Not speaking of anybody I know personally, though Luna Rossa boss Patrizio Bertelli looked to be rolling in the clover on Monday after a wire-to-wire win off BMW Oracle in squirrel-cage conditions. Bertelli doesn't ride very often, and he chose the day, so far, to ride as 18th man.
The rose petal riff has to do with Sunday's festival of la Virgen de los Desamparados and we'll get to that much later. I'm pretty sure that Oracle skipper Chris Dickson wasn't feeling like a virgin at the end of yesterday's thumping. Yes, the racecourse was as squirrely as they come, but Luna Rossa and Oracle were lined up for a long time leaving the start line in 10 knots, more or less, and if Dickson was counting to win this one on boatspeed, there was no there there.
The 00:43 win of Emirates Team New Zealand over Desafío Español was pretty much as-expected and by the book, so let's get that out of the way first. Dean Barker on the Kiwi boat got the side of the course that he wanted and caught a few shifts, claimed the lead, and protected that lead to the finish. With tactician Terry Hutchinson riding shotgun, it was a workmanlike performance, right out of the textbook, but they had to do it on a racetrack where there was no book.
20-degree shifts? We had a passle of'em. 35-degree shifts? We had at least one. 5-knot differentials in wind strength across the course? Piece of cake. A gradient wind blowing from the land, across the city, all chopped up, and the sea breeze banging in late in the race, so that even though the line has been moved, three of the four boats out there go from spinnakers to jibs to beat to the finish? That was race day one of the semifinal round of the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup.
Not once did Barker/Hutchinson deviate from the playbook of staying between the opponent and the next mark. Karol Jablonski's Spanish team, meanwhile, kept them honest, made them earn the win, and did the B-fleet proud in the prestart. As navigator Matt Wachowicz put it, "We know we're the underdog, but every day we go out expecting to win."
OK, the race. Once again USA 98 proved that she can sail in from the port end of the line and cross her opponent. ITA-94 turned to follow, and it was good fun to watch Dickson lead James Spithill into the spectator fleet for a bit of circling. I should rephrase that. Here's Oracle navigator Peter Isler: "We didn't go to the spectator fleet; the current brought them to us." So the gang on the Shosholoza spectator boat got a treat. But it was startling to see Dickson (not for the first time) spin hard and stall. Obviously there is not much boat gripping the water.
With a 10 degree right shift popping in, and 3-knot variations in the breeze, and a current running right-to-left, it was not a day to trust your computer to read out the burn time—time to the start line—and it was, instead, a day to trust your eyeballs and the seat of your pants. On that, I'd call it even. The boats hit the line together on starboard, with BMW Oracle to weather, and they headed off to the Left Forty. It looked as if Dickson and company were planning to carry Spithill out beyond the port-tack layline and hang them out to dry. There were small shifts favoring one boat or the other, but nothing much in the boatspeed. The layline prospect was there, Isler said, until a 15-degree left shift rearranged the geometry: "It was fortunate for Luna Rossa that the shift came when it did. We were less than a minute to the layline, but the leftie gave them room to tack. We were still feeling pretty strong on them when we went underneath, but there were microclimates out there and Luna Rossa got into this private windstreak—you could see the dark line on the water—that was like a line of tape on the floor."
©Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing
It was Luna Rossa over Oracle by 00:52 rounding the first mark . . .
©Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing
But they split going downwind and arrived overlapped at the leeward gate. The split occasioned quite a bit of tongue-wagging re. Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael. You could charge him for failing to cover, or you could just figure that it's hard to argue with five Olympic medals, or you could let him argue his own case: "On a day like this, your normal match-race style of covering could go wrong. Playing the shifts and the pressure is pretty important."
But, Torben, you probably noticed that USA-98 went from 1:21 behind to overlapped? "We gybed for the angle, and they stayed for the pressure."
There was a lot of talk about comparisons: The Kiwis covering tightly as they could; Luna Rossa playing it loose . . .
I mean, during this race, there were 300-meter gains and losses in a matter of minutes. (!)
Coming to the gate, Dickson rolled in with starboard-tack rights. Luna Rossa gybed to starboard (no good options). Dickson made an aggressive move to carry Spithill past the layline. It was a high-pressure moment on both boats, but Spithill broke the overlap in time to turn and go for the favored, left mark. Rewrite the overlap, and you have a different race. Dickson was forced to either follow around the left mark or sail an extra 3-4 lengths to round the right-hand mark.
Quote Unquote Peter Isler
On not following Spithill around the mark that was closer . . .
We would have rounded four lengths behind; maybe it would have been more of a dogfight, but it wasn't a day when you could say that the left side or the right side was going to be better. On a day like this, all of a sudden, boatspeed is out the window and it's all down to the sailors.
On rounding the second weather mark trailing by 1:21 . . .
We were actually quite interested in the race. We were looking at a Star boat a long ways off with no breeze and thinking that maybe things were going to fall apart completely.
On that dicey game at the gate . . .
That put a lot of pressure on the crew, and both teams came through.
Finish line delta: 02:19
So: Tuesday, Race 2. First to win five races moves on. The loser goes home. BMW Oracle needs to win if only to save the chattering classes from an unsurvivable orgy of speculation. If you missed any part of that I could go back over it more slowly
Gather ye rose petals while ye may
It may have been Mothers' Day to you, but Sunday to the Valencianos was the annual festival of la Virgin de los Desamparados. Being clueless until the thing was all over, I missed the dramatic procession of the statue of the virgin, the traslado, in which "the lady of the forsaken" is carried from the basilica to the cathedral under a storm of flower petals. I did catch a different part of the procession, which goes on for more than an hour.
The streets were lined with chairs. Uh oh. Everybody's looking at me . . .
Everybody's looking at me ! ! !
The flag is ancient . . .
Of course there's no point getting the girls dressed up if we don't have family picture time. Young man, this is no time for your antics . . .
In my day . . .
Later, along the Calle Caballeros, I found the rose petals . . .
And the rose petal hoarders . . .
Quick! Before the petal eater comes . . .
It's not too late! There's more . . .
Lots more . . .
And why rush? We'll go home when we're good and ready . . .
Enough for nowKimball