SailBlast chatted today with America’s Cup PRO John Craig just after he’d come in off the water after Day 4 in Cascais, Portugal at the inaugural AC World Series event. Unusually light conditions have been a bit of a surprise for all involved but Craig and his team are doing their best to keep the racing interesting. “We’re learning more as we keep going along but all in all the racing’s proved to be pretty exciting with the nine boats and short racing, little reaches.”
SB: How are the bottom tiered teams faring against the better teams?
Craig: They’re actually doing really well. They’re probably not as consistent yet but they’re all having flashes of brilliance and in all honesty, at any given race, somebody could take it on and I’ve been impressed. I figured some of them would be a lot further behind and they’re speed in catching up has been really good. Both Team Korea and China have had some good races. Team NZ and Oracle and Artemis definitely have more players on the ground here and are more advanced but I think the speed with which these other teams will come up is probably a lot better than I thought it would be.
SB: How are the starts working out?
Craig: It’s good - we originally figured that they would approach the line all at speed and it appears now that they’re fighting a little bit more for position and then they turn the speed on but we actually had to increase the side of the virtual boundary below the starting line because they all gone into there and go into point mode up towards the pin and the committee boat then when they get on the line they turn and let it rip. That’s been a little different to work out. But it’s so critical to what end you pick with respect to how windy you think it’s going to be and what your apparent wind is going to do because sometimes guys start at the leeward end and think, ‘ok, I can kind of live here and beat’ and there’s other times if you’re up in the top end you can get over and get a little bit of speed and bear off. So there’s definite tactics and people are picking ends. It’s not a line up and go, so that’s good.
SB: Having to adjust the boundaries - will that become necessary at each venue?
Craig: Yeah. Some venues are going to have boundary restrictions that are enforced by the land. One of the things here that we’ve had is we’ve ended up drawing boundaries on land just so that they get out the way for the sailors because it’s not something we need them to be worried about with respect to their lights and alarms etc. Yet, the graphics people look at that when they put it down on the chart and all of a sudden it looks like we’ve drawn it on the ground so they’re not thrilled about that either. We’re trying to figure all that out on the technical side but additionally each venue will dictate where we are.
SB: Is there the sense that teams are still figuring out where to position themselves and the learning curve is still pretty high?
Craig: For sure. Some teams have really good speed and are going well, others are still trying to figure the tactical side of the game out. We have skippers briefings every morning at 9 and we’re all learning from each other. It’s good, it’s not the committee against the competitors, it’s more that we’re all here together so let’s figure out what we’re trying to do.
SB: Wind conditions seem unusually light?
Craig: It was light today and we had to go outside and find some breeze. We weren’t able to tuck into the bay for a while. Historically they’ll tell you that it’s never like this but…this morning we started a race at 2pm and had huge wind shifts, couldn’t get them around the track properly so we had to abandon that race which was fine. Outside was better breeze so we went out there which was great - got some good racing in there. It wasn’t inside like sometimes you wish it would be so sometimes it’s just a balance and ensuring everyone’s fully engaged and also that you’ve got quality racing going on.
SB: Still lots of crowds and people enjoying the scene?
Craig: Yeah, it’s actually really cool. Some of the things we’ve had to - we were originally worried about the boats living on the moorings at night and teams supported that. We even had a few nights when we had teams say that they’d prefer to stay at the mooring than come out. We’ve had to go back and look at that and give teams the opportunity to pull their rigs and hulls out because it’s such a spectacle and draws so many people to be here for the launch and the retrieval of the boats with the wings. There’s a lot of interest and I think people who don’t have a clue what’s going on get a feeling that they’re at pit alley at a car racing event - they can look into the tents and see the hulls and the teams.
Pic 1: Gilles Martin-Raget
Pic 2: Emirates Team New Zealand