Setting the course
All races are scheduled to begin at 11:10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Before the start, the race committee boat, the 59-foot motor sailer Nor'Easter, will take up its station opposite the America's Cup Buoy, thus establishing the starting line. Then, 20 minutes before the start, the committee will hoist a set of three code flags indicating the direction from the starting line to the first course marker—for example, AQL for northeast (see compass rose at right).
At the same time, they will hoist the code letter Y if the marks are to be passed to starboard, code Z if the marks are to be passed to port. In a triangular race the direction of the second mark is automatically established, since the triangle is equilateral. Time limit for windward-leeward races is six hours, for triangular races five and a half hours, and if neither yacht finishes in time the committee will cancel the race.
Signaling the start
Ten minutes before the start, the committee will fire a gun (or blow the boat's whistle) and hoist the 10-minute warning, a white cylinder (right). Five minutes later there will be another gun and a blue cylinder. At the start, a third gun and a red cylinder. If either boat starts too soon, the recall signal will go up. In case of a rule violation, the innocent boat should immediately hoist the red protest flag.
Understanding the races
Nothing is muddier to the eye of the landsman than the tactics in a sailing race, particularly a two-boat match race like the America's Cup where the competitors seem to be sailing in every direction but the right one. The diagrams below explain, in simplest general terms, a typical match race in which both boats try to follow Rule No. 1 of match racing: stay between the opponent and the next mark, no matter how far you have to go to do it.
At start (1), black may try to maneuver rival onto wrong side (X) of committee boat (C), forcing him to start again. Black may do this only if white is upwind. If white is downwind, or leeward, black tries to cut off white's Y wind, forcing white to sail in area of disturbed air, called wind shadow. But white may slip safely to leeward (Y), thus making start even.
Going to windward (2), white must get away from black's wind shadow or he will be unable to pass. So he changes direction, or tacks, hoping to escape. But black immediately covers white's move (3), thus keeping white trapped by his wind shadow and at same time staying between white and the windward mark.
Tacking duel follows (4), with white hoping to get away by quicker maneuvering. After many tacks, white pulls even, and boats converge on opposite tacks (5). Since white is on starboard tack, i.e., has wind coming over starboard bow, black must give way. He tacks quickly (6) to avoid white's wind shadow.
Approaching the mark (still 6), white tacks to avoid any bad wind currents bouncing off black's sail. Black comes about soon thereafter. When each skipper thinks he can lay the mark, i.e., reach the mark without another tack, he comes about, heads for buoy (7).
Rounding the mark, white swings upwind (8) of black, hoping to cut off black's wind and overtake him. But black, in position of leeward boat being overtaken, has right of way, retaliates by forcing white to turn into wind until sails shake, or luff (9), and both boats lose speed. Black may continue luffing white until white's helm is opposite black's mast; then black must resume his course for the leeward mark.
Resuming course (10), black may be slow handling sails and white may blanket black—cut off his wind—and overtake him (11, 12). But black is not allowed to luff white again so long as some part of white's boat stays within two boat lengths of some part of black's. However, if black can keep some part of his boat overlapping some part of white's, black may then demand room to round the buoy (13).
Rounding leeward mark (14), white is now blanketed by black Therefore he abandons straight course for finish and, as the leeward boat, forces black to run across the wind (15), hoping black's spinnaker will collapse, so that black will slow down and white can escape. If white fails, he may then change direction by quickly jibing (16)—and black jibes to cover. By now, committee boat will have crossed to other side of starting buoy to set up finish line.
Approaching finish, black matches white's jibe, crossing white's stern (17) to stay on his wind. At finish, white must allow black room (18) to cross the line—unless white wants to force both boats to wrong side of buoy and gamble on winning wild scramble as boats break away from each other to circle back to finish line.
Spotting the sails
Each boat will have about two dozen sails. However, the contenders probably will use no more than six basically different combinations, the extra sails being duplicates or near duplicates, with only the tiniest variations in canvas weight or cut, invisible often to the eye of the novice and sometimes the most expert sailor. For example, each boat will have different mainsails for light and heavy winds. For bearing, i.e., going against the wind, they will have genoa jibs, not only of different sizes (see diagrams) but also different canvas weights. For running before the wind—and sometimes for reaching (across the wind)—they will carry light-and heavy-weather spinnakers, plus small spinnaker staysails to catch the wind low to the water. If you study the diagrams at right, however, you will be able to spot all basic types of sails likely to be used during the America's Cup races.
Mainsail and No. 1 genoa is usual combination for light work to windward (upwind).
No. 2 Genoa is used when wind freshens and larger No. 1 "genny" tips boat over too far.
No. 3 Genoa is cut high along bottom to keep heavy seas and winds from bursting sail.
Reefed, or shortened, main and storm jib help boat sail upright in heaviest weather.
Ballooner is big, full-bellied jib used when boat is reaching across the path of the wind.
Spinnaker flies high when boat runs with wind. Spinnaker staysail sets under "chute."
yellow and blue