TORONTO, CANADA – Canada’s Cup Defender Honour, helmed by RCYC member Alec Krstajic, thrilled dozens of spectator boats off Toronto today, beating U.S. Challenger Team Heartbreaker in two of three matches sailed on the waters of Lake Ontario. While forecasted strong winds never materialized, shifty breeze between 7 and 18 knots tested the abilities of the yachts’ highly skilled crews as they battled for sailing supremacy on the Great Lakes.
Thousands of fans followed the drama from the internet, though a satellite issue delayed the live tracking of the races until late in the afternoon. Jerry Miller, President of telemetry provider IonEarth, assured fans that they wouldn’t miss a second of the races for the rest of the weekend. “We had a glitch that prevented browsers from opening the data sent from the boats”, Miller said. “Fortunately the units recorded the data, and tomorrow, fans will be able to watch the live racing feeds as well as the recorded races from today.” The race viewer is available at www.ionearth.com, and Miller is extremely excited to show fans the extensive upgrades that IonEarth has made specifically for close-quarters racing. “We’re happy to make this coverage available to fans of yacht racing everywhere, and we hope to see it become a bigger part of future events”, Miller said.
Racers Show Unexpected Strengths…and Weaknesses
Bob Hughes, the owner and driver of Heartbreaker, has long been one of the faster helms on the competitive Farr 40 fleet racing circuit. In his past two attempts to win the Canada’s Cup, Hughes has shown some weakness in match racing starts, which require completely different skills than the fleet starts that Hughes is so good at. Surprisingly, today’s racing saw a reversal of what many expected from this match: The U.S. team won the starts handily, while the Canadians had blinding speed around the course. Hughes attributes his improvement in starting to a short but intensely focused training program. “We spent 3 weeks working on starting, both in Denmark with [match racing specialist and America’s Cup skipper] Jes Gram-Hansen and in Detroit with Dave Dellenbaugh and the crew of Victrix” Hughes explained. Despite Hughes’ solid starting technique, Heartbreaker lost the first race convincingly, and lost the second by just a few yards. “We saw the pressure in Alec’s sails, but it never reached us, and we had nowhere to go. That’s just sailboat racing.” Heartbreaker came back strongly in a windier race 3, leading wire to wire to bring the series to 2-1.
A quick look at Honour’s crew list helps explain some of their speed – top level professional sail trimmers Cameron Dunn and Jon Ziskind seemed to add another gear to the yacht. Pure speed can’t explain Honour’s victories though – it was perseverance and communication that gave the defender her lead. “We all are able to talk together so well”, Ziskind said. “[Olympic Finn sailor] Chris Cook has a great ability to see wind, and the communication between Gavin, Alec, and the rest of the crew is just awesome.” Gavin Brady had a different take on Honour’s ability to gain on most of the big shifts throughout the day. “Last week, I asked Alec if he minded if we took the wind instruments off the mast”, the former BMW/Oracle helmsman said. “They only tell you what’s already happened anyway, and without all the blinking lights it’s easier for us to see the shifts as they happen, rather than afterwards.”
Perhaps most importantly, the skippers and crews are in good spirits, enjoying a solid rivalry. Krstajic explained it best: “So much was said about whether we should even race for the Cup this year – should we, shouldn’t we, who should lead the team – but whether we win or lose, how great is it to just get out there and do what we love; racing with and against people we respect?
There’s a lot at stake tomorrow. Victory for Canada in the two scheduled races would bring them to the brink of a successful defense of the Canada’s Cup, while Hughes is hoping to tip the scales in his favor with a pair of wins in this best of 9 series.
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Toronto, Canada – Angry grey clouds over downtown Toronto announced the deepening of a nearby low pressure system today, forcing Canadian authorities to issue a Small Craft Warning valid all day Friday on Lake Ontario. Some weather models predict 25 knots of breeze or stronger, and both teams – Defender Honour and Challenger Heartbreaker – had a day of trying practices and last-minute preparation for what is likely to be a brutally physical few days on the water. Tactics will lose some of their importance in heavier air, and boathandling will become a bigger factor.