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America’s Cup Surprises

Just when you think you’ve heard everything, the America’s Cup serves up another surprise.

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

Don’t let anybody say the 34th America’s Cup isn’t full of surprises, because they just keep coming.

On Saturday, the crack Measure Committee said they made a mistake or miscommunicated — they don’t seem to be sure which — when they reported that three of the AC45s, all prepared by Oracle, had been illegally modified. Now they seem to think that only two of them were, and the additional weight was in different places on the two boats rather than in the same place. Hey guys, ever hear of measuring twice and reporting once?

The first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals took place Saturday between the heavily-favored Kiwis (Emirates Team New Zealand) and the Italians (Luna Rossa Challenge). The winner of the series will match up with Oracle for the America’s Cup in September — assuming Oracle doesn’t get thrown out for cheating. During Saturday’s race the Italians had daggerboard problems, requiring the Kiwis to simply complete the course in order to score a win. But in a bear away after a weather mark, the Kiwis stuffed both bows and the front half of the boat while traveling at 40 knots. Two of the crew, grinders Chris Ward and Rob Wadell, went for a swim, their helmets merrily flashing in the afternoon gloom.

ETNZ stuffed their bows in Race 1, losing two crewmembers overboard in the process.

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

We’re not experts, but it seems to us that the Kiwi bow stuffing might have been a direct result of a pitch problem caused by not having big enough stabilizer/elevators. It will be remembered that a short while ago the Kiwis protested Regatta Director Iain Murray’s decree that the elevator/stablizers could be larger than called for in the original design. The Kiwis, thinking they’d mastered sailing their mighty AC72 with small elevators/stabilizers, won their protest. It’s a good thing nobody was killed, as they really would have regretted their protest.

A chaseboat quickly picked up the damp but uninjured crewmembers.

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

Had the Kiwis dug one bow instead of both, the ETNZ cat might well have gone ‘over the handlebars’ and soon been drifting past Mile Rock and on her way to the Farallones. If the all-conquering Kiwis, who have sailed the AC72s far more than any Challenger, can’t handle their boat in less than 20 knots, what more proof does anybody need that the design is too dangerous for San Francisco Bay? Mind you, when under control and foiling, the AC72s are a spectacular sight, but good looks in ideal conditions are not enough.


Saturday’s second race of the Louis Vuitton Cup was cancelled because of too much wind, although weekend warriors were reveling in it with their Cal 27s and such. We know that to the uninitated, canceling an America’s Cup race because it’s blowing medium strength on the Bay sounds a lot like canceling the Giant Slalom in the Olympics because of snow flurries, but . . . but . . . oh, nevermind.

Prior to the start of Sunday’s second day of LVC Finals, the two Oracle boats got on the course for some match racing. It didn’t last long, as one of the rudders on Ben Ainsliel’s cat broke, giving Jimmy Spithill a clear path to victory. Oracle later said that the rudder broke because they had hit the anchor rode for a limiting buoy earlier. We’re not sure if anybody believes anything Oracle says anymore, but it could be true.

The first of two scheduled Louis Vuitton Cup races on Sunday was a typical snooze as, after taking a big lead, the Kiwis had a hydraulic failure and had to drop out. The Italians sailed around the course to even the Louis Vuitton Cup score at one race each. How exciting. The one thing you can say about the ‘Summer of Sailing’ is that there hasn’t been a single competitive race yet.

Sunday’s second race was called off because of more snow flurries.

On a positive note, the Steely Dan concert was said to be very good.

© 2013 Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

We’ve made our peace with the 34th America’s Cup’s being more of a circus than anything, with all the sideshows deserving of more attention than the main acts. And we’re hoping it will change. If the Kiwis can keep from breaking their boat, they are going to slaughter the Italians, but the Red Bull fleet racing (September 1-4) is going to be really great, the three-day superyacht regatta will be fabulous — assuming any superyachts show up to race — and the America’s Cup Finals might — there really is a chance — actually provide some competitive AC72 racing.

We’re not sure who will be running the 35th America’s Cup, assuming there is even going to be one, but given what’s transpired in the 34th America’s Cup to date, the bar for success is going to be about as low as it can be.

Schedule note: Due to the cancellation of two races over the weekend, races 3 and 4 of the LVC Finals will be run today — unless there’s too much wind, of course. Start times are 12:10 and 1:10 pm. According to the official AC website, coverage will air live on ESPN3 beginning at noon, and in the Bay Area on COZI-TV (11.2). The broadcast will also be available later on the America’s Cup YouTube channel

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While yesterday’s Louis Vuitton racing might not have been all that thrilling, there was some racing in front of the AC grandstands on Marina Green that was fast and furious when about 30 sailors aged 9-15 took to the water to race O’pen Bics on the ‘treacherous’ America’s Cup course.