Historic Seven J Class Exhibition Race is America's Cup Prelude
Next Best Place To Be. Kiwi Seven Time Cup Campaigner Tony Rae Reflects…..
Despite a huge spectator fleet mustered off NE Bermuda's north shore ready and waiting attentively to see the record fleet of seven J Class yachts in action for the first two scheduled races of the America's Cup J Class Regatta, the winds did not cooperate and no racing could be run.
The fickle breezes did not build above five knots for any length of time, averaging no more than two or three knots as the J Class crews waited. But with no prospect of a significant improvement the decision was taken to abandon racing for Day 1. The J Class teams will not now race until Monday, National Heroes Day holiday when hundreds of spectator boats are known to be heading out to see the regatta.
Spectators will be assured of a truly historic sight on Bermuda's Great Sound on Saturday when the seven J Class yachts will stage an exhibition race prior to the start of the 35th America's Cup Match.
The yachts will set off at 30 seconds intervals from 12.00.00 hrs midday, the youngest two J Class yachts first – JS1 Svea and J8 Topaz – Svea on starboard from the starboard end of the line. Thereafter JH1 Lionheart start on starboard opposite JK6 Hanuman at the port end, J5 Ranger come in on starboard opposite JK7 Velsheda and then JK3 Shamrock, as the original, first built J starts at 1203
The fleet will sail an upwind leg, a short reach to an offset, downwind, upwind and reach to a finish line.
The Next Best Place to Be.
The America's Cup has been Kiwi Tony Rae's sailing life. He has sailed in every Team New Zealand line up since the 12 Metre days in 1987 in Fremantle and raced in San Francisco on the New Zealand AC72. This time Rae is in Bermuda doing something else he loves with a passion, at the beating heart of the J5 Ranger crew. If he can't be on the Kiwi Cup boat Saturday for the first time, this is probably the next best place to be.
"To be here and not racing tomorrow is the weirdest thing." Rae, who at 55 rigorously maintains the strength and fitness of athletes half his age, "My whole life has been the America's Cup. This will be the first time I will have sat outside it and not been involved. I was doing some commentary at home with PJ Montgomery was in itself strange, to know exactly what is going on inside the camp, you know the daily routines, you know everything. So to not be involved is a very, very strange thing indeed."
He clearly feels the acute loss just as any top soccer or rugby player misses the dressing room buzz, the anticipation before a World Cup final. "I miss it. I really, really miss it. I love being in there with the team. I love being there in the environment where the whole team has the one focus, the one goal on one day. One race at a time. You have a date you are working towards, whether you started a year ago or four years ago. And I really, really miss that."
Rae explains: "I love being in that environment, working as a team where everyone is trying to do their very best in every area. So for me there is no sailing role now, for a 55 year old. It has all changed and that is one of the reasons we have so many ex America's Cup sailors on these J Class yachts. "
He is looking forwards to Saturday's exhibition race, to sharing the J Class history, the chance to show off what the Js are really like:
"This is such cool sight to see so many Js and be in the middle of it and specially to be here at the America's Cup, where it all started for the Js. The contrast between the Js and what there is here now could not be greater, the weight and the scale of these things compared to what they have is amazing."
Rae is one of the very few sailors to have moved through the different classes and design generations up to and including 2013.
"I started in 1987 in Fremantle on 12 Metres which are a smaller version of these Js doing eight and a half knots upwind, now they are doing 30. We were just laughing about it the other day, the size and scale of these Js and where they are today. So the whole game has changed so much. I am so lucky. I count myself as extremely lucky to have sailed on all the different boats. And to be able to sail the Js now, here, but to have gone through the 12 Metres, to the version 5 boats where they all generated from in 1992 and then nice boats in 1995 and then the version 5 boats in '07, and then to actually to take the next step with the AC72s to sail on them, that was a whole new game in itself, that was a real contrast."
"But I have been so lucky to have had that range of contrasts. The Pete Burlings and his generation will not get that range I've had I don't suppose. They are unbelievable sailors and one day I am sure will come and sail on these J Class Yachts, but to go through all those other boats I am sure they won't get that chance. I am pretty privileged."
"I went for a sail on these America's Cup boats. I went out on the SoftBank boat, just for a ride. The first thing you notice is how quiet it is even compared to the AC72, that is the whole drag thing, the boards were big the boats were big so there was a lot of screeching noises and vibration, that is drag. These boats have reduced all that drag and the windage so it is so much quieter. You get on and accelerate to 40kts and there is just a hissing noise."
"But the fact that our J Class owners have come here with these boats and us is amazing. It s great that people tomorrow will see the whole size and power of these boats, sailing around. It is all about the history."
There is no mistaking who Rae and his compatriots are backing.
"It feels like there are many more around us who are rooting for the Kiwis. I can't think of anyone I know backing 'the Australians' but you might expect that. I think it will be great racing. I know the feeling in the Kiwi camp, they are fantastic, and I know they have been working so hard. It will be great racing but I'm sure the Cup is coming back to New Zealand!"