I have not been a fan of this regatta, it seems to me that more time has been spent in the court room than on the water. I don’t like that many challengers have been excluded from taking part, I don’t like the motor assisted winches, I don’t like the fact that I have to drag my butt out of a perfectly nice bed at 3am, and I especially don’t like that these monster multi-hulls cost  about the same as Obama’s bank, car manufacturing, and health care bail out plans all wrapped into one.

With the venom out of the way, lets talk about the up-side. There is no doubt in my mind that watching these boats power up is an awesome sight. In 5-6 knots of wind the can scream along at 20 knots upwind, and pretty much do the same thing downwind. They are also quite maneuverable considering their size.

Unfortunately todays race was not what I would call classic match racing, that aspect went out of the window in the pre-start. Alinghi got caught in a classic trap less than a minute into the box. Oracle/BMW did their absolute best to blow the advantage by stalling out their vessel 30 seconds from the start. They finally crossed the line some two minutes later. But once they got going it was power, power, and more power.

However it was not match racing, this was a straight drag racing. 30 minutes on the same line they finally tacked. The whole leg was done in two tacks! The off wind leg was the same, a drag race that essentially involved one gybe! When it was all said and done the delta was around 10 minutes, Alinghi though just wanted to take further punishment and screwed up at the finish line. This resulted in another 5 minutes of excruciating embarrassment for the team.

Many people are saying ‘one race does not make a series, but in this best of three series being a race down is a big problem. I think it was evident today that on the wind Oracle/BMW had the advantage, not only in speed but pointing ability. They were also able to get the main hull and an outrigger out of the water and keep them there. Alinghi on the other hand seemed to be plagued with problems. They were not consistent in flying the hull.

I am sure that most people were in shock when Oracle/BMW took down the jib. Even the TV commentators were assuming that it was par of a tack maneuver. Nope, the jib was creating too much drag! That wing-sail does not need any help! It is a rare event where you take sails down to go faster!

There was a short period of time on the upwind leg that Alinghi seemed to be clawing their way back into the game. I wonder what the status of the water ballast system was at that point?

Sunday is going to be an interesting day. It is do or die for Alinghi. I doubt that they will make the mistake of fouling in the prestart again, but knowing that they are outclassed upwind and downwind in todays conditions must give them pause for thought. If Sunday is another drag race, (and Oracle/BMW would welcome it) the AC is certainly headed back to the US.

It would be wonderful to get Dennis Connors comments on todays race and listen to how he would play the game on Sunday. Minor issues like having the slower boat never seemed to bother him!

Neither of these boats seem to have been designed for the classic tacking duel, in fact it seemed like it took an act of congress to tack Oracle/BMW. If Alinghi is hot of the line on Sunday could they engage Oracle/BMW in a duel? It would be a battle to see who breaks something important first!  And my guess is that it would be Oracle/BMW. One thing is clear, whatever Alinghi does on Sunday they have to stop Oracle/BMW from getting powered up.

Simon Barrett

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