my Cup runneth under

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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
and that is the private opinion of some people involved in the higher levels of this cup that I have personally spoken with.....

Foiling is not sailing, and as soon as people stop confusing the two our sport will be better off. What foiling is though is a massive gravy train :)  

 

shanghaisailor

Super Anarchist
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A dozen Wallycentos @ 10-15m euro each, easily have a dozen teams, affordable and would be quite a spectacle.
Sorry but that's no cheaper than an AC75. The costs of the boats is not the problem, most of the cost is human cost. Accommodation, salaries and travel.

Besides One Design isn't the way of the America's Cup, neither is cheapness. It has always been a big boys game

 

EYESAILOR

Super Anarchist
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100% spot on. FWIW, we were warned about the disparity between the boats during this cycle as folks tried to find the fastest corner of the design envelope. That is what made some of this Cup cringeworthy. That said, race 9 (??) was one of the best match races ever in cup history. That was awesome. 

I am an "in the water" guy...but the Cup can only get better from here as the speeds get closer and the designs, boats, become more accessible. The event will need some tweaks but this format is here to stay.
Yes. Let us acknowledge how much closer the racing got as the boats were refined and the team skills got sharper.

After the ACWS in Deecember,   Ineos looked like a dog and ETNZ looked infinitely superior to LR.

Yet by the challenger series, Ineos was a finalist and dominated in the RR.  In the AC, LR took 3 races and led in 3 races that she ultimately lost.    It was closer than many other ACs and will get tighter still if they stick to these boats.

There is still a lot of development to come, and rather like Formula One, we may see technical superiority have an impact. Which team will be superior is hard to forecast.

 

marlowe

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and that is the private opinion of some people involved in the higher levels of this cup that I have personally spoken with.....

Foiling is not sailing, and as soon as people stop confusing the two our sport will be better off. What foiling is though is a massive gravy train :)  
"Foiling is not sailing" is a vacuous statement. The AC75 is a sailboat that foils, the crew are (mostly) top class sailors, the principal figures in the teams are experienced sailors.

You, and the people you have spoken with, are entitled to your preference for displacement sailboats. If indeed these people are "involved in the higher levels of this cup" they clearly hold little influence as the next AC will once again be in AC75s.

 
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G

Guest

Guest
Its not sailing in the same sense that kite boards are not sailing, sure sailors can kite board and it has all the elements but it is not sailing in the traditional sense, it’s something else. A new branch of the sport that involves boats that fly. Is a seaplane a boat, no but it is a kind of temporary boat that primarily travels thousand of feet in the air. There is a proposed speed record project that involves a foil tethered to a capsule held aloft by a kite wing; Boat? Hardly but still, it involves water and a kind of sail. 

The point I am making is a positive one about reframing expectations with these craft, people tell me everyone wants to go foiling- not sailing with foils. It is.different branch of the sport and the AC 75’s are the most extreme example.

 
A

Amati

Guest
Yes. Let us acknowledge how much closer the racing got as the boats were refined and the team skills got sharper.

After the ACWS in Deecember,   Ineos looked like a dog and ETNZ looked infinitely superior to LR.

Yet by the challenger series, Ineos was a finalist and dominated in the RR.  In the AC, LR took 3 races and led in 3 races that she ultimately lost.    It was closer than many other ACs and will get tighter still if they stick to these boats.

There is still a lot of development to come, and rather like Formula One, we may see technical superiority have an impact. Which team will be superior is hard to forecast.
Will we see you in a Figaro 3 soon?  :)

 

NeedAClew

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I think a lot of the " it's not sailing" is correlated with "can't see sailors doing anything as they manipulate their controls and can't see details of trim, etc on camera"

 

porthos

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I think a lot of the " it's not sailing" is correlated with "can't see sailors doing anything as they manipulate their controls and can't see details of trim, etc on camera"
I rewatched the last race from 2007 the other night. I can't remember if I actually watched the race when it happened. But I was struck by (1) the number of crew on a boat -- those things were packed full of people; and (2) the number of crew that were doing absolutely nothing on the upwind leg but lying on their backs chatting with each other.  

