Today was for fireworks as Valencia turned out for a joyful opening ceremony to the America’s Cup, an event which goes back to 1851, when the Americans were intent on sticking it the best of British yachting.
Tomorrow the heavy fire is scheduled to start at 10.06 as two of the most ubercool racing yachts ever seen square up. The Americans, in the form of a BMW Oracle team led by Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts in a huge trimaran called USA, are determined to stick it to the Swiss holder Ernesto Bertarelli’s equally amazing catamaran, called Alinghi.
The weather experts are predicting light conditions for the first in a best of three races, 20 miles upwind and then 20 miles back, conditions that are supposed to favour the Swiss.
But observers watching the Oracle trimaran’s final practice reported speeds of over 20 knots in light winds and a glassy sea and tomorrow’s expected four to nine knots are enough to generate maximum power from, in the case of Oracle, a wing-type mast and sail that towers 228 feet above the deck, much bigger than, say, a giant Airbus A380 wing turned vertical rather than horizontal.
No two boats like them have ever been built before, never mind raced against each other, and one of the problems for sailing teams of between 10 and 16 will be to manage the enormous loads on structures that have to balance the need for sufficient strength with keeping them as light as possible.
There is also a problem even to stage the races, the second, scheduled for Wednesday is on a triangular course of three 13-mile legs, as the principal race officer, New Zealander Harold Bennett, may be so far offshore that he will be in international, rather than Spanish waters.
The Americans won handsomely in 1851 around the Isle of Wight. They are looking to do it again, even if they have to go half way to Ibiza to do it.