Perhaps I shall be able later to touch on the storied history of the oldest continually contested championship in sports, but today I’d like to briefly catch you up to speed on the current contest.
The rules play a huge part in the eventual outcome and the first rule is that the team that holds the Cup gets to make the rules. Now it’s not true that the challengers get no input at all, besides the veneer of ‘sportsmanship’ they can always decide not to contend and indeed the cup has languished for decades.
In this particular contest Larry Ellison and Team Oracle have decided to make the race ‘state of the art’ and try and build the same kind of audience that Formula One enjoys.
So far there have been mixed results.
The boats themselves are quite high tech, with 33 foot semi-rigid airfoils instead of sails. The most noticeable feature is that they are hydrofoil catamarans and under most racing conditions look as if they are balancing on two tiny struts at the tail end of the boat. Visually it’s spectacular and they’re very fast, 50 miles an hour or more.
Also the course is in shore with only downwind and upwind legs and a short reach just before the finish.
Wow, exciting you say, well hold on a second. As it is the series is generally considered a bust. The inherent problem is that as with most forms of unlimited racing one or another team establishes a technological edge which manifests itself early and consistently and each lap only makes things less competitive.
The boats are so expensive that only half the teams predicted could afford to show up and most of them were clear ‘also rans’ from the git.
Then there has been bad luck including a fatality as Artemis dropped the bow (did I mention the two tiny foils at the back?) and capsized breaking the prime boat and putting them out of contention.
Oh but wait you you jingoistic Team USA fans, it gets worse. As it turns out the All Blacks (Team New Zealand) have the fastest boat so it will only be good starts and luck that brings victories. Also Oracle has been penalized 2 races for illegal modifications during the run up series and they lost the two initial races yesterday and so they find themselves in the unenviable position of needing 11 victories in the remaining 15 races to New Zealand’s 7.
Tough sledding indeed.