit. There were, at best, 90 seconds of genuine excitement in the pre-start, a few minutes of mild anticipation to confirm that the boat that won the start would lead at the first mark, then a five-leg procession in which there were no passes and the only real interest was to check the gap and compare VMGs and boat speeds.  

Perhaps realizing that these wham-bang-thank-you-m’am encounters lacked real drama the commentators and pundits pumped up the hype and rushed to declare the ‘return of match racing’ in Auckland, or speculate about hypothetical ‘passing lanes’. Both were in regrettably short supply. 

Back when AC boats kept their hulls in the water the pre-start dogfights could last up to ten minutes and made riveting viewing. Hitting the line on ‘zero’ was largely irrelevant. It was tough, aggressive, hand-to-hand combat. Circling, luffing, false tacks, bearing away – they used tactical flair, sheer sailing skill and every trick in the rule-book to gain an advantage.

Comparisons can be odious, but there are many other factors from the history of the America’s Cup that, considered against the series just concluded, might help explain why the AC36 racing at times seemed so alien to the fundamentals of the event.

Let’s take the 1983 challenge, Australia II v Liberty, as our base line. It was the last to be sailed at Newport and the second-last to be sailed in 12 metres. Here are a few ‘then and now’ comparisons:

*  In 1983 the 12 metres displaced around 23 tons and sailed at 8 knots. The boats were almost always in dueling contact. The foiling monomarans in Auckland weighed around 7.5 tons and could do 50 knots. Those high speeds multiply differences, so a small lead blew out to 500 metres or more very quickly. 

*  The course in Newport was 24.3 miles, including a triangle. Every point of sailing was tested, as was the stamina and concentration of the crews. The courses in Auckland were windward/leeward only, and around 10 miles in length. It was impossible, at a glance, to tell whether the AC75s were sailing uphill or downhill.

*  The average elapsed time in Newport was roughly 4 hours, with a time limit of 5 hours and 15 minutes. Mistakes could be corrected, gear failures overcome. The races in Auckland took between 25 and 40 minutes to complete – one eighth of the time. Losing the start, even by a few seconds, was usually fatal.

More significant than those stark physical contrasts are the different styles of racing. 

Until the carbon multihulls took over the Cup, all boats sailed with poled spinnakers. This added a significant tactical dimension and put a premium on crew work. One botched gybe could cost a race; a perfect delayed drop and mark rounding might win one. Each maneuver was a crucial – and visible – test of teamwork and skill.

In Auckland, eight of the eleven crew in the AC75s spent their race below gunnel level, heads down, just grinding. They were proxy engines, and rarely, if ever, touched a line or control. Sail trim was a matter of inches. To television viewers it is was if the jib and main were kept sheeted on hard for the entire race. Helming was like steering a car.

The closeness in performance of the 12 metres encouraged epic boat-on-boat battles. It was not uncommon for them to throw 30 tacks at each other on a single upwind leg. Yet in the third race in 1983 Liberty and Australia II stayed on the same tack for 22 minutes, each daring the other to break away. Multiple lead changes and come-from-behind wins were not exceptional 30 years ago. The tension for spectators was exquisite.

This year, during one sequence of 14 Prada Cup races in Auckland, the lead never changed over the 84 legs sailed – except once, when the American Magic capsize let Luna Rossa through. Then, during the Cup itself, there were just two or three genuine passes in the 59 legs sailed. It was difficult to get excited by those repetitive processions. One small mistake and it was usually game over.

None of this is to say that the event in New Zealand wasn’t worth watching. It was the America’s Cup, after all, even if – bizarrely – the worst mistake a crew could make was to actually let their ‘boat’ touch the water.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect to emerge from the series, at least for me, was that sheer speed doesn’t matter. It’s the differential that counts. Close racing is just as engrossing at 5 knots as it is at 40. All those hundreds of millions of dollars spent developing foiling monomarans might have kept a lot of sailing folk in work but it delivered no real extra value to the event. Watching boats duel at 30 knots quickly became unremarkable. 

And if it showed us anything, this competition between two low-flying seaplanes demonstrated that the pinnacle of sailing now has virtually no practical connection with what most of us know as ‘yacht racing’. Nor is it likely to have popularized the sport. The general public, if they were aware of the event at all, would have been utterly bemused.

Let’s hope that the next America’s Cup is contested in boats.

- anarchist David
What an absolute pile of rubbish. Since when has yachting and especially the Americas Cup been about the general public. You have a right to your views, but you do not speak for all sailors.

