Define slow news day:
"Paul Cayard walking around the media center with a EuroSport microphone interviewing journalists."
"Media Center staff walking through at noon with the surprise words, 'We’re racing. We’re racing'."
"When three minutes later you see this screen."
So much for Wednesday. This time it was about too much seaway left over from an offshore blow the night before. The Sailing Instructions (not the Deed of Gift, as an official announcement claims) say we don't get to try again until Friday.
So, up today: A quick status update, a look at some very cool kit, and the inevitable fustigation for you diehards who read to the bottom.
According to Alinghi strategist Murray Jones, “The waves were the biggest problem today. I think they were about 1.3 meters average size in the start area. That means we could've had a peak of 1.8 meters. There was a swell coming from one direction and waves from an offset of 90 degrees to that. We've been out in conditions not quite that bad, but it's heinous. I think they've done the right thing by not sending us out there.”
BMW Oracle Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill's take: "We were keen to go. I think 1000 was the window when we could have got a race off. Later in the day, in the shifts, no. But we have full faith in (PRO) Harold Bennett. He has to make the hard calls. I'd much rather sail than run the races."
oooKAY. Thank goodness when they throw a SuperBowl they start on time. But we wouldn't want to risk popularizing this thing, would we?
Bennett put the wind at 17-18 and said, "I wouldn't have had a problem with that." But he took a powercat to the starting area 24 miles off the beach, surfing occasionally along the way, he reported, "And when I turned the boat around we were putting the boat under. I think I turned everybody pretty green.
"People are just going to have to be patient."
Bennett gets weather reports and forecasts from experts on both teams. And does he get the same forecast?
If we ever get to race, there will be plenty of gee whiz. Forgetting the big machines themselves, there are two pieces of kit on the BMW Oracle Racing trimaran that we haven't seen on a racecourse before—the Racer's Edge Laser Wind Sensor, for example, and Jimmy Spithill's glasses with the heads-up display.
Laser wind sensors have helped helicopter pilots judge high-wind gusts and wind shear at landing and takeoff and ought to soon show up at commercial airfields. But the technology has never yet gone sailing, hunting for breeze. The heads-up display in Spithill's glasses is fundamentally no different from those long used by fighter pilots, allowing them to look where they want to look while reading critical performance and target data superimposed on their field of vision. The technology has already crossed over into commercial aircraft and some automobiles.
Racer's Edge Laser Wind Sensor
She's a pricey piece of kit but sexy as heck. The product went public on December 5, and the manufacturer, Catch the Wind, Inc. had a contract with BMW Oracle Racing a week later. Do the sailors really believe in it?
The thing weighs 18 pounds, and it's on the boat.
They believe in it.
The company first developed its pulsed laser technology to enhance the productivity of wind farms, then came aircraft applications, then sailing. Racer’s Edge LWS can measure wind speed and direction up to 1000 meters away. That's almost two-thirds of a mile in any direction. It can be strapped around the neck or mounted on a tripod with a Bluetooth feed to onboard computers.
According to the company, "This fiber-optic device is ruggedly designed to handle the challenges of a maritime environment, even operating in degraded visual conditions. The device has no moving parts, is water-resistant and Class 1M eye safe and functions in a wide range of temperatures." A company rep told me that they have tested it to 2000 meters but limit the power for the sake of eye safety: "We'll get wind spotters out of the rig and into the game."
Even sweeter from the point of view of a racing sailor managing a wing 223 feet tall—the machine can generate images of both planar and vertical profiles. If I'm getting this right, the BOR team has found that, yes, there might be more wind (almost always) at 200 feet than at sea level, but there might be a band of lesser wind in between, and they want to adjust one or more of their nine vertical sections to account for that.
And obviously, it's not a bad thing to know about a shift before it arrives, or a hole before you fall in. An absolute essential, but only for certain people. Team Alinghi has been in discussion, "But I can't talk about that." Ask about the $90,000 introductory price.
Heads up display
Harold K. "Mike" Vanderbilt raced his yachts without wearing a backpack, but he didn't need a battery pack for a heads-up display.
One aspect that won't require monitoring is the friction-reducing discharge that was being loudly argued a couple of weeks ago. The International Jury OK'd it, but, "We ran out of time to get the system working 100 percent," Spithill says. "We decided to take the system off." Certain apertures in the floats have since been filled.
Spithill has met with the press twice in the last two days. A few highlights:
"The main reason for the center hull is to share the fore and aft loads. Also, you can move the mast if you decide you need to."
"Speed? We can go 1.5 to 2 times the speed of the wind, upwind."
"The wing was always planned to have the added top section. It's more efficient when you look at induced drag . . . an advantage of a wing over a soft sail is that you can adjust it through a wider range, tune in the twist and camber you want, and it doesn't flap. There was a lot that we wanted to do—maybe add a third element—but we had to keep it simple. It's an awesome tool."
"The 'wing caddy' [Aussie Joey Newton] helps Dirk de Ridder [wing trimmer] with twist and camber and tidying up ropes, and he can look at the wing from the low side. It's one of the busiest jobs on the boat."
"Most of the damage a wing will ever suffer happens when you're taking it down or putting it up. That's even true in the C-Class."
"With the wing there is less load than with a soft sail in that last bit of sheeting-in. That helps us trim more and steer less."
Tomorrow: Let's talk Alinghi for a change