Friday, February 12, 2010

Fifteen Minutes America Likes to Watch

So did I get it right?

In December 2007 I wrote my predictions for how the 33rd America's Cup would play out in 7 Reasons Why a Cat Fight Will Be Good for the America's Cup. The first race is in the bag with a win for BMW Oracle by a margin of over fifteen minutes. So let's see what I wrote over two years ago and how some of my opinions played out...

1. Tradition.
I said a Deed of Gift match would be more traditional than recent America's Cups.
"One defender. One challenger. Two crazy rich old coots. The way it was meant to be." That was easy. I got that one right. Sort of. I just didn't know how badly the two crazy rich old coots would behave in the lead-up to the Cup match.

2. Excitement.
I said, "There's no argument, multihulls are faster and more exciting than monohulls." I guess that's still debatable. It sure was exciting to see those huge machines flying their windward hulls in light breezes and sailing at up to three times windspeed. But it was hardly an exciting tactical race to watch. And it was soooo long.

3. Simplicity.
I predicted we wouldn't see any of the boat-to-boat tactics traditional in match racing, that there wouldn't be any of the usual pre-start maneuvering, that each boat would just stay apart from the other and go for a good fast clean start. Well, I guess I totally blew that one. Spithill did a dial-up and forced Alinghi to tack in front of BMW Oracle and draw a penalty; then Spithill managed to stall BMW Oracle and yielded a huge lead to Alinghi at the start. Oh well, you didn't really think I knew what I was talking about, did you?

On the other hand I did predict the windward leg tactics correctly. "Bang the corner. Tack. And then off on another wild ride to the first mark."

4. Technology.
I said that, in the end, AC33 would be decided by technology.

The deed of gift match between multihulls of essentially unrestricted design will be a test of technology and yacht design more than seamanship. This is a good thing. The Olympics and each class World Championship are the events designed to find out who the best sailors are. The America's Cup needs to differentiate itself from these events. The America's Cup should be all about the nerds in the design office. Crazy rich old coot with the best nerds wins.

Not exactly a difficult prediction. There was every chance right from the start that this was going to be a one-sided competition. It's just that nobody knew which side. As it turned out, BMW Oracle was faster upwind and faster downwind in conditions that the pundits thought might favor Alinghi. It certainly looks right now as if the crazy rich old coot from the USA has the best nerds.


yarg said...

Watching the start felt just like high school coaching. The Alinghi coach would have pleaded "don't head up, you're going to foul," and the BMW Oracle coach would have warned "keep it moving, don't get stuck in irons." It's reassuring to us amatuers to see that the pros make some of the same mistakes.
It's interesting to see that when these sailing rocketships stall out, they are really slow to get going again.

EscapeVelocity said...

I went in to work a little before they got to the first corner--from what I've heard so far it sounds like I got most of the interesting stuff.

And yes, it was very nice to see someone else stall a boat during the starting sequence.

Tillerman said...

Yeah, seeing the boat stalled OCS reminded me of when I was racing Hobie Waves in the BVI a few weeks back. It was amazing to watch some of the novice helms getting stuck in irons in tacks and during the pre-start.

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