Friday, 22 June 2007

Baird to steer Alinghi, but Kiwis win starboard entry

Alinghi confirmed the worst-kept secret in Valencia with the announcement that Ed Baird is to steer SUI 100, with his boss Ernesto Bertarelli standing just behind him, working the runners.

Talking of runners, Alinghi’s hope of being able to move their top-mast backstays forward next to the mast was knocked back by a new Public Interpretation yesterday. Today Alinghi fired back by asking for a further interpretation over the practice which was commonly seen during the challenger series, that of moving the slack runner from the leeward side of the yacht forward and to windward of the boom to reduce windage.

Chief measurer Ken McAlpine said that this too was prohibited, with the caveat that it is permitted for “the runners, having been eased, to be secured against the boom using a secondary tensioning device, to avoid movement and damage while racing and to protect the crew from injury”.

So the upshot is that Alinghi’s hoped-for advantage in this small area has been negated, although the overall feeling around Valencia is that the Defender will still go on to dominate this series. I’m not so convinced of Alinghi’s invincibility. The Kiwis’ crew work will be better, and their boatspeed is well proven across the wind range. The Swiss have done surprisingly little sailing over the past few weeks, with the boats spending a lot of time in the shed. They’d better be sure of that speed edge that SUI 100 is reputed to have.

With Terry Hutchinson winning the toss (Dean doesn’t like tossing the coin) and opting for starboard entry tomorrow, coupled with a light forecast for the first two matches over the weekend, the Kiwis have an excellent chance to take an early lead in the series.

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