February 15, 2010

The Dementia In Valencia


A few (very) random and disjointed thoughts of a non-pundit ordinary sailor, trying to make some sense out of a week of sailing spectacle.

It's over.

Larry's thingie was bigger - or at least faster.

Never have two $1oo million toys devalued so much in so little time. What do you think the resale value of Alinghi 5 is at the moment? Or even US 17? What exactly do you do with a 90-foot multihull that's dangerous to sail in winds over 20 knots or in a 10-foot swell?

Even if someone wanted to take well-heeled adventurers on daysails on these two curiosities, I wonder what the insurance premiums would be for covering such a venture. Who would be skilled enough to helm such high-strung monsters on a tour of the harbor?

Did this prove that Americans are better sailors than the Swiss? Did 'we' really beat 'them'? How many Americans were on the winning boat, anyway? Uh, did someone say one in a crew of ten? It seems only the wallet that paid the bills was truly American. So, doesn't this mean the Kiwis and Aussies actually won the cup back? I'm so confused.

I guess we're all supposed to reap 'trickle down' benefits from this incredible technology, resulting in improvements to the kind of boats ordinary people sail. But this time, I doubt it. I'm not sure the new Catalinas will be offering winged sails next year, the way they offered winged keels after the Aussies took us to task in Newport. And I don't think even then it was ever established that a winged keel by itself has any advantage at all for the kind of boat most people sail.

The gap between these boats and real boats is miles wider than for the Australian boat that beat Dennis Conner. Am I the only one who thought he was looking at a NASA mission this week, watching BMW Oracle? The boat was as big as the space shuttle, about as maneuverable, nearly as fast, and probably cost as much. Like astronauts, the crew wore white suits with backpack life support 'pods' (OK, instrument pods - small difference). I don't know if they came in peace for all mankind.

Actually, I was thinking half NASA mission and half Mad Max - with the helmsdude at his crazy little steering station, thirty feet off the water, riding up and down through spray blasting by at 25 knots. I think Tina Turner and Mel Gibson would have looked at home there.

One thing's certain. The raw justice system of the Thunderdome was copied exactly in Valencia.

Two boats enter, one boat leaves.



  1. Thank goodness it’s all over.

    Or is it?

    Please tell me that yours will be the last word on this ‘circus’.


  2. Mike, mine is seldom the last word on anything - and it certainly won't be on this subject.

    Reading this over, it may sound like a pretty angry rant, but I'm really perplexed, not angry.

    I'm just looking for the relevance the last week's spectacle has to those of us who just like to sail, and I'm having a hard time finding any.

    But, maybe the America's Cup has always been that way.

  3. I don't think it was angry at all. It had the same sorta what-the-heck-was-all-the-fuss-about feeling that most of us seem to be experiencing around this spectacle.

    I was looking the other day at what had happened to all of the old boats that had competed in the America's Cup and found the stories interesting. I found myself wondering, just as you have here, what the final disposition of these things will be. Can you recycle carbon fiber? Maybe they'll both be made into bicycle frames, or golf equipment, or wherever else people use that stuff.

  4. If this has anything to do with sailors anymore, I think the cup goes to New Zealand who had the most sailors on both sides. It definitely didn't have much to do with American or Swiss sailors, and if it would have, the best American sailor, Ed Baird, was on the Swiss side, but he wasn't allowed on the boat.

  5. I thought it showed just how hard these boats were to handle when Alinghi, having already lost race one by a wide margin and alone on the course at that point, had trouble doing a penalty turn.

    Some pundits have said there would have been fewer mistakes with Baird at the helm, but who's to say?

    How do you get to be a pundit, anyway?

  6. At least the Romans got bread with their circus. Where's our bread? Oh, they spent it on the boats...

  7. Panda, as Yarg suggests in this very nice post, I wonder if some of the chagrin over this cup isn't due to what an exceptionally poor time it is for the ultra rich to be showing off their wealth.

    Supposedly, one of the reasons many luxury auto makers disappeared during the depression of the 1930's was not that the wealthy could no longer afford their cars, but that many were embarrassed to make an ostentatious show of wealth in such hard times.

    Yarg tries to give some perspective to the absurd amounts spent on this cup by showing what the money would have bought in equivalent numbers of 'real world' boats like Lasers. But I wonder how many were thinking what the money would have bought in terms of mortgage payments, jobs, or relief for Haiti.

  8. Quite a bit of stupidity was on display and I wonder if any non-sailors wondered how it is that sailors who theoretically represent the best of the sport (if the public believes any of the hype and somehow bought into the idea that Alinghi had a capable skipper on board) make lots of stupid mistakes.

    Then there was the ugliness on the committee boat -- something that should never have been allowed a chance to happen in the first place but reflective of some of the stinkier aspects of the defense.

  9. Gawd, the post by yarg does indeed put things in perspective.