America's Cup Diary - February 2006, #2

Sailors are a superstitious bunch. Some cannot bear the sight of anything green on the boat, and will not even allow the use of green electrical tape let alone paint anything green. Bananas, they're bad luck too. As is changing the name of a boat, or losing a bucket overboard. Sailors are also superstitious about numbers, which perhaps explains why after this year's final Act, number 12, the organisers had scheduled next year's one and only Act as number 14.

Well now ACM have changed their mind and the final fleet racing Act preceding the beginning of the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series is now to be known as Act 13 after all. For the triskaidekaphobics in the fleet this may well strike terror into their hearts, although there was no malicious intent involved. It came down to the fact that the team representatives who drafted the ‘Valencia Plan', which explains the allocation of bonus performance points during the Louis Vuitton Act Series, had failed to notice that the final Act was 14. Because that document referred to the ‘13th Act' and ‘Act 13', ACM decided to go along with it to avoid further confusion, and dropped the notion of Act 14. So the teams have only themselves to blame if things go pear-shaped during this final fleet race showdown before the Challengers Series.

Sailors can be equally picky about the sail numbers allocated to their yachts. Leading up to the last Cup in Auckland, GBR Challenge were in line to receive No. 69 for their new hull. But for Peter Harrison's team it was a case of ‘No sex please, we're British', and they were all too happy to pass up the saucy number for a more respectable 70. Of course the more liberal French team were ecstatic to be allocated the number and hull No. 69 is still racing in the Acts today, although now under the banner of the China Team, which most observers still consider to be a French team.

United Internet Team Germany's new hull was lining up to get a number somewhere in the late 80s, and they were particularly keen to be allocated No. 89. As you may recall, 1989 was the year that the Berlin Wall was pulled down and East and West Germany were reunited as one. However, a team insider tells me there was as much reason to avoid No.88 as there was to go for No.89.

In the code of the white supremacist, 88 signifies ‘Heil Hitler'. I kid you not, but apparently because ‘H' is the 8th

There is another German cliché that says that when on holiday they are always first to the swimming pool in the morning. Well, the Germans were also first to pass through the newly-constructed canal which links the Port America's Cup to the sea. Up until now, the teams have had a long old tow out through the container port to get out to the sailing area, adding about half an hour each way to their day. Now, with the 1,500-metre canal opened during the Christmas holiday, the sailors will enjoy much more rapid access to the race area.

While construction has been moving on apace in Valencia, with the canal and new team bases popping up all around the basin, it has been quiet on the sailing front. Many teams have been taking a winter break, or training at their home bases around the world. So the local construction workers were delighted to see United Internet Team Germany making use of the new canal, and they cheered Jesper Bank's crew as they made their way out to sea.

Such is the rapid rate of construction on the waterfront, the returning sailors will be staggered at just how much has changed in their absence. As well as the bases and the accommodation for their own race yachts, Valencia has undergone a massive transformation into a new destination for leisure yachts and cruisers. The superyacht pier was launched last year, and sits proudly at the centre of the Port America's Cup. The project for this year is to open two new public marinas which will total about 700 berthing slips. Along the northern side, over 250 slips will be build in time for Louis Vuitton Acts this May and June. On the southern side, a larger marina is due for completion by the end of 2006. If you're thinking of going there yourself, make sure you haven't been allocated berth No.13, because when you arrive it probably won't be there!

letter in the alphabet - the white supremacist nutters have adopted ‘88' as their shorthand for the old salute of the Third Reich! The War is still a subject of huge sensitivity in Germany, evidenced by the fact that German police have warned football fans going to the World Cup this summer that if anyone is seen doing the goose-step or giving Nazi salutes during the sporting festival, they could face up to three years in prison.

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