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Cup Spy Sept 15,- Day 1: The Rain in Spain didn't 'stay mainly the plain,' but came to Vilanova

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 16 Sep 02:13 NZST 16 September 2023
Race Day 1 - AC40 - America's Cup Preliminary Regatta - Vilanova - September 15, 2023 © America's Cup Media

"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

Those famous lyrics sung by Professor Henry Higgins in the 1938 musical My Fair Lady were at odds with the weather prevailing in Vilanova for the first day of official racing in the America's Cup Preliminary Event.

Instead of "staying on the plain", the rain bucketed down on the America's Cup crews gathered in Vilanova. The intention was for the boats to leave the dock at 1530hrs CET and for racing to start 40 minutes later, at 1610hrs CET.

At that point (1610hrs), Race Director Iain Murray decided on safety grounds that racing was not to be staged on the day.

At the time, there was heavy rain and only light winds of 10-12kts.

The overriding concern was that of crew and boat safety.

The thunderstorms accompanied by lightning are an explosive mix - as demonstrated earlier this year in SailGP Singapore, where the New Zealand entry was struck by lightning after racing, causing substantial damage to the rig and systems - requiring a complete rewiring of the raceboat.

For the international viewing audience, there was some compensation in viewing what could have been - a replay of the Practice Racing from Friday, where Emirates Team New Zealand, the defending America's Cup champion, trounced the six-team fleet - winning all three races.

Today's start was initially delayed as officials hoped that a severe weather front would bypass the America's Cup fleet on the water off Vilanora. That hope was not realised.

Official weather data supplier Predictwind forecasted heavy rain with 6-7mm/hr of rain forecast for the scheduled start time.

After being delayed from the scheduled start time of 1530hrs CET (1330hrs UTC), Race Director Iain Murray decided to pull the pin for the day at around 1610hrs CET (1410hrs UTC) after heavy rain and thunderstorms approached Vilanova.

Racing should be possible on Day 2, with no rain forecast - and winds from the South of 6-8kts average. There will be heavy cloud cover at times. The prediction is for a moderately heavy sea state from the East of up to 1 metre - which will be very challenging for the crews sailing the 40ft foiling monohulls.

However every (rain) cloud has a silver lining, and for fans that is there will now be four races per day instead of three. The start time is now at the earlier hour of 1505hrs CET or 1305hrs UTC the last start is scgeduled for 1700hrs CET on both Saturday and Sunday.

Quotes from the Boats:

Paul Goodison, co-helmsman/skipper for NYYC American Magic: "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."

Nathan Outteridge, co-helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand: "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 just excited to race, the practice races were great and we just want to get into it."

Maxime Bachelin, co-helmsman for Alinghi Red Bull Racing: "We just tried, we went out but it was a bit too stormy, thunderstorms, so for the safety I think it's good to 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."

Kevin Peponnet, Orient Express Racing Team: "It was pretty scary when we saw some lightning and we couldn't see above 50 metres so sailing in these foiling boats in more than 25 knots of speed without a clear view of where we are going would be pretty scary. Also with the lightning, we are full carbon and we asked all the sailors and shore team coming on the boat not to touch the mast or shrouds as a lightning strike, as we've seen on other boats, can be dramatic. The call was good to come back."

Giles Scott, co-helmsman for INEOS Britannia: "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."

Jimmy Spithill, co-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."

"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."

Additional Images:

This commentary was written and compiled from video, still images and statistical content extracted from the AC37 Joint Recon program and other material available to Sail-World NZ including photo files, and other on the water coverage from the 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2021 America's Cups. Its format is intended to give Sail-World readers a snapshot of all teams' progress on a given day or period.

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