Louis Vuitton Qualifiers

There were 15 races scheduled for the America’s Cup Louis Vuitton Qualifiers over eight days.  The first day we spent in the village and all of the days thereafter we watched the action from Roam in the spectator fleet.  We bought a pennant for public access for the entire Cup.  

It is an excellent vantage from the water.  We have been living and breathing racing every day since opening day!  The boats, athletes, technology and sport is enthralling to us.  There has been plenty to learn about the boats, teams, strategy and tactics that keep us mentally challenged.

We usually like to anchor at the windward mark (typically southwesterly) to watch the tacking duels coming towards us.  The boats round the mark right in front of us and power-up quickly for a down-wind reach.  

The only downside is the boundary at the windward mark can change due to wind conditions and we often have to anchor a few times to keep our good view.

We also get decent views of the starts, which is also action packed.  

There have been some excellent hooks and rolls in a fight for the favored position.

There are six teams competing in the match racing.  One is the defender (Oracle) and the other five (Artemis, BAR, Emirates, Groupama, Softbank) are competing to take one of the four slots open in the semi-finals.  We’ve gotten to know these teams after watching them for the first round robin and have formed a few amateur opinions (ahem... easy to do from the “arm-chair” perspective!).

Let’s start with Oracle Team USA.  They are still dominating the field out there and even won the qualifiers (even though they don’t have to qualify).  That gained them a one point advantage for the final Cup races.  They lost only two races in this round, both to Artemis.  They were moderately aggressive at the starts (for Spithill).  They seemed to take it up a notch for a strong Emirates team, whom they decisively beat twice.

Speaking of Artemis Racing Sweden, they had a fast boat in practices and it showed out on the courses.  However, they struggled a bit during the round robin.  Even though they are fast, their VMG (velocity made good) might not be as on-track as other teams.  They had a fierce race with Emirates early on with nine lead changes!  In the finishing leg they were ahead, but were called for a penalty that lost them the race.  The umpires later admitted a mistake.  The outcome stood and it might have cost the team some momentum for a while there.  Their spirits must be back up after a second win over Oracle.

Back to Emirates Team New Zealand, they are the only team that uses cycle power exclusively.  They are the youngest team out there, typical age around 27-28 years old.  The skipper Burling won the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup races for New Zealand three years ago and was brought up to the big league this year.  They are not only fast, but have the fastest and cleanest tacks and jibs out there.  They are also the first team to complete an entire race on foil ~ out of the water the entire time.  Consistency and strength exemplify this team.   Any small mistake with hulls hitting the water can make or break a race.

That brings us to Landrover BAR representing Britain.  They came to Bermuda with a good standing and two extra points from previous Louis Vuitton series.  They needed it since their performance has been a bit inconsistent during the qualifiers.  Their starts have generally been very good with a few brilliant moves.  Once out on the course, the small and not so small mistakes add up and they have had their share of losses.  They also seem to suffer in lighter winds as we saw one day.  Yet when the winds were high we saw a great duel between them and Softbank.

Softbank Team Japan are a new team to the Cup who have been brought up to speed with help of Oracle.  These two team skippers Barker and Spithill were battling it out in San Francisco three years ago ~ competitive friends?!  Softbank has a fast boat and presumably good technology (it is Japan after all).  They have consistent good starts and often lead into the middle of the race… and then???  It seems like there is always something, a touch-down, bad tactics or  wind-shift that happens and they end up losing the race.  They have had many great performances, but can’t seem to finish things off.

Finally, Groupama France has entered a new team this year.  Their skipper Camas has an impressive sailing resumé, but little match racing experience.  They had a few shining moments in the qualifiers, beating a few strong teams and everyone was rooting for them.  In the end they were not controlled or fast enough to keep up with the rest of the fleet.  They were at the bottom of the standing and will not proceed to the semi-final round.

Mark, Clark, Michelle and I are in sailing heaven.  We love the exciting races and have a multi-media set up to listen to radio commentary with live, local TV broadcasts for replays and the iPad AC application for virtual eye live race displays.  We also get to see the teams close-up when practicing and resting in-between races.  I’ve taken too many photos, of course.  They are a challenge to review, so I've tried to pick out some of the better ones to share.  Stay tuned for the next rounds!

© M&M 2016