Emirates New Zealand sang the blues after today's race in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals but Sunday probably raised the spirits of Italy’s Luna Rossa and Italians. Events of the day surprised racers and audience alike with a solo finish by Italy’s Luna Rossa, the super flying catamaran with the Prada sails and men in silver earning the point and placing them in a 1-1 tie with the favored Emirates New Zealand, which suffered technical failure leading to forfeiture.
Strong winds over the 20 knot safety limit would lead to postponement of the second race until Monday. The boats are actually built for faster winds than 20 knots but the new safety rules are in place. New safety features have also been in place, such as a digital indicator with each sailor that shows he's safe after going overboard; better helmets; and PFDs or personal flotation devices that will detach more readily if necessary.
Saturday New Zealand's bow went into the water and the 72 foot long catamaran pitched two sailors into the bay, including the 6'6" former Olympic rower Rob Waddell. The race continued sans Rob and his mate who were plucked out by support boats.
Sunday however, New Zealand appeared only to rejoin the race briefly after slowing then stopping, ramping up after assistance from support boats. New Zealand even performed it’s penalty for going out of bounds by sailing slowly for two boat lengths. One never knows what turn of events will bring after all but even the gladiators could maintain little hope of finishing within five minutes of the winner to earn a point.
The two had nevertheless foiled past Alcatraz beautifully parallel, the hulls flying above the surface as they are designed to. The fleeting moment probably gave the teams a sense of exhilaration and of truly racing as they could have looked each other in the eye and heard each other’s voices.
Sir Ben and Grant Simmer
These finals however, with thirteen more races to go, seem to involve less spirit in general and more discussion of technical operations and how the teams work into the night to repair for the next day’s race. Sir Ben Ainslee of Oracle Team USA said after the race, the boats are high performance like race cars and after each race they take tuning. Everything is so highly tuned that the smallest mishap or mistake technically or by a sailor leads to disaster.
However, Ainslee seemed relaxed albeit clean and dry with his dark beard filling in and has yet to show any gray. He looked rested although he did note some issues with his back. He said he cherished his Olympic days but he is not looking toward the next Olympics. He calmly posed with a fans for pictures, one of whom exclaimed to the younger, “He’s a gold medal winner!”. Yet somehow Ainslee displays a modest everyman quality, an approachability.
Grant Simmer also chatted with the media. Simmer serves as General Manager of Oracle Team USA. He’s an Australian-born America’s Cup veteran who just turned 56 in May. He spoke to the media alone before the race, chatting on a relaxed Sunday morning in the sun. He looks fit and agile with a tanned face of someone who spends time outdoors, his gray hair setting off his features. He's led a life of healthy discipline and looks it.
New Orleans Jazz Band Keeps Sunday Upbeat
The morning started off pleasantly and upbeat with the wind rising, ultimately forcing the racing committee to postpone the second race. A New Orleans style brass band played jazz near the entrance to the pavilion. The band like the sailors showed some style, the traditional musicians wearing dressy black pants, white shirts and sunglasses. A precious little boy in shorts danced with the front man who played the tambourine. The boy liked dancing and music but didn’t care to be the center of attention and scooted back to his young Mom for shelter. See him in the slideshow.
Another boy at the marina performed gymnastics on the inflatable bouncy thing, his bare feet flying overhead as he somersaulted. Others sailed remote control sailboats in a pool. A whole fleet of BIC racers competed in tiny dinghies with sails smaller than beginning windsurf boards and hulls about the size of a short surfboard, the boys required to stand for one leg. From the stands the fleet almost looked like baby turtles heading to sea, each hull a little white shell. With a dagger board. One young man in the stands had wanted to be in the race but he had an accident and sported fifteen stitches in his thigh.
One of the commentators, a former windsurfer, mentioned how New Zealand has a traditional national toy painted on their boat’s hull in the center. The toy also appeared on a previous model but on the bottom. The toy only showed when the boat was at speed, leaning over or heeling to reduce drag and showing the bottom of the boat.
Races continue Monday, August 18.
For more information: www.AmericasCup.com
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