The four America’s Cup teams based in Bermuda are beginning a “formal-informal” practice race period today, with the America’s Cup Race Management [ACRM] team on island to conduct the racing.
Iain Murray, the Regatta Director, has come out before to set up the race courses, continue to learn more about the venue and the weather, and conduct racing that gives the teams an opportunity to line up against each other.
This is the third time ACRM has conducted this type of racing in Bermuda. But with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers now just over four months away, there is a renewed sense of urgency.
This may be practice, but the real thing starts soon, so undertaking the discipline of a simulated race day is something the competitors are taking seriously.
“There’s a lot to it for the teams. Suddenly there is a procedure and process of immovable times that you have to meet and be prepared for,” Murray says.
“That’s not usually a part of everyday life. Usually you can be a bit more flexible. But now you have to get to the race course, ready to race, by the start time.”
On the water, Murray says this is an opportunity for him and ACRM to continue the learning process.
“This is the third time we’ve done this. We’re getting a handle on the performance of these boats, the speed and angles, which helps us set up the race course,” he says.
“We’re also thinking about how we fit everyone in around the race course – the superyachts, the spectator boats, the finishing line off Cross Island, the starting box. There’s competition for real estate out there and we’re working on that.”
Chris Draper, the wing trimmer and sailing team manager for SoftBank Team Japan says these sessions are invaluable.
“It’s great because you’re on the race course area, so there’s a local knowledge build there,” he says.
“You also get to check in and see where you’re at against the other teams. These aren’t the boats we’re going to race in the America’s Cup but a lot of our thinking and strategy is all played out in these races, so it’s a good check in.
“The limitations are that you don’t necessarily have your race equipment, in terms of boards, for example, so you’ve got what you’ve got and it’s a case of just getting out there and doing your best with it. But all the teams are in that same position.”
Draper says the simulation is about more than just what happens on the water. The shore crew gets practiced in race day preparation as well.
“The more you can make a race day the same as a practice day, the better,” he says. “If we can look at exactly how long it takes us to get the boat ready, and launched and through our pre-start routine, the more we’ll be ready when the real racing starts in May.”
Only four of the six America’s Cup teams are based in Bermuda to participate in this race period. But Iain Murray says the offer to conduct racing has been made to all teams, and Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand gain as well.
“Firstly, they’ll benefit from everything we’re learning out here. That benefits all the teams,” he says. “The offer for us to go and run courses and put the discipline in to a race day is a discussion we’ve had with both the French and Kiwi teams and there is still talk about this.”
But for the next couple of weeks, the focus will be on Bermuda’s Great Sound, where the America’s Cup race course will be getting a work out from the four Bermuda based teams.