 

The Advocate

Super Anarchist
What an absolute pile of rubbish. Since when has yachting and especially the Americas Cup been about the general public. You have a right to your views, but you do not speak for all sailors.
Enthusiasts of any type are a funny lot.

Want more money to go play but don't want to broaden the appeal of what they do to a wider audience to generate that money.

Want more teams but don't want to put ideas in place to make that happen because it takes away from the "purity".

The term mutually exclusive is a concept they seem to ignore.

 

shanghaisailor

Super Anarchist
3,140
1,282
Shanghai, China
I was in Lorient earlier at La Base, no one talking about Cup, foil mini proto yes, foil IMOCA yes, Figaro yes, Ultim yes, AC non. Course too restrictive as made for TV. Boats very cool, but as spectacle is not so much interesting.
What do you expect, it was Lorient! The interest amongst the sailors there is all about short handed or long distance ocean sailing. Kevin, Charles, Frank et al are driven towards that NOT the America's Cup

 

Groucho Marx

Anarchist
842
221
auckland, nz
Always this quasi-religious reference to the boring !2 metres; the 12s, in reality of the time period, were complete and utter pigs/dogs/turkeys - and they were NOT the apotheosis  of yacht design of the period.  In that semi-outlaw/outrageous country of radical yacht design and development, you know the one I'm referring to, where the oinker 12s were blindly considered the peak of race yacht development, there had already been, for a number of years, truly advanced, lightweight and outrageously fast sailing designs from Farr, Whiting, Davidson and Young. And dare I mention the other outlaws of the time, the multihulls.

 
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OW3

Member
174
28
Wind and Waves. I think it's the stadium courses that kill it for me. Wind limits, flat water, tight course boundaries, it feels restrictive, almost clinical. The 10-15 knot range I found boring, it was the lower and upper wind ranges that had me interested. Can they stay on foils in fuck all breeze, are they going to bin it in the death zone around the top mark in 20+ knots.

The 12's in '87 were epic because of the venue - wind and waves. All these years on I'll still happily watch those beasts smashing through big swell. I'm still amazed by the skill of those crews, just hanging on in those conditions is hard enough, let alone handling sails etc.

The Cape Town inshore races of the Volvo Race are also epic to watch, usually because of the wind and waves. V70's hopelessly short on crew numbers trying to wrestle them around a course, boat handling & decisions at a premium, water over the deck, that shit is cool to watch.

Also boats that can wipe out without ruining your whole campaign and pissing millions up the wall for nothing. American Magic eating shit was awesome to watch, it was spectacular, but then it laid down and died and it was all over red rover. I like watching skiffs cartwheeling & ejecting crew, or a TP52 laid flat in a shit gybe, but they usually get back up, shake it off and keep racing without spending the next week inside a boat building facility never to be the same again. Boats being pushed to the absolute edge of control are cool to watch. No doubt the AC75's are on the edge most of the time but when one does crash and burn I want to see it get back up and shake it off without the aid of 5 support boats. 

I can live with time limits and short races because I have the attention span of a 2 year old. It's also made for TV viewing. It might also attract non sailors to watch. If I'm bored and channel surfing the tv I'll happily watch some obscure sport I know nothing about as long as it doesn't drag on for hours. It usually sends me off googling the rules or the main players etc.

 

Sisu3360

Anarchist
623
210
Always this quasi-religious reference to the boring !2 metres; the 12s, in reality of the time period, were complete and utter pigs/dogs/turkeys - and they were NOT the apotheosis  of yacht design of the period.  In that semi-outlaw/outrageous country of radical yacht design and development, you know the one I'm referring to, where the oinker 12s were blindly considered the peak of race yacht development, there had already been, for a number of years, truly advanced, lightweight and outrageously fast sailing designs from Farr, Whiting, Davidson and Young. And dare I mention the other outlaws of the time, the multihulls.
Actually, I think that's a point in favor of the 12m nostalgia. They weren't the pinnacle of yacht design and deliberately selected to allow affordable competition in the postwar economy. The J boats were also chosen as a cost-saving measure, as the syndicates were tired of boats that barely held together for the match and were immediately useless after.

These were not necessarily the most cutting-edge classes available at the time. They were rules that allowed innovation to be showcased but were chosen for reasons other than total balls-out performance to the exclusion of everything else.

As for me, the Cup since 2007 has lost me. I no longer feel like I'm watching the same sport that I play. Simple as that.

