Luna Rossa Strategist Spills AC Lowdown

Andy Horton, strategist/tactician for Luna Rossa Challenge, shares his insider insight on everything from AC hull design to Valencia weather patterns. "A Voice from Valencia" from our April 5, 2007, /AC eNewsletter/

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Luna Rossa

As I write this, there are only 11 days until the beginning of the Louis Vuitton Cup. I find that to be an amazing statement. Next week will be my two-year anniversary with Luna Rossa Challenge. Every day for the last two years my goal has been to help make this team the best it could be for Louis Vuitton Cup and ultimately the America's Cup. After all of that hard work the first race is right around the corner. This week has been busy in Valencia. Just a few days ago all of the teams, including Alinghi, removed the skirts used to hide the hull shapes and appendages. Members of the teams, and the public, were allowed to walk into all of the bases and look, photograph, study all of the boats and their appendages. Of course, it is not really in any team's best interest to show all of its cards at this time. So, most of the teams with two boats measured one boat in for Act 13 and put an appendage package they would never use on their other boat. For instance there was one boat displayed with wings that were 8 inches longer than they are allowed to be. Lesson number one of the America's Cup-every secret is well guarded in this game. Despite all of this gamesmanship, there were some fascinating things too see. Personally it was nice to take a look at all of the hulls and see what we will be racing against. For the last three years, the press has been saying all of the boats will be the same shape this time around. They assumed the hull shapes would be very similar because the America's Cup Class is over 15 years old and there have been 100 boats built. Well, throw all of that out the window. Every boat this time around is maximum length. That allows your boat to be at maximum weight and also carry the maximum allowable sail area. Nearly all of the boats have perfectly vertical topsides. The beam of the whole fleet is within about 6 inches and all have the famous "Davidson Bow," which features two distinct turns on the underside of the bow profile and then a vertical or near vertical stem. It's named after Laurie Davidson, who created it while working for Team New Zealand. That's where the similarities end, however. The real differences between the boats racing for this America's Cup are in cross section and rocker. This may not sound that exciting, but when you look at the boats in real life, and actually pick out the differences, it is amazing. Some of the boats look nearly rectangular. If they had chines, they would be 80-foot Star boats. Other boats have very round cross sections. A few have quite a bit of rocker-similar to the boats built for the 2003 America's Cup-but most of them have flat bottoms from halfway back on the foredeck to behind the wheels. Within the fleet almost every possible combination is displayed. As a sailor, it's really nice to see a lot of variation across the fleet. Otherwise it would be very boring. After seeing what every team had been hiding under their skirts, it was time to go racing in Louis Vuitton Act 13. After two days, and three fleet races, the competition is very close. The top 5 challengers, including my team, are within 2 points of each other while Alinghi has a nice lead. So far this spring has been much colder than last year. The locals will tell you it's more of a "normal" year for Valencia. The cold temperatures on shore make it difficult for the seabreeze to really develop. This combined with the low pressure we have had offshore for the last few days have made it even worse. The tough, unstable conditions have made for some exciting racing early in Act 13. But what does that mean for the Louis Vuitton Cup? Will the offshore winds continue? If so, there will be some big upsets. What will happen once the synoptic situation changes and the thermal develops? The first few weeks of the seabreeze are always windy. Last spring we had a few days with a 25-knot seabreeze. Many of the teams have built their boats for light air because last year was light. What's going to happen if it starts blowing 25 knots day after day and the waves build up?There are a lot of questions still to be answered and we'll all know a lot more in just a few days. There have been some big eye-openers and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The real eye opener, for all of the sailors, is that in 33 days seven teams will be done with the 2007 America's Cup and will be going home.