Thursday, April 12, 2007

They don't have a WHAT?

Nobody's sailing in Valencia in today's drizzle, but the morning press briefing by AC offialdom had its moments. Regatta Director Dyer Jones inadvertently supplied me with a new definition of a second-tier team when he mentioned that, "some of teams here don't even have a weather boat."

Imagine that. And to think that, before teams were limited to a total of six support boats, no-excuse-to-lose people like Dennis Conner (in the Auckland days) were using that many just for the meteorology squad. The big teams here, you can be sure, have at least one weather boat to augment the info they get from America's Cup Management, which maintains data buoys in two of the three sailing areas.

That is, two areas for the challengers, which for the round robins are split into two groups to speed the eliminations along, plus another area for Alinghi's in-house racing as it prepares the 32nd defense of the America's Cup in June.

A gray, drizzly view of the megayacht dock, soon to be full:

And a few highlights of the briefing:

Peter "Luigi" Reggio on ACC design: "I think if teams had done more sailing in Valencia, they would have moded more toward light air boats."

Dyer Jones again, asked how challengers and defender are getting along at the game of sharing the water, drawing the only real laugh of the day with his answer, "With difficulty."

Chief measurer Ken MacAlpine noting, "It is interesting to see that the bigger teams have been measuring a minimum number of sails and holding others in reserve." Read, they figure they'll make the final four, and then they'll really need an arsenal. Each team is limited to a total of 45 sails measured for racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup (others can be built and measured but not raced).

And a few notes, bordering on the random:

When it comes to meeting required weights, all up and ready to race, or when being checked for compliance after a race, the tolerance is 19 kilos.

An effort has been made, for the round-robin eliminations, to balance left-right start line assignments, a team's number of races on Romeo vs. Juliet courses, and whether they sail the first race of the day versus the last. With 11 challengers, there is inevitably always at least one team drawing a bye.

There will be no ties. But if a race comes to what they're calling "a dead heat" it will be resailed. Any race days lost to weather will be made up on a reserve day, not squeezed into the following day in a way that would disrupt the calendar.

MacAlpine's team first measures boats "on the ground" in construction for ease and accuracy; it gets harder after they're "on the keel" in Valencia. And, "It's become practice for teams to ask us to take the core samples, which are required, as a boat is built. If they have a problem they want to know it at that point."

On the length of the course and judgement calls in starting races, here is Reggio: "It's in the Notice of Race that starting in winds of 7 to 23 knots is our intention. We can go in six if the wind is stable and the sea state is calm, but usually a wind that light is pretty squirrely. In anything above 17 knots, sea state becomes big part of the decision process. Courses are planned and marks are set around time rather than distance because that's what competitors want, about 72 minutes of racing; something good for TV."

In Auckland, remember, each course was set at 18 miles, three laps. More in the traditional manner.

Races in Valencia will be longer after the round robins, when seven boats are eliminated and the format turns to one race per day. Camera coverage will increase then, too. Dyer Jones said, "It is our intention (that's race committee-speak for "we have a plan but we're not stupid enough to make promises on the record") to have a camera on a jury boat at some stage. Right now there's a bandwidth problem because so many boats are racing. When the camera comes aboard, the umpires will explain their calls if they have time for that; if they're busy they'll stay with the action. And there probably will be a camera aboard with the RC when we get down to a single race course."

Okay. The weather. I've seen rain in the Med in April before, so I'm not freaking out, but there's plenty of chatter. The upside: I packed foulies. The downside: they're in my luggage, which is still out there somewhere. The upside: My nifty new backpack/computer case has a pullout raincover. The downside: It will be used.

I've felt pretty pathetic, trying to get along with my thin knowledge of Spanish, confusing verbs and confounding pronouns, but when I saw this sign in the restaurant in the Media Center, I felt somewhat vindicated.

And when I logged onto the blog to post this entry, everything was in Spanish. I'm finally back. From the land of soggy tapas, bye for now—/Kimball