 

Avant22

New member
Always this quasi-religious reference to the boring !2 metres; the 12s, in reality of the time period, were complete and utter pigs/dogs/turkeys - and they were NOT the apotheosis  of yacht design of the period.  In that semi-outlaw/outrageous country of radical yacht design and development, you know the one I'm referring to, where the oinker 12s were blindly considered the peak of race yacht development, there had already been, for a number of years, truly advanced, lightweight and outrageously fast sailing designs from Farr, Whiting, Davidson and Young. And dare I mention the other outlaws of the time, the multihulls.
Also Elliot, Ross, Holland, and earlier Spencer, Townson, Stewart

 

WetHog

Super Anarchist
8,603
415
Annapolis, MD USA
I have no desire to see the return of the 12s but I can count on one hand how many races were the slightest bit exciting after the start and one of those races AM tipped their boat over and almost sunk. 

No use complaining though because these boats will be back for another cycle.  Hopefully the next generation of these boats produce a bit more excitement in AC37.  

Having said all that, what are the prospects there will be more than 4 teams for AC37?  Between COVID, the boats and possibly a BS 2 team Cup in England it doesn’t appear promising at the moment, IMO. 

WetHog   :ph34r:

 
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(“Unfair” because the Kiwi splashdown was a clear error of commission – they gybed into the backwind of the Italians while Luna Rossa came off their foils later in that race only because the breeze had momentarily disappeared. And “lucky” in  Race 9 because textbook tactics from the Italians handed the Kiwis an undeserved winning 20% lift.)
What a biased viewpoint you have.

Bruni actually admitted the splashdown during the tack was their own error and Nathan O also pointed out the point when the foil cavitated. Both teams made mistakes causing the splashdowns, NZ were just able to get foiling quicker, so maybe luck, maybe better foils?

As to the tactical error, NZ were piling on the pressure and LR had the option to go either way, and made the wrong choice. Maybe under less pressure they would have made the right call. If they had sailed textbook tactics, they would have sailed into righthand shift, they didn't, and lost.

If anything, LR got lucky earlier on that beat, when they wanted to protect the right, but couldn't as NZ were too close, and they were forced left, and got a lucky left hand shift out of it.

 

Sailbydate

Super Anarchist
11,815
3,401
Kohimarama
Formula E is pretty cool. Different designs and Battery management is just like Tire management in F1. 
At least they don't get to swap cars during the bloody race any more. WTF?

(Actually, I'm amazed no one's tried to figure out how to change batteries in a hurry). How hard could that be?

 

Dave S

Member
372
132
(Actually, I'm amazed no one's tried to figure out how to change batteries in a hurry). How hard could that be?
Quite hard actually. Whenever I need to change batteries in a hurry I either can't find the mini screwdriver needed to remove the battery cover, the little rubber O-ring won't sit in the right place when I try to put it back, or it turns out that despite having a huge box of spare batteries, I don't have one that's the correct size.

 

Sailbydate

Super Anarchist
11,815
3,401
Kohimarama
Quite hard actually. Whenever I need to change batteries in a hurry I either can't find the mini screwdriver needed to remove the battery cover, the little rubber O-ring won't sit in the right place when I try to put it back, or it turns out that despite having a huge box of spare batteries, I don't have one that's the correct size.
Ha, ha. Same problem Different application.

The batteries are in the floor, right? Disconnect spent batteries, unclip and drop to the floor. Push car forward over charged replacements, clip in and re-connect.

Remember, it used to be a problem undoing five wheel nuts to replace a tyre. "What if we..." soon sorted that.

 

punter

Super Anarchist
1,474
1
As for me, the Cup since 2007 has lost me. I no longer feel like I'm watching the same sport that I play. Simple as that.
This is the crux of the issue to me.  Up until 2007 the AC followed one particular part of our sport, that is, leadmine boats.  But our sport is multi-faceted and the Cup is exploring that in the new designs.  And it is following what the new generation of sailors are sailing.  All new designs for the next gen are foiling from moths to cats to boards.  The AC is keeping itself relevant to the future of the sport.  It needs some tweaks for sure

 

Sailbydate

Super Anarchist
11,815
3,401
Kohimarama
I'd say not. For example a lot of what happened through AC33-35 originated in the C-Class. I think claims of trickle-down from the AC are often exaggerated.
OK. Let's call it momentum, then. The AC has accelerated foiling momentum. At least that is what I'm seeing.

 




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