Trofeo Desafío Español in Valencia
November 8, 2008
It is a shame that we probably won’t see any match racing this weekend, as that is what these yachts were built to do best. It's the form of sailing I love most, if I'm honest. There is a purity about it that no other form of sailing has. Win or lose. No such thing as second place. No "decent third" or "well-placed fourth".
You won. Or you lost.
That's why I liken the Cup boats to hunters, killers.
If you have never been up close with one of these animals, the sights and sounds are stunning. As they hoist their sails and drop their tows, they come alive, talking, even complaining under the tremendous loads they bear.
The cacophony is a direct contrast to their visual grace. These are not shark-like silent assassins. Think more of a modern-day Jurassic Park, and the sounds that we imagine dinosaurs made. The yachts moan and scream at every turn of a winch. Certainly they can dance on the tips of toes like ballerinas, but they couldn't sneak up behind you, no matter how hard they tried. You would know you were about die.
It was easy (and slightly comical) to spot the virgin 18th man on Saturday from the terrified look on his face, the white knuckles clinging to the gunwales, as though he feared the whole machine would explode in his face with the runners doing their level best to pull the mast to the ground or tear the stern out of the boat.
These machines skirt the ragged edge; they are a balancing act along the dividing line between performance and catastrophe. You can hear an ACC boat crack sheets at several hundred meters, as forces and friction combine and reverberate inside their hollow shells. They are not a quiet place to work. I don't think I can ever completely describe nor quite get my head around so many opposites. You just have to see them in action, feel them, hear them.
And as they glide past ten feet away, squealing and moaning, your mouth just stays firmly open. Just as well there were no flies about today.
Up close, you can see just how much compromise these boats were built with. Which is none. None at all. Spare ounces pared away, not a single drop of paint that isn’t required, all in a quest for that fraction of a knot that can make the difference between winning and losing, because in match racing, that's what it's all about. Life and death.
Cup. Or no Cup.
Crisp for CupInfo
Links of Interest:
Curtain Raiser: The Beast Awakens in Valencia
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