America's Cup: Who gets the port entry?

By Dana Johannsen in San Francisco

Oracle Team USA gets to the 1st mark ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle went on to win Race 12 of the America's Cup. Photo / AP.
Oracle Team USA gets to the 1st mark ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle went on to win Race 12 of the America's Cup. Photo / AP.

It's a complicated solution for a problem that doesn't really exist.

How the port/starboard entries are allocated for the America's Cup races have become a bit of a head-scratcher for casual observers and seasoned sailing followers alike as weather delays and postponements have put the system out of sync.

The trick to getting your head around the system is to think of it in terms of time-slots rather than days. The choice of who gets port entry for each race alternates each day.

For example, if Team NZ gets first choice at entry for the earlier 8.15am race, Oracle gets to pick what side they enter from in the later race. The following day it swaps, so Oracle get first dibs on the early, race and Team NZ the second race of the day.

Where is gets confusing is when the second race of the day is not sailed as we have seen over the past few days. The allocation of port entry from the first race keeps alternating as usual, but the second race carries over.

So, because we haven't completed a two-race day since day six it is still Oracle's turn to have port entry for the second race of the day. Hence we had a confusing situation like yesterday where Oracle had the favoured port entry for both races.

The system was devised over a year ago after teams raised concerns that the weather could vary drastically between the two races. It was thought if one team may be unfairly advantaged of they always had the choice of entry for the first race or vice versa, and so the decision was made to alternate it by race times. That decision was made back when the wind range was still 5-33 knots and it was thought postponements would not be an issue.

Still confused? Don't worry we all are - even regatta director Iain Murray had trouble explaining it to us when asked to clarify the system.

But for those thinking that Team New Zealand seem to be getting the raw end of the deal, fear not. After yesterday's 12th race each team had six port entries each.

Today Team NZ will be on port entry in the first race, while Oracle have it in the second.
Port entry appears to be favoured by the teams as they can enter the startbox 10 seconds before the other team - another new rule devised over a year ago. The thinking around it was given the speeds the AC72s are capable of, it would be too dangerous having them hurtling into the startbox at the same time and entering a traditional dial-up sequence.

The boat on port entry also has the ability to protect the leeward end of the startline, giving them a shorter run to the first mark. The outside boat has to try and roll over the top of them and achieve an overlap at the three boat length mark zone to gain right of way around the first mark.

- NZ Herald

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