In the wake of the 34th America’s Cup announcements, SAIL talks to Kimo Worthington, 6-time AC veteran and now the General Manager for PUMA’s Volvo Ocean Race team.
Q: Kimo, the America’s Cup announcement detailed specific changes to the format of the race aimed at putting the Cup “back at the pinnacle of our sport.” What, in your opinion, are some of the steps that got the Cup out of the spotlight? Where did things go wrong?
Going to court definitely didn’t help. Taking a sporting event off of its normal schedule will jeopardize it’s steady fan base. In the case of the Cup trials, there were too many questions without enough answers. It gave an impression of instability to the general public. Especially in a sport like Sailing, whose fan base is smaller than other sports, we cant afford to lose momentum.
To get the event back to the “pinnacle of Sailing”, we’ll have to restore the Cup’s stability and sense of tradition.
Q: Given the timeframe, what aspects of race management do you envision being the biggest challenges for Cup organizers?
Designing and building a system to accommodate the new boats will be a challenge. The winged sails will have an upper limit of 33knts, which could mean getting the boats in and out of the port in 30-40knts.
Q: The AC announcement stressed a forfeiture of many of the rights historically held by the Defender in order to level the playing field. Your experience as the PUMA General Manager has put you in a position to organize the Volvo Ocean Race as a member of the VOR Committee. In what ways do you feel the Committee has leveled the competition of the VOR?
VOR Organizers have worked hard to collaborate with the teams when making decisions regarding the Rules and general outline of the Race. Numerous changes to the NOR have effectively decreased a competitive team’s budget by 50%. Some of the more important ones include the elimination of two-boat testing, and limiting sailing days and sails. These recent changes create a competitive environment that places less precedent on monetary advantage and more on the quality of a team’s work and performance. We feel this new environment gives the VOR a more even playing field, and each team a better chance to victory. It also presents a more attractive competitive spirit to the world outside of sailing.
What are some specific measures/challenges that you encounter on a daily/weekly basis?
We try to balance our time between satisfying immediate needs and preparing for upcoming projects. Granted we all have specialized areas, but in a program of this size our job descriptions can change in a moments notice. It all comes down to surrounding yourself with a good team (shore, sail, office) and having faith that everyone will get their job done well.
Recently we have been placing importance on getting our team into a rhythm, and of course building the new boat.
What challenges/advantages have the budgetary restrictions brought home for you?
In a way, having a smaller budget is an advantage because it keeps the program smaller and more efficient. It challenges us to spend time and money wisely, and to pick the right equipment to start with.
Q: The America’s Cup has designed a new class of boats, the AC 45, to bring wing sail competition to the general public. Do you see a similar future for the Volvo Open 70s? (Canting keels?)
Canting keels for sure. Volvo teams invest a lot of time and money in R&D for structure, mast design, and sail technology. We pay for it and everyone else reaps the benefits.
Q: The announcement stressed a greater effort toward onboard cameras to increase viewership. What, if anything, do you want to see from the 34th Cup?
The more coverage the better, cameras will make sailing more accessible, which is always a positive thing. Interesting footage will help get the sport into the living room, which is a good thing regardless of the sailing event.
For the full Kimo interview, shot by Leighton O'Connor,