The ‘Wing Tent’ at the foot of the hill leading up to Harbour Court is the closest thing to a shrine in all of sailing. It’s a sparkling, glittering monument to the creativity of spectacular minds driven by passion for pure sailing.
The sight itself is enough to make any high-performance sailor swoon a little; six 40′ wing sails on their luffs, leaving just enough space between them to walk or to kneel and repair torn shrink-wrap that makes up most of their exterior. The constant shuffle here of some of sailing’s most influential Cup personnel is nothing if not a pilgramage to what might be in all their futures, and a show of respect for people who work so hard for such an unconventional but laudable goal. Juan K has put in an appearance as has Farr Yacht Design’s Russell Bowler. A pair of ETNZ loyal staffers were scoping things out pretty carefully, and BMW/Oracle wing builder Dimitri Despierres is roaming around with our old pal Joseph Ozanne and Francis Hubert, designers of the USA 17 wing – and they’re just ahead of Pete Melvin and his designers, who roll into town shortly.
There seems to be no competitive brashness here; no posturing, no sneaking around, and no pressure. Fred and Magnus showed up with their new Defender Canaan sporting a couple of innovations, and within a day they’d been copied by half the fleet. Such is progress, and such is the C-Class – a collection of geniuses and speed freaks that are all giddy at the chance to compete in the coming Little America’s Cup. And giddy they are; from the rich guys to the carbon jockeys, the AC superstars to the patriarchs of the fleet — all are smiling in delight like little kids on their first trip to Disneyland.
But they’re not completely idle; The French Team used the off days to improve the Patient Lady VI wing, adding twist controls for the upper third of the wing that get the old lady closer to the newer wings in ability – potentially, anyway. To change the upper third of the wing to allow more twist, it would take a couple days, so they planned on no racing today to complete the system. It was a risky move, but it may pay off in the end.
There’s also been a slight change in the SIs today. Fleet racing is extended through Thursday, with the top two teams selecting their wing and boat for the best-of-nine championship match race by Friday at 0830. The format isn’t set for 3-6 yet though, and maybe the most forceful proponent for transparency in the Class, Magnus ‘blunted’ Clarke on Canaan asked the Anarchists what they think. Should 3-6 continue fleet racing in a box around the championship race, continue match racing in a round robin or do a pure speed run? Add your own thoughts here, and while you’re at it, check out a damned good piece from gadget ubersite Gizmodo.
So while it’s disappointing to see them lose two full days to a gale here in the Bay, we are not completely upset about it, as we didn’t arrive from our Detroit-Newport trek until 10 AM on Monday, learning of the first day’s postponement with a sigh of relief. But another day waiting, and as the grey-maned lion Steve Clark said, "I am pacing the cage."
The On the Water team took advantage of the downtime to do interviews, including the current defenders sailing Canaan, Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke. We followed it up with Gordon Kaiser, the wing trimmer and aerospace engineer on Invictus. PRO of the event, Kevin Geogh gave us the low down on the unique position a PRO is in an event like this here. We were lucky enough to catch up with the Gandalf of the C-Class, Dave Hubbard, who’s been a leader of this action for over 50 years: Part 1 and Part 2. The live coverage will be the best yet with live audio on the boats, commentary, incredible pics, tracking and constant forum updates, as well as replayable tracking from IonEarth.
We’re ready to rock and roll, and we hope you tune in. If ever there’s been a sailboat race worth watching, this is it. Thanks to Christophe Launay for the photo, and special thanks to Hunt and HBI Boats for their help in putting together our coverage team.