Just One Day to Go - America's Cup
On the eve of the 30th America’s Cup, representatives from both Team New Zealand and Prada gathered for the traditional press conference and starting line draw.
The first victory goes to the locals – when Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis drew the port tack entry for Race One, Team New Zealand gained the advantage of entering the start box on the favoured starboard tack. But that, for most observers, is where the advantage ends. The punters, and even the competitors, are anticipating a close match.
"We probably know very little about Prada and on the other hand they know very little about us,” Russell Coutts, skipper for Team New Zealand said. “I think it adds to the intrigue of it and we will all know in a few days time how this thing is shaping up. Personally, I think that both the teams are very even. At this stage I’m not sure whether there are any favourites. I think there will be a lot of factors that come into the result this week. It will be just like any other big yacht race. It will be the team that makes the most of its chances.”
“All that we do at this stage is just guessing,” agreed Francesco de Angelis, the Luna Rossa skipper. “We start tomorrow. So, we’ll have days where another answer could be more appropriate. There is a great team that has won this Cup before and there is a team that is challenging and that is all.”
And de Angelis says that after the pressure of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, he feels relaxed and ready in advance of the America’s Cup Match.
“At this stage you have to consider the work you have done. Of course it is always nice to have more days but at some stage you stop and have to think ‘what’s done is done’ and just prepare for the race. Everybody has their own way…I’ll (be able to) sleep tonight, anyway.”
In contrast to the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, where both boats looked quite similar, Luna Rossa (ITA-45) and Team New Zealand (NZL-60) appear to incorporate very different design philosophies. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the sailors.
“It was amusing to us that when we unveiled for the first time, a lot of people were saying ‘that can’t be their real keel’ and ‘that can’t be the real position of their wings’. Some people actually said that it was a wooden bulb and the wings were glued on,” Coutts said. “I guess from our point of view it was disconcerting because everyone else felt that obviously what we were showing was so wrong. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether it is or not.”
Race One is scheduled for a 13:15 start on Saturday afternoon. The race will be run by a new Race Committee, under the auspices of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. In the testing conditions of the Hauraki Gulf, Race Committee Chairman Harold Bennett could be an important factor in the regatta.
“I’m confident we can handle the conditions. We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Bennett said. “How do we handle a 30 degree windshift? Well, I hope we don’t see those. If the conditions are that variable and unfavourable, then I doubt we would want to start. If I feel the wind is stable and we’ve got a good breeze, we’d obviously want to get moving. But if it’s at all unstable, I don’t want to do it. At the top end, I guess the wind and the sea conditions are going to govern the decision that we have to make at that time. We all know that 25 knots out of the Northeast is something I’m not going to be out there in on a Committee Boat. But from the Southwest, in the flat water, then we’ve got good conditions. So, it’s a safety issue and one that I’ve just got to weigh up as the day evolves.”
The forecast for Saturday is calling for light Southerly breezes – a condition sure to test sailors and Race Committee alike as the long anticipated Race One of the 30th America’s Cup gets underway.
- Peter Rusch