If you’ve been reading the Public Interpretations from the Measurement Committee over the past few weeks (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t – because this is dry stuff), then you’ll have noticed that someone has been asking some pretty bizarre interpretations of the Cup class rules. That someone – it became clear today – was Alinghi, who it seems still hasn’t quite found the answer to the question that it dare not ask.
It centres around whether or not it is legal to tuck the top-mast backstays along the side of the mast when they are not being used (ie upwind when all they do is create extra drag). Views differ about how much drag they create, but the consensus seems to be that an absence of top-mast backstays could amount to about 20 metres per windward leg (ie not far short of a boatlength). That may not seem significant, until you think back to just how close for speed NZL 92 and ITA 94 were in the LV Cup Finals. And look what a big effect a small speed edge had on the outcome.
So this stuff is worth fighting for. Today Alinghi won a first-round skirmish against the Measurement Committee (click here for an explanation), but it still doesn’t mean the Defender has secured an absolute answer that it is OK to use the top-mast backstays in the unprecedented way that Alinghi would like. As head of the Jury Bryan Willis pointed out today, the rule has been sloppily worded, which makes it very open to interpretation. Which means that as things stand, Alinghi could go out and race with its clever top-mast backstay arrangement, but that the Kiwis could bring a protest to bear. Expect more back-room toing and froing between Defender, Measurer and Jury before Race 1 on Saturday. This is not done yet.
Then again, perhaps it’s all academic, because word out of the Luna Rossa camp is that Alinghi was a fair click faster than the Italians in their informal racing a week and a half ago. If there is any truth to this, then it is worrying stuff for
On the other hand, the past couple of weeks have seen the Defender blow up around half a dozen spinnakers during training, and the boathandling continues to look shoddy by comparison with the Kiwis. We’ve all heard of sandbagging to disguise your true boatspeed, but sandbagging to disguise your true boathandling abilities? That’s a new one! It’s inconceivable that Alinghi could lose the