Tuesday, April 5, 2011

34th America's Cup Heats Up: 123 Days Until Start of World Series

With the March 31 deadline for teams to enter the 34th America’s Cup without penalty now behind us and the venues/dates for the 2011 AC World Series announced it’s been a busy week in the America’s Cup. 14 challengers have filed entry applications and three venues are scheduled for this year’s World Series events. The first event will be held August 6-14, in Cascais, Portugal, the second event in Plymouth, England September 10-18, and the third event in San Diego between mid October and early December, a somewhat mixed bag line up given that most bets were on locations in the Med and Newport, Rhode Island.

While the first event in August is about a month later than was originally discussed, it gives the new teams a little more time to work out on the AC45s, and for ORACLE Racing, clearly ahead of the program in the new cat, even more time to concentrate on the two-boat training they’ve been doing over the past few weeks in Auckland.

SailBlast caught up with John Kostecki, ORACLE Racing tactician, who confirmed that the slight delay in getting to Event 1 of the World Series is no big deal for the Team. “We’d always been shooting for July this year for the start of the World Series but now its slightly delayed there isn’t any huge change in plan for us - just gives us a bit more time in the AC45 to keep learning the boats and improving as a team.”

SailBlast: What will the different locations present in terms of challenge in the AC45?

JK: That’s a good question (LOL)! Out of the three venues I’ve only ever sailed in San Diego. I’ve heard that Cascais can be kind of windy, I’ve spent a little bit of time in Plymouth during Fastnet races. To me it looks like three pretty different race tracks and I know that ACRM is trying to learn from the AC45 sailing that we’re doing down here in NZ on different race courses so I think we’ll be experimenting different race courses down here to set up the first World Series events. I think it all depends on exactly where we sail in those three different venues. I would imagine San Diego we’re going to be sailing inside the Bay which will be great - a tighter race course with some boundaries which obviously we’re trying to set up for the next America’s Cup in San Francisco as well. If we’re close to shore it could be quite shifty and puffy and some smoother water but good tight racing and hopefully good for the spectators.

SailBlast: What are you finding out about match racing the AC45?

JK: It’s pretty good - very exciting actually - but not too different than what we were doing in the last Cup. We just started two-boating a couple of weeks ago, we haven’t done too much racing but we’re started to get ramped up into the racing side. It looks encouraging, starting is a little bit different than with the monohulls - fewer maneouvers but still quite exciting. I think the final 30 seconds to a minute is not too different to monohull match race starts. We’ve had some good close racing in the racing we’ve had so far. It’s encouraging.

SailBlast: What is ORACLE considering for crew on the World Series?

JK: At the moment we’re planning on having two teams on the circuit, with five crew and a media guest. We’re working on that now and hoping that after this session to slide straight into the World Series with the two teams that we have racing right now. It’s a mixed group and we’re rotating people around so I don’t think we have any final decisions on who will be on which boat but we try to and keep things as even as possible because that’s how we can leapfrog and improve. The boats are initially very physical and challenging to sail, particularly in the breeze. I think it’s going to be quite exciting for the media guests (LOL).

**Current competitor list: ALEPH EQUIPE DE FRANCE (France), Artemis Racing (Sweden), China Team (China), Emirates Team New Zealand (New Zealand), Energy Team (France), Mascalzone Latino (Italy), ORACLE Racing (USA), Venezia Challenge (Italy) and Team Australia (Australia), plus four undisclosed teams. With ORACLE Racing previously accepted as the defense candidate, twelve of these teams have been validated while the remaining two will be checked against the qualifying requirements in the coming days.

Interesting factoid: the 15 entries from 12 countries surpass recent Cup events, which averaged 11 entries for the events in 2000, 2003 and 2007, and nearly equal the record of 16 entries during the 1986-87 Cup in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Photos: Gilles Martin-Raget

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