All Tied Up: SW's Gary Jobson Reports After Race 4

With the Cup is tied at 2 races each for only the third time in its history, Gary Jobson examines the 4 races so far and looks ahead at what may come.

RaceDay4

Stefano Gattini/acm 2007

For the third time in the 156 year history of the America's Cup the score is tied at two all. The previous years were 1920 and 1934. In 1920 light weather favored the American boat Resolute against the heavier challenger Shamrock IV. The fifth and deciding race featured light 8mph winds. Resolute won. In 1934 the third race was essentially over when skipper Mike Vanderbilt went below deck on the run to the finish. Endeavour was ahead. But tactician Sherman Hoyt, a small boat ace from Long Island, NY, outwitted the Brits to save the day. One wonders what we are going to see over the next several days. Based on the spectacle taking place we are in for a great show. Emotions are running high. After the fourth race Emirates Team New Zealand protested Alinghi for improperly lowering their mainsail. It sounded like a stretch. The international jury gave the issue a five hour hearing today, and then dismissed the protest. My view is that it was the right call. In the July issue of Sailing World I wrote about protests by urging all sailors to stay out of the jury room. NZ should have waited for an issue that had more merit. Now the jury will look sideways at any future complaint.Out the race course New Zealand has its work cut out. Alinghi is a faster boat particularly when the breeze builds. So far NZ has been living large because the wind has averaged only 7-13mph, well below the usual 14-17mph winds here in Valencia. It makes me wonder if the wind gods are Kiwis?The strongest breeze appeared during the first race. Alinghi pointed closer to the wind. That night NZ took action. Under the rules you are allowed one major and one minor measurement configuration change over the course of the match. NZ changed their short bulb keel for a much longer one. The plan was to give their boat more stability. Wins in the next two races validated that decision. But NZ is out of major cards to play. Alinghi has not made any measurement changes yet. (A minor change would be something like changing wing angles). On the water there has been a good battle between helmsman, tacticians, and crews. Both teams have sailed extremely well. The toughest problem has been dealing with big, choppy waves. This has made it difficult to steer. Alinghi's helmsman, Ed Baird, from the USA had big shoes to fill when he replaced three-time cup winner Russell Coutts. So far Baird has performed well. His biggest challenge is on the starting line. Dean Barker, New Zealand's ace helmsman, will be looking to catch Baird off guard in the next set of races to draw a penalty. That is what you do if you lack speed. Tacticians Terry Hutchinson (NZ) and Brad Butterworth (SUI) have been at times brilliant and careless. Hutchinson will have to be especially clever to find a way to beat a master like Butterworth, who is riding on a faster boat. Around the waterfront in Valencia I see a lot more fans cheering for the underdog kiwis. NZ needs all the help it can get. I bet New Zealanders back home will be up late at night to cheer their team on.