AC34: The Teams
ORACLE TEAM USA
THE DEFENDER, GOLDEN GATE YACHT CLUB
The radically re-imagined team and boat defending the 34th America’s Cup is not just owner Larry Ellison’s bid to leave a legacy. The reputation of his CEO, four-time Cup winner Russell Coutts, is on the line as well.
Contrary to popular perception, the team doesn’t have an unlimited budget. That said, they are enviably well-funded, with a star-studded roster to show for it. You might have to be a racing junkie to recognize, say, wing trimmer Dirk “Cheese” de Ridder, who along with his Cup experience also won the 2002 Volvo race aboard illbruck with his brother-in-law, Oracle tactician John Kostecki. But as the only person ever to win a round-the-world-race, an Olympic medal and the America’s Cup, “JK” is someone whose name rings a bell. There’s also his skipper, Jimmy Spithill, once the youngest skipper ever to challenge for the Cup and then, in 2010, at age 30, the youngest skipper ever to win it.
The plan is to compete internally with two crews and two boats, to hone the defense while the field of would-be challengers is tested in the Louis Vuitton Cup. Having flipped last October and destroyed wing no. 1, these folks are well versed in what can happen to “best laid plans.” To leave no stone unturned, the team brought in sailing’s only five-time Olympic medalist, Britain’s Ben Ainslie, to skipper against Spithill.
Ten years after their first challenge, the defenders occupy Pier 80, on the industrial (but hip) south side of town. It’s a long sail around to the racecourse. In the old boats, the trip would have taken a while.
“The thing about the Bay is how small it is in these boats. You don’t have the luxury of just running for miles if you get in trouble or you need to sort something out.”
- JIMMY SPITHILL: HELMSMAN
CHALLENGER OF RECORD, ROYAL SWEDISH YACHT CLUB
Born of the enthusiasm of a relative newcomer, Sweden’s Torbjörn Törnqvist, the Artemis Racing team that Törnqvist heads quickly established itself on the leaderboards of TP52 and RC44 racing. So why not challenge for the America’s Cup? CEO Paul Cayard’s Cup roots reach back to more traditional days in Newport, Rhode Island. Six years ago he also partnered with Russell Coutts to try to launch something called the World Sailing League, a very untraditional, professional circuit in 70-foot catamarans. That plan didn’t fly, but now, here they are, partners and opponents in the biggest sports gamble of all time.
Cayard is listed as a tactician along with sailing director and Olympic gold medalist Iain Percy. Like Oracle, Artemis Racing built two boats. But their first boat broke up in the fatal accident that cost team strategist Andrew Simpson his life. Their second boat wasn’t scheduled to launch until June.
As conceived, the Artemis boats were supposed to skim the surface, per the intent of the AC72 rule as written. However, early trials in 2013 against a redesigned Oracle left no doubt that the upwind drag of foils was a small price to pay for the added downwind speed.
Redesigning and rebuilding on short notice was pressure enough, but doubts also surrounded the team’s early wing designs.
Artemis Racing has two helmsmen: French multihull veteran Loïck Peyron, and Australian skiff champion Nathan Outteridge. The goal, Outteridge says, is to get the Artemis boat and team to a point where “it doesn’t matter which of us is driving.”
"It is hard to know what racing AC72s on the Bay in summer will be like. These boats are overpowered, fragile, and as we all know, the San Francisco Bay is very windy in July and August.”
- PAUL CAYARD: CEO/TACTICIAN
CIRCOLO DELLA VELA SICILIA
Throughout the dismaying aftermath of the grandly successful 2007 Cup, Prada chief Patricio Bertelli opted for the sidelines. And on the sidelines he stayed, holding back until he had actually seen the one-design AC45s on tour and Russell Coutt’s makeover of Cup competition truly beginning to take shape. Kicking off a campaign in late 2011 meant a late start, but the wind whistling in Bertelli’s ear said things were changing, and at such a pace that he could not sit out a full Cup cycle and hope to catch up. He also had an ace in the hole. Emirates Team New Zealand was only too happy to go partners, selling their boat #1 design and then building Luna Rossa—the parts they were permitted to build for an Italian challenger—themselves.
Like ETNZ, Luna Rossa’s wing has twisting capabilities in both the fore and aft elements, a feature that enhances aerodynamic performance at the expense of added weight in the controlling mechanisms aloft. Like ETNZ, Luna Rossa also came out of the blocks foiling, although on foils of a different design, which gave the teams an opportunity to compare their performance.
Skipper Massimiliano “Max” Sirena has been with Luna Rossa through every campaign since 2000. In 2010 he also helped Larry Ellison win the Cup, sailing as mast manager on the big trimaran. As of press time, a pair of British 49er aces—Chris Draper and Paul Campbell-James—was still sharing helming duties. This is a team with talent to spare that will perhaps spring a few surprises.
"[The AC72] is a really big beast to digest and to learn, but so far it’s going pretty well, and we’ve achieved pretty good results.”
- MASSIMILIANO SIRENA: SKIPPER
EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND
ROYAL NEW ZEALAND YACHT SQUADRON
Twenty-six years ago, Team New Zealand made the Louis Vuitton Cup finals in its first attempt sailing off Fremantle, Australia, aboard the 12-meter KZ 7, and the sail-crazy island nation has been boxing above its weight ever since: the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron even held the America’s Cup from 1995 to 2003.
At Valencia in 2007, skipper Dean Barker and his team pushed the defenders harder than the final 2-5 score reveals, marking a comeback for a team that had been humiliated in its second defense at home. This was a coming of age under new leadership, a reminder that the Kiwis are never to be counted out.
Emirates Team New Zealand, ETNZ, was the first to launch an AC72, splashing almost a year ahead of the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup. ETNZ was also the team that sprang the full-foiling surprise on the rest of the world. A tortured but technically legal measurement procedure (legal per the ruling of the jury) made foiling possible, even under a design rule written expressly to prevent it. It wasn’t a secret for long, but it shook things up.
Grant Dalton, who took the demoralized team in hand after its 2003 loss, says that ETNZ “lives and breathes to bring the Cup back to New Zealand.” Their boat #1 was scavenged to complete boat #2, which incorporates the many lessons the Kiwi’s learned during 30 days of training in 2012. It’s a good bet, though, that #1 could be re-commissioned in a hurry, should the need arise.
"AC72 sailing is very unique. All of a sudden you sort of flick a switch and they go from being reasonably sort of controllable and mundane to where they definitely get your attention.”
- DEAN BARKER: HELMSMAN
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Photos courtesy of America's Cup Event Authority LLC