Sunday, May 13, 2007

Got Your Cruel Shoes?

What a position. BMW Oracle has lost three races out of 20, and in each loss there was someone believing they threw the race. But we're beyond the silly season now. It's the semifinal round. In nine races or less, a strong challenger will be cut from the ranks, and I don't mean Desafio Espanol, overmatched against New Zealand. I mean either BMW Oracle or Luna Rossa.

It's no act of genius or courage to go with the majority and expect Oracle to emerge from these semifinals looking fast and fine. From the get-go I've expected to see Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand duking it out at the end, fighting for the right to go against Alinghi. Nothing has changed my mind about that. But James Spithill is a match for anyone in the prestart. That alone is enough to make Luna Rossa an opponent to be reckoned with as Chris Dickson and company size-up their dance partner for the first-to-win-five match that starts Monday.

Twice now, Oracle has beaten Luna Rossa, once in a come-from-behind, which is the hard way to do it. But the Italian boat has been to the shed and it wasn't about the paint job. As far as I know, the canoe is the same, but otherwise there's a new ITA-94 hitting the line against USA 98. With Spithill on the helm and five-time Olympic medalist Torben Grael riding shotgun, backed up by the likes of Francesco de Angelis and Jonathan McKee, it means something to beat that boat. It means being BMW Oracle. I'm already looking forward to the finals against New Zealand, but I do believe that Chris Dickson and company will be living in interesting times, meantimes.

New Zealand over Spain is as close to a done deal as you can get, but if Desafio Espanol gets out front and takes something off the Kiwis, the way they took a Round Robin 1 race off BMW Oracle, no one would be fool enough to suggest that Grant "no prisoners" Dalton asked his boys to lay down. With their opening day loss to Mascalzone Latino, helmsman Dean Barker and his American tactician, Terry Hutchinson, exposed themselves to some heavy criticism from down New Zealand way. Kiwi expectations are high and hopes are even higher.

Dalton, the round-the-world vet who is probably the only person who could have pulled the Kiwi team back together after the humiliations of 2003, is having none of this talk that Oracle is pre-ordained to challenge Alinghi for the America's Cup. It may happen, but first, there's the small matter of getting over Grant Dalton's dead body.

Away from it all

Not really, but I did get to catch a few breaths of air outside the America's Cup Beltway. There was a journo invitation to go to the racetrack outside of town to test the new Ford Mondeo, and I'm a sucker for anything I haven't done before, so you know what happened next.

What's wrong with this picture? Three things. One, the stands are empty. This all happened so suddenly that the fans got cheated. Two, we're in a Ford Mondeo, an OK means of conveyance, no doubt, but not the car in my dream that I get to drive on a racetrack. Three, the guy in front of us is hitting his brakes fer friggin' sakes!

You're right, that's the view from the passenger seat. I ran three laps ("Truth is, Amory, I never take my own car that close to redline") and then turned the wheel over to Amory Ross. He's an East Coastie, but I'm OK with that. I'm liberal, to a degree.

Amory's a photographer. You've seen his stuff. For example, he shot the cover of the May issue of SAIL—Andrew Campbell in a Laser.

One of our group managed to overcook a turn in a fairly-dramatic fashion and get us all redflagged while Amory had the helm. I missed the action shot, but if you've seen one Ford Mondeo with the rubber off the rims, up to the axles in gravel, you've seen'em all. We also trialed a new, small Land Rover on an off-road course, up-hill and down-dale and through the water hazard. No pictures of that, either. We were laughing too hard. And on the way out—they were setting up for a big public event—we passed the paella kitchen. This is rice-growing country, and Valencia is the birthplace of paella. I knew that. Now I'm a true believer.

Domingo. Sunday. May 13.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers. I'm boycotting the skippers' press conference in favor of having a life. Besides, I walked out of the last press conference because they were wasting my time. Before I post, I'll scan the press releases to see if there's anything worth parroting . . .


It will get better when somebody has blood on his hands. The Lounge, a short zip from my apartment in the old city, offers free internet wifi. Thanks to that, I spent this domingo exploring a couple of museums (free on Sunday, how nice), viewing paintings and armor from the 1300s and 1400s in the first, and modern stuff in the second.

It's yet another festival day in Valencia. In one plaza, that meant art projects for the kids. Young man, pay attention to your elders. It's all in the concentration.

In the Plaza de Virgins the crowds were out at 1 p.m. A lot was going on.

But 3 p.m. is so unfashionable, they even turn off the fountain. That's my little bike, 45 euros from China Team. It's a bit undersized, and the grips are way undersized, but it's right to have a bike I can afford to lose, and having it is like suddenly sprouting wings.

Hmm. Looks like there's going to be a parade. Do I go to the parade tonight or the bullfight? Or both. Wish you were here—Kimball