The picturesque, stunning Mediterranean conditions of yesterday were replaced briefly today by conditions that multiple America’s Cup winner Glenn Ashby described as “downright atrocious,” from the commentary booth as the rain in Spain, that supposedly falls ‘mainly on the plain’ decided that Vilanova I La Geltrú would be its intended target on this, day one of the first Preliminary Regatta on the road to the 37th America’s Cup in Barcelona.
Race Director Iain Murray, initially delayed dock-out to 3.30pm as a fast-moving weather pattern looked to be passing overheard and offshore but as the teams eventually slipped their moorings from the Pendennis Marina, the pulses intensified, and torrential rain dumped down not only on the competing America’s Cup teams but the flotilla of spectator craft who braved the conditions to get close to the action.
The AC40s hoisted their mainsails with the majority going for their J2 jibs as 12-15 knots of breeze filled under a darkening, threatening sky but with the wind direction flicking around, as the storm clouds blew through, the wind shut down to be replaced by sheet rain and lightning strikes off in the distance. The only sensible and ‘seamanship’ decision as Iain Murray had briefed earlier, particularly with the boats being full-carbon construction, was to abandon all racing and send the sailors quickly back to port.
Kevin Peponnet, co-helm on the French Orient Express Team was visibly pleased with the decision as he came ashore saying: “It was pretty scary when we saw some lightning and we couldn’t see above 50 metres. The call was good to come back.”
Giles Scott, helmsman for INEOS Britannia backed Iain Murray and the Race Committee’s decision saying: “Yeah good decision. I mean maybe we could have sat it out but looking at the weather now it’s still not raceable an hour after the decision. Top wind we saw was 15 knots for about ten minutes, but it was all over the place and not raceable and with the visibility and lightning… the weather God’s were conspiring unfortunately.”
Nathan Outteridge, helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand, the stand-out performers in the Practice Races of yesterday came off the dock and reported: “I think it was the right decision to abandon, but it was good to give it a chance as we all want to race. It was pretty wet when we got out there. We had about 10-11 knots when we were hoisting sails, so we went for the J2 but by the time we cut the chase it was 4-5 knots and I think after about 10 minutes, Iain Murray realised that this was not a good place to be for everyone and got us all back in. I think everyone is just excited to race, the practice races were great, and we just want to get into it.”
Jimmy Spithill, helmsman for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, was disappointed not to sail but realistic saying: “It was a little worrisome heading out there with the lightning on the radar but look we gave it our best shot, we did everything we could, and sometimes as we all know in our sport you can’t control the weather and ultimately it was decided for us.”
Asked what he would like to see in terms of the schedule going forward, Jimmy responded: “If it were up to me, I would probably shorten the races up a little and try and fit more in because that’s what we want to see, more starts, more mark roundings and I think people would enjoy that.”
Paul Goodison, helmsman for NYYC American Magic, was also looking ahead to what the Race Committee may opt to do with the schedule saying: “It is what it is, in the weather it would have been very difficult to sail with lightning and thunder around, it doesn’t feel very nice to be on a boat when all that is happening around you. It will be interesting to see if they try and squeeze a couple more races in, it would be nice for us as sailors to do more races because that’s what we’re here to do but whatever the Race Committee decide, we will go with that.”
Maxime Bachelin, helmsman for Alinghi Red Bull Racing added: “We just tried, we went out, but it was a bit too stormy, thunderstorms, so for the safety I think it’s a good thing to head home. There was not a lot of wind as well, so they did what they can, and we will be ready for tomorrow, for sure.”
Jimmy Spithill offered an insight into how the team are approaching the regatta from here on saying: “As each race went on yesterday we were just slowly learning and improving but we’re under no illusion that it’s an hours game and so for, say, the French they are in a harder position as they’ve had fewer hours than us, but look we’re competitive as well and we’re not going to use it as an excuse but we’re saying to the guys: ‘this is reality, let’s not get frustrated and let’s just keep learning as much as we can every day and in every race’. For me right now, the Kiwis and the Americans look like the teams to beat.”
Looking ahead, a decision on the schedule of races for the rest of the regatta will be made in the morning by Iain Murray but with the skies clearing in the early evening here in Vilanova I La Geltrú, hopes are high for a full day of racing and a thrilling weekend of foiling racing in this, the first Preliminary Regatta of the 37th America’s Cup.