The Final Act

Louis Vuitton Act 13 ends with a comprehensive win for the America's Cup defender

All right, I know that headline is probably being used in a dozen different places to open reports on Louis Vuitton Act 13 - the last regatta in the series of preliminary events ahead of the Louis Vuitton Cup. But the coincidence of that and a comprehensive fourteen point win by America’s Cup defender Alinghi does raise the question – is it all over before it’s begun?

I asked a couple of people (who should know) before the start of Act 13 if they thought that Alinghi was likely to turn up and race with their optimal configuration of hull, foils, bulb, mast and sails – and the answer was no. It was hard to see what they might gain from showing their hand to the Challenger fleet so early. After all, only Alinghi know where the boat they used in Act 13 sits, in performance terms, relative to what else they have in that vast Valencian operations base. They could use a slower configuration and still get a measure of the challenger fleet, without revealing the full extent of their own performance gains over the winter.

Or – alternatively - they could come out fully cocked, hoping to blow the doors off everyone else and achieve a psychological victory that would still be echoing in ten weeks time.

Let’s hope it’s the latter, because if Alinghi have more speed to come, then the America's Cup match will be another whitewash. If there’s one clue that they might have chosen to race with their fastest gear, it dates back to 2003, when they sailed against OneWorld Challenge before the opening Louis Vuitton Round Robin. They thrashed us comprehensively with the new boat (although rumours were circulating that it didn’t measure), and then brought the old one out for the Round Robin - only to end up with us taking a race off them and topping the group.

Afterwards, there were stories that the result had shaken their confidence more than a little (fully restored by reversing the result in Round Robin Two and leading the challenger fleet from then on…), but the memory of that experience may have been enough to convince them that winning counts for more than guarding their hand.

But even so, back in 2003, Alinghi’s quicker pace of development during the Louis Vuitton Cup won them the challenger title. They managed that despite the distraction of racing, but this time the LV schedule is much tighter, making it difficult to see where the challengers are going to find the time to make gains in pure boat speed - rather than racing competence. They will be busy keeping the tills of Valencia ker-chinging by providing the entertainment for the next two and a half months, while Alinghi will be quietly doing more of what they’ve already established they are very good at – producing phenomenally fast boats.

Looked at like this, it’s hard to see why this wasn’t the final act….?

Louis Vuitton and America's Cup Live Race Commentary at:

Mark Chisnell ©