x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Diary: Strong winds bring an early end to day six of the Louis Vuitton Trophy

With the racing called off due to strong winds, do we care? Well, maybe just a bit. But what a civilised way not to watch a boat race.

Racing on day six was called off due to high winds.
Racing on day six was called off due to high winds.

What a difference a day makes. From sunlight dancing on the water to brooding dark clouds, and from yesterday's intense thick-of-the-action (and occasionally wet) ride on the photo boat to the smooth elegance of Louis Vuitton's VIP hospitality boat. As befits the French luxury goods company that has lent its name to this regatta, everything is done with style. That's not to say it's pretentious. Because, as befits a yacht race - and a boat where bare feet are correct form - it's deeply relaxed from the moment we step on board. The other guests range from a director of Audi (another major sponsor of the event, and of the Mascalzone Latino team ) to the wife of the man who, as principal race officer, oversaw the recent America's Cup showdown between BMW Oracle and Alinghi. Of the "friends of Vuitton", some have known our hosts through their links with the America's Cup for as long as I have - 25 years and counting - while others are new to the game. Some are mad keen sailors; others have just a passing interest. In today's first match it's the so-far invincible Emirates Team New Zealand against the less-fancied French team, Aleph. What a race it turns out to be. Fantastic pre-start manoeuvres by the French and a wrecked sail and man overboard for the New Zealanders. With the wind climbing above 20 knots, the next race is ready to go. Suddenly, it's all off - too much risk of breaking these highly-strung race boats - and we must wait for the wind to drop. We're disappointed, of course, but not too disappointed (as Paul Cayard said a couple of days ago after losing a race). We are just so comfortable, and the charmingly efficient Sariah, having already served canapés, is now handing around small bowls containing a chunk of hot-smoked salmon with a palate-tingling fresh salsa. It sets the pattern for the next few hours. Yacht racing? Still none. Food and drink? Still more. There seems no end to the treats that Alex the chef is conjuring up from the tiny open-plan galley. Actually, there is an end - after nine courses. And still no yacht racing. (Amazing how quickly three hours can pass when you're eating and drinking so well.) We look up from our desserts to see that, apart from the Race Committee boat and the course marshals, everyone else has gone to take shelter back inside the harbour. Ah, those gallant course marshals. Men in their fifties and sixties, all volunteers, they are first out in the morning and last back in the evening, spending the hours in between bouncing around in their little rubber boats, patrolling the edges of the course, getting soaked and wind-blown - and all for the love of boat racing. With lunch finished (and - that's right - still no racing) Darryl, our skipper, heads for Islington Bay on Rangitoto Island. The water is a clear, greenish turquoise, the native bush that cloaks the volcanic slopes is a deep olive green, and there's only the slightest breeze. It's gorgeous, it's idyllic - yet it's so close to the city. No wonder it's a favourite picnic and swimming spot for Auckland boat owners. "Racing should start again in half an hour," comes the call, so we head back out - into the teeth of a 30-knot wind. Surely they won't race in this. They don't. Do we care? Well, maybe just a bit. But what a civilised way not to watch a boat race.