Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Is your wallet safe? Is Dicko's?

Two come-from-behind wins against boats you would expect them to beat—that was Wednesday down on the farm for BMW Oracle.

Two wins, one of them easy—that was Wednesday for Luna Rossa.

Which leaves these two tied on points as we come to the halfway point of the second round and a meeting today. It oughta be good. The US boat won, the first time they met, but if you had any fingernails left at the end of that one, you don't know sailboat racing, my friend.

Elsewhere: Shosholoza got shut out by both of the top boats but can never be counted out. Skipper Mark Sadler said that his boat, "is still developing, and the crew is still improving, and we still hope to get some more wins." It could happen, but the final-four dream is shelved. As I listened to their Shosholoza fight song blaring during the dock-out, was that a whiff of premature nostalgia that I felt? For seven of these teams the axe is already whistling in the air.

Mascalzone Latino bought some time by drawing a bye and then roughing up Desafío Español but good, from the prestart to the finish. It was a new-look Mascalzone, with coach Cameron Dunn moving to the helm in place of Vasco Vascotto. It seems that the man behind the team, Vincenzo Onorato, noticed that Vascotto had lost five races in a row. With its new paint job (oops, the old paint was not class-legal), starting helmsman Jes Gram-Hansen locked Karol Jablonski out at the committee boat end of the start and then tacked to enter the course with speed while the Spanish team faced a forlorn tack-turn-gybe to follow. Dunn stepped in on the helm after that for the Italians, and everything went their way on a race they had to win. But the Spanish still hold spot number four.

Desafio over Areva, New Zealand over +39 and Areva, Victory over China, that completes a day in which the fascination was to watch Chris Dickson and the BMW Oracle team respond to serious challenges.

BMW Oracle d. Shosholoza—00:43 When "Dicko" and the boys (only a Kiwi could carry that nickname) met Shosholoza in round robin one, it took them 2+ legs to pass. In their second matchup, it took them 2+ legs to pass. We could spend an hour talking our way through the details of that, and if this were the America's Cup match, maybe we would. Or for now I could just say that Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle team made better bets, sailed cleaner, and had a boat that was a freckle faster at times.

BMW Oracle d. Victory Challenge—00:14 Thank you, gentlemen. This one was fun to watch. Here we have another chaser hoping to knock the Spanish out of number four. Two points against a tough opponent would have gone a long way for Magnus Holmberg's chances, and he stayed in front for three legs, but you have to say this about the white team. They're not invulnerable, and they're not perfect, but they are one intimidating opponent, and whoever gets a crack at Alinghi is going to have to go through them.

Poor Magnus must have felt like somebody picked his pocket.

Here he was, coming into the second weather mark with good speed on starboard tack and every apparent advantage. And here came Dickson on port, wanting to duck to get inside. So Holmberg put some moves on the white team. First he went up into the wind, to kill some speed and not be too far ahead. Then he hunted down—that's legal in match racing, though you still have to leave the other guy an escape. But Dickson not only escaped, he escaped with the goods. He took Victory's transom and wheeled up inside at the mark, carrying momentum, claiming the lead. And then carried Victory out to the south forty, both boats with poles set and spinnakers ready to go but not setting . . .

Not setting . . .

Until Holmberg gave up and tacked around to escape. It wasn't a pretty day, and this isn't a pretty picture, but it tells a story.

© Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing

Case not quite closed; BMW Oracle had to keep on winning it for one more leg, but you know they did.

The weather mark moves were great action, and I'm giving a chunk of the credit to the match race circuit that has honed the skills of these people. It's not your father's America's Cup, and it's not your father's match racing.

Quote Unquote Gavin Brady

On the mental game:
"We never talk about losing."

On waking up in the morning:
"You go into one of these knowing that it's going to be a tough race, and if you make one mistake it can get away from you."

On James Spithill, Torben Grael, and the whole Luna Rossa team:
Luna Rossa seems to very comfortably split with the opposition and go for an advantage. When you sail with that kind of confidence, you're a strong team. I imagine Luna Rossa looks at us the same way, and we haven't really seen any weaknesses in them, but maybe some weaknesses will be exposed."

(What is not exposed, as yet, is the why, if any, of those jury boats down at Alinghi.)


I took the long way to the port this morning. So did SAIL's über-editor Peter Nielsen. Fortunately for me, I indulged in a walkabout of some new parts (to me) of Valencia, while Nielsen, unfortunately for him, spent his time filing an incident report with the Policia about his mysteriously-missing wallet. Since the wallet did not have wings, we're assuming that he got pick-pocketed on Tuesday on the #19 bus that runs between the Plaza del Ajuntamiento and the port. Here's the 19 loading up at the plaza. The sign tucked into the front window reads, AMERICA'S CUP.

The little gizmo on the right is one of the miniature street cleaners that run everywhere, up the narrow streets, around sidewalks, through the parks—I think it does everything except windows. The Valencianos are aggressive about cleaning their streets. When one of these things comes down my tiny street, Editor Cabrerizo, it makes a double run, once each way.

Anyhow, there's been a lot of talk about Valencia and thievery. I wasn't ready to talk about it until now, but Pete's point of view fits with mine, and here it is: "Why blame Valencia for something that could have happened in Paris?"

We've had things happen around here, and it can be hard to know just what is the right perspective, but I think that's it. Most of my time and energy are taken up inside the America's Cup Beltway, but whenever I break out of it I enjoy the Valencianos. Simple exchanges often net warm smiles, and I've far from exhausted the sights. Pete let his guard down when he shouldn't have, but he also did some things right. He was carrying a minimum number of credit cards, knew how to make the contacts for the two that disappeared, wasn't loaded with cash, etc. Travelers anywhere, and certainly in the south of Europe, are well advised to follow suit; there's one thing to add re. the scene here: If you have a car, and somebody slashes a tire, don't stay to fix it. Drive away on the rim.

OK, now you can't call me a pollyanna, and I still say, come on over.

Moving on.

One of the first sights of my morning, navigating purely by accident through the winding streets of the old city, was one of the many museums. You're not looking at it here, but you are looking at the banners that announce the museum, with a background of apartments next door.

It was a murky morning, with near rain and lousy light (excuses, excuses) but I like what I was looking at. My friend Anonymous asked yesterday what kind of camera I'm using. It's a Nikon D70S that normally gets passed around the Boston office, but with the West Coast office hunkered down on the Med at news central, it's my turn.

Farther along I wandered through the Royal Gardens, through crowds of schoolkids brought in to tour the natural sciences museum, and found a row of booksellers' booths, each dedicated to a different kind of libro.

I don't know what they were selling in this one, but it definitely had its fan club. I figure the curtain protects against sun in the summer, and yesterday it was about wetness—Kimball