 
Ok Ed, you make some good points but, the AC has changed from private funding to a corporate marketing machine. This ruins everything it touches. People, the planet and quality of life would all be better without the insatiable greed of corporations. 

The greedy wealthy don't care for your 12 year old sailing an opti. They just want your cash. 

 
G

Guest

Guest
Once you get past the truly amazing tech and the tension of the cup challenge its nowhere near as as interesting from a match racing perspective as say the concup. Sure it is interesting and it is a spectacle but you cant really compare it to the 12m era which to a sailing aficionado is like a 5 day cricket match vs T-20. When the commentators have to state that it’s a match race as if they are trying to connect the trad meaning to the foiling iteration, you know that its just not the same. People keep stating the most inane and obvious; the faster boat wins the cup... duh! Since when did a slow boat win any series unless helped by incredible luck and a crew that was absolutely next level. The other thing people say is that the AC is a technology competition as if thats only what its about,  thats also bullshit, the 12’s were by no means the fastest boats, of course within the rules they were pushed to the limit but thats also totally obvious.

Personally I am not big fan of the boats and I know a few people on a couple of the teams so I got a teeny bit of first hand a picture (no one says much, its pretty tight!) and I fully support them. I really enjoyed the competition in the same way i can get into a lot of sports without being a fan but once you get over the speed and the tension, there isn’t much in the way of nuances that I can relate too as a guy pushing water. So I’m underwhelmed.

Hey, I am an outlier- all my mates think its the best thing ever plenty of non sailing kiwis love it but I’m sure they would love it just as much if the cup was fought in a monster truck stadium, in that case I’m putting my money on Gravedigger

 

Sailbydate

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Am I missing your subtle innuendo; thought I made it overly obvious I was referring to NZ. Where the first glass 12 metre (Kiwi Magic) was built - when the 12s were all alloy - and the glass Kiwi was considered a grossly unfair cheat. Remember Conner's whinging?
Mr Conner: "Seventy-eight 12-metres have all been built of aluminium. So if you wanted to build a glass boat then why would you do it? Unless you wanted to cheat,"

 
G

Guest

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he had a bit of a point, depends how you define cheating, in one sense he was right- cheating tradition by using technology! 

 

Dave S

Member
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he had a bit of a point, depends how you define cheating, in one sense he was right- cheating tradition by using technology! 
Well... The actual allegation was that they'd built a glass boat specifically so that they could vary the hull thickness (which was against class rules) and make the boat lighter in the ends. That wasn't how it came across in the press conference though, and the detailed argument (which I think had already been refuted by then) was lost in the general acrimony. Core samples were taken and the boat pronounced legal, but Dennis still wasn't happy.

The off-the-water confrontation in those days was entertaining, but I don't miss it; the mutual respect we see now creates a much nicer atmosphere, and sets a much better example for the kids. 

 

AVALANINIA

New member
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Ok Ed, you make some good points but, the AC has changed from private funding to a corporate marketing machine. This ruins everything it touches. People, the planet and quality of life would all be better without the insatiable greed of corporations. 

The greedy wealthy don't care for your 12 year old sailing an opti. They just want your cash. 
Smartest thing I have ever read on Sailing Anarchy.....

 

Sailbydate

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he had a bit of a point, depends how you define cheating, in one sense he was right- cheating tradition by using technology! 
No more cheating than Te Rehutai's lowered deck mainsail enlargement. On the other hand, Luna Rossa's 'no backstays' was outside the Rule.

Yacht design history is littered with other 'rule-cheating' but legal innovations.

 

Boybland

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Morioka, Japan
Also boats that can wipe out without ruining your whole campaign and pissing millions up the wall for nothing.
Have you actually watched the America's Cup before? American Magic is definitely not the first yacht to sucumb to the elements! Nor the most spectacular at doing so.

The IACC's were so heavy and wound up so darn tight the rig could snap the boat in half!

Hell they even got AM back up and running (sorta).

 

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