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  • matt7346

Christmas Cup

20 Dec, 2020

An agonising watch

What can I say? It was painful to watch the Brits dead in the water as they crawled up the beat in the only race of the day. A race that was over before it started – literally. And if you don’t want to hear about the most uncomfortable race of the series, look away now. For everyone else, (probably just both of you), the problems started for INEOS when, like the Kiwis, they realised that keeping the boat on the foils in the pre-start was more important than trying to lock horns. This meant steering some undesirable angles simply to keep flying, which in turn meant that as the Brits approached the line on starboard for the last few seconds they had so sail lower than they wanted just to stay airborne. This meant they couldn’t lay the pin end, the Kiwis only just managed it. From there the Brits had to hope they could keep foilborne through the tack for the long port hand stretch across the line and out to the boundary. They couldn’t. Simple as that. And that was the end of their race as they never flew again. The humiliation of a 1,300m deficit growing in just 2 min 30 sec must have been hard to bear, but when they were lapped before they had even reached the windward mark I simply don’t know how there wasn’t a collective sense of failure on board. But there wasn’t and as this bizarre race that ran out of time played out you had to admire the attitude of the crew. Now, I appreciate that there are those who think that my nationality might colour my judgement. I’d say it doesn’t, I’m here to tell the overall story, but that’s for you to decide. But what I would say is that given the understandable amount of stick that the team have come in for over the last few weeks, two things that have struck me are: 1) Ben has turned up to every press conference and conducted himself in a dignified and pragmatic manner that has taken several of those who know him well by surprise. He hasn’t once avoided accepting that his boat has problems and that they’re far from tweaks. He has fronted up every time - this is leadership in crisis. 2) The team spirit is a long way from breaking down, far from it. I’ve not been into their base, but what I hear in the TV gallery over the crew audio comms is not a team that’s about to rip into each other, or a team on the verge of melt down, this is a team that knows it has a very serious problem, most likely multiple problems and knows that they can either implode, or try to do something about it in the time that they have. Only one of these options will provide a chance of gaining some ground – it’s obvious which it is. But aside from INEOS’ problems we saw another side of the AC75s in action in a four day session that has been incredibly revealing, that of displacement sailing. You may laugh, scoff even, at the prospect of such potent machines slogging their way around the race course as they push tonnes of water in front of them. But the fact is that, ‘it is what it is’, right now. The lower wind limit is 6 knots and while there will be plenty of armchair experts who claim that this is simply ridiculous and needs to be changed, I’d suggest that regatta director Iain Murray’s comments are worth considering on this. When asked that very question, (and remember he and doesn’t set the limits, he just implements what the teams agree), he said, “The problem isn’t the 6knot wind limit, it’s the breeze dropping below that during the race.” If you’re in any doubt, watch this abandoned race and note when the foiling stops. Alternatively keep you powder dry, save you spare time for the video pieces I’ll be posting up on PlanetSail on a range of topics over the next few weeks, subscribe, spread the word and let me know what you think. (Shameless plug). Happy Christmas ps. We hung out until the end of the day but there were no further races, so no Christmas Cup. Bummer. pps. Re pic - if only it had been this close - there was actually a lap between them

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