We do recall the surprising defeat of BMW Oracle in their match against China Team during the second qualifying round of the 32nd America Cup.
This terrible faux pas put BMW Oracle on equal point with two other favourites: the Italian Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand. A new defeat against the later virtually qualified the Kiwis for the Challenger’s final while the Americans were shamefully eliminated.
Given the current America’s Cup turmoil, it seems interesting to dwell on the reasons for the much surprising victory of a weaker and less prepared Chinese team against the American ogre.
A few days prior to this famous regatta, the Chinese boat suffered minor damage during one of their all too rare training sessions. The genoa inexplicably pulled off the headfoil several times while nothing major had been changed on board?
Confused and looking for an answer, the engineers discovered that the headfoil had been mounted too close to the deck and moving it up by about 10cm solved the problem! On a boat as powerful as an America's Cup yacht, an abnormal effort can have very serious consequences.
All odds gave BMW Oracle widely favourites however their management decided to use the China Team match to give a break to their A Team and at the same time reward the B-Team's long service as sparring partner with a real bout in the ring.
The Danish Skipper Sten Mohr helped by the French Tactician Bertrand Pace took charge of the American battle ship. Well, well, well, history did prove what a mistake this strategy turned out to be!
During the pre-start of the infamous race, a Chinese crewmember noticed that BMW Oracle had apparently made the same mistake. Their super-high-tech-carbon-fibre-extremely-expensive headfoil was mounted really low.
BMW Oracle’s team, so confident in their superiority and perhaps a little imbued, wanted to crush the small Chinese team and showed a surprising aggressiveness against the last ranked competitor.
In this strong breeze China Team knew that a gear failure was a strong possibility and they had to be agressive to provoque it .. Should BMW Oracle fell for it? They decided to give it a go and given that the wind was blowing 15knots, they started to throw one tack after the other to get out of the American’s early grip.
Some of the Chinese crewmembers were wondering if it was worth the effort, however the sight of the American boat was amazing. It looked like the team was responding effortlessly to anything that the Chinese was throwing at them. With magnificent sails displayed and great crew work, the US rocket machine was pedal-to-the-metal and pulling away quickly. Absolutely Superb!
Suddenly, disaster struck. After the seventh tack and while BMW Oracle had already built a comfortable lead, their genoa pulled out of the headstay foil, damaging the carbon-fibre track in the process. The sail was swept away by the wind despite the crew's efforts to recover it.
Injured and flying on one wing only, the American eagle finished this race 3,15 minutes behind Team China.
The Chinese team sailed the remainder of the race very conservatively to a well-deserved and awaited victory. This surprising outcome dragged into delirious celebrations over the one and only wins of the regatta for Team China. David did beat Goliath eventually!
48 hours later, the American staff contacted the Chinese base to ask if they did not have a spare TuffLuff as they had lost total confidence in theirs! At first the Chinese thought that was a joke but after conducting further verification and genuinely fair play, they immediately invited BMW Oracle to verify whether or not their only spare headfoil could do the trick. After checking the length, the Americans refused the offer because the TuffLuff was considered to be too short (20cm!).
On paper BMW Oracle should never have lost that day … and Team China are not about to forget it!
Was the worst result ever recorded by an American team in the America’s Cup the trigger of?
- An enormous sense of frustration among BMW Oracle management?
- The beginning of a descent into hell that culminated in the filing of a 'hostile challenge' for the 33rd America’s Cup?
- The ongoing trial in the New-York Supreme Court?
Today this legal battle threatens thousands of jobs in the America's Cup world as well as the short-term visibility of this global event.
All of this because of a miserable headfoil worth 2,000 euros?