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AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:
The Limits

Daily Report - January 4, 2000-

Auckland, NZ

Long ago the challengers agreed that races would not be started in sustained winds over 18 knots, nor continue racing in winds over 23 knots. This somewhat controversial rule is not well understood by some of the fans, but it was deemed necessary to protect the challengers' yachts -- and sailors -- from excessive wear and tear over this long and grueling series of races.

These limits seem a bit low to the casual racer. This is because the race committee takes the wind speed measurements from an anemometer mounted ten meters above the water. Wind speed increases as you gain elevation from the surface of the water. This means that 18 knots to a sailor on the deck is aprox 20 knots on the anemometer at ten meters and another 13% higher (23 knots) at the mast head of an IACC boat (34 meters up). The other factor here is that the rule says that the wind must exceed 18 knots for a solid five minute period, so if once during five minutes, the wind dips to 17.9 knots, the race is still on. Most sailors agree that the wind is generally fluctuates a knot or two most of the time. So for it to blow above 18 knots for a solid five minutes, practically speaking, it's blowing 19-20, then add a couple of knots for the increase between ten and 34 meters and you soon have a pretty blustery day on your hands

Dr. Roger "Clouds" Badham's forecast for today was for rain squalls and winds in the 20s gusting into the low 30s. So we knew this morning that the wind was likely to be over the rule limit at race time, but this did not deter our gung-ho race committee chairman, Vince Cooke. Early on he signalled his intentions to try to start racing today as scheduled at 1315.

So it was business as usual this morning. The only changes to our normal morning routine was the decision by Paul not to take 49 out as a tune up boat, and to delay our dockstart by 30 minutes to avoid as much as possible beating up the boat and crew.

By 11:30 the racing yachts, tenders and support boats were bouncing around in starting area. Clouds' forecast was, as it often is, spot on. At 12:30 the Race Committee began announcing a series of fifteen-minute postponements, hoping that the 20+ knot wind might die down enough to get racing started.

The rules provide that, in marginal conditions and with respect to certain deadlines, the individual teams and race committee chairman can confer by radio and agree match-by-match whether or not to proceed. By 14:00 America True and Nippon asked the Race Committee to postpone their match to a later day, and Vince Cooke agreed given that the wind was then above the limits and was predicted not to abate through the afternoon. About 14:15 Stars & Stripes and Le Defi bailed out. Prada and our guys, however, persevered, and finally at about 14:35 agreement was reached with the Race Committee to attempt getting a starting sequence underway at 15:00. This is the deadline in the rules after when no warning signal (10 minute gun) shall be made unless both teams and the Race Committee otherwise agree. It also is, practically speaking, about the latest time a race can be started without keeping the flotilla out past sundown, at least on a light air day when the race can take up to four hours. (The time limit for the full 18.5-mile course by when the first boat must finish for the race to count is 4h15m.)

Well, 25 minutes is a very short time to make final preparations for a race, and the AmericaOne sailing and on-water support teams flew into action. Tender skipper Don Anderson and chase boat driver Will Benedict had their hands full keeping up with the stream of requests coming from navigator Lexi Gahagan aboard USA 61, who is sort of a cross between a receptionist for 61 and chief operating officer afloat.

Meanwhile aboard 61 Tactician John Kosteski had his "Race Committee Representative" hat on, handling the sometimes delicate negotiations with Race Committee Chairman Vince Cook and the other team(s). John has developed an excellent working relationship with Vince. Just as the guys were ready to hoist the main on 61, Vince, John and the Prada rep agreed the wind had actually ramped up, was now quite a bit over the wind limits, and that exercising a bit of discretion would be better than a exhibition of "quien es masmacho". Wisely our match was postponed along with the others until tomorrow.

As I write this at 18:15 it is still howling here outside Bob's Big Base, but Clouds is calling for moderating winds tonight giving way to a much lighter day tomorrow and, indeed, the balance of this week.


Tom Eman
AmericaOne Rules Advisor

About The Challenge

AmericaOne is one of the leading challengers for America's Cup 2000. The team is currently competing in Auckland, New Zealand for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge New Zealand for the America's Cup in February 2000. AmericaOne has built two boats based on 4 years of technology development and innovation. The top level technology partners are Hewlett-Packard Company, Telcordia Technologies/SAIC, Ford Motor Company/Visteon and United Technologies Corp. AmericaOne represents San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club. To learn more about AmericaOne visit: www.americaone.org.

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