One of the trademark features of IACC class boats is the so-called "eighteenth place". As you know, the class rules provide for 17 crew members. One more person can be on board as a guest. If we take into account that the sail is considered the most expensive sport, this place is not in vain called t«he best seat in sports». Imagine a chair next door to Roman Arkadyevich on one of the «Chelsea»matches. It's true that even there it's impossible to get the same feeling as aboard a boat. Only here you are in the thickest of events - naturally, bathing in the adrenaline of the race. And a little bit of salt spray.
«The 18th man» is a position invented specifically for team owners. It is used both for personal pleasure and to respect your friends, sponsors or some kind of selebrity. For almost 20 years of the class's existence and 5 America's Cups held on these boats, the numerals have become a noun and entered the dictionaries. This is not a child's ego stimulant - when there is only one place, you have to be faith-feely-vip to be on it. And for those who find it hard to distinguish between a backshtag and a grotto, being the «eighteenth» is the only way to experience what a real sailing race on the coolest boats in the world is.
Yesterday, I was able to go to this coveted place, too. It was a classic case «now or never», because it all happened at the end of class existence. The LVT in Dubai will be the last race for the IACC, and onкатамаранах, which are being built for the upcoming America's Cup, such a place is not provided in principle. The danger of a coup is too high.
Louis Vuitton spotted me aboard the Swedish team Artemis (or, as we all call them here, "Aramis") in the second match against the French-German All4One.
During a short break between races, a special boat delivers a new live ballast in the face of your docile to the yacht. This is the NZL-92, the same legendary boat on which the kiwis fought against Alinghi in the penultimate America's Cup 2007. The atmosphere is spartan: neither sit down nor lie down. The guys take a break who can: one hastily chews a sandwich, the other pours from the stern. Magnus, the Swedish team's greener, gives a short briefing: «Have you sailed? So where you shouldn't put your hands, you know».
The siren of the pre-start report sounds and the whole gang gets up in the fight stand. Getting both hands on the aft radar rack, I can feel each of the turns on my own vestibular machine during pre-start maneuvers. It feels like you're being shaken in a 25-ton centrifuge. There's a geek flying right above my head the size of a small tower crane arrow. The carbon gear squeaks with a terrible synthetic crackle - it feels like something's about to burst out of tension.
Immediately after the launch, the boats split up: we leave to the right, the opponent to the left. Artemis has a small advantage, about half a hull. Having gained speed, the boats turn almost synchronously: All4One starts to attack. After a few moments, the boats converge. Defending its position, Artemis changes tack and now the boats are on a parallel course, almost board to board. Both teams from time to time throw their views at each other. It seems that if everything had happened during the time of the «Pirates of the Caribbean» or Captain Horatio Hornblower, the guys would not have refused to treat each other a couple of onboard volleys, which would have been followed by a boarding.
During the first manoeuvre, the Franco-German team manages to get close enough to us to get control and squeeze Artemis out of the right leyne. In the end, our little advantage evaporates. All4One is the first to get to the sign, while those behind Artemis are only left to try to attack them as they bend around and claim the right of way. But the Umpires raise the green flag, leaving the protest of the Swedes without satisfaction, and here we are at the second stretch of the course behind us.
Later, Artemis made several attempts to catch up with and outrun the opponent on the «Fordak», but All4One were on the alert and competently bit off all the bumps of the Swedes. All the second maneuvering was second, and on the last round we lost a good one and a half body. «Come on, boys»! - the pitman screams, and the team, having piled up for the last time, sets a record clean and fast spinnaker. A canvas the size of a nine-story house is clapping some meters above me.
But the advantage of the opponent is too big. All I have to do is sit in my seat at the stern and watch the team's spinnaker shift on the turns of the fordewind. And here's the finish: All4One takes its well-deserved point. The forty-minute race aboard the Artemis team seemed to have flown in three minutes. «Sorry we didn't win this time», says goodbye, Magnus.
In the meantime, the first round of LVT Dubai came to an end and the second one started. «The synergy» is in fourth place, sharing it with All4One. It could have been better - the team makes too many easy mistakes. You can see the latest results here.