Recovery Drink: Carbon Lemonade and Red Bull
Recovery Drink: Carbon Lemonade and Red Bull
These days, you don’t even need lemons to make lemonade. Well at least not directly. Some Countrytime and some water, and you’re good to go. Millions of kids do it each summer. Trying to put a positive spin on the disastrous pitchpole of Oracle Team USA’s AC72 in mid-October was much harder. While the other three syndicates surge forward with their AC72 testing program—Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa did some mock racing yesterday on the Hauraki Gulf, Artemis is working its boat up on San Francisco Bay—the defender is forced to sit, watch, and wait while the build team finishes the team’s second wing and repairs the catamaran platform.
And the physical repairs may be the easy part. The capsize had the potential to be a devastating blow to the team’s collective psyche. And without a boat there was no real way to “get back on the horse,” as they say. Mastman grinder Shannon Falcone had an idea, however. The 31-year-old Cup veteran thought they could use the parts of the broken wing sail to create an entry for the San Francisco Red Bull Flugtag event—a promotional circus where regular people “launch” homemade craft off an elevated platform into the ocean—which took place on Nov. 10. The management said, “Yes,” so Falcone started, from scratch and with only a rough idea of what he wanted to create, building in earnest.
The Oracle Team USA Spirit of 17 didn’t fly very far. But unlike in the America’s Cup, no one really wins the Flugtag. Or perhaps its better to say no one really loses. For the moment, that flavor of risk-free distraction may have been just what this team needed.
Sailing World: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Shannon Falcone: My parents lived in Italy until I was three, but my mom flew to England to give birth so that I could have a British passport. She grew up in Kenya, and back in the ’80s a British passport held a lot more sway in Africa. We stayed in Italy until I was three. My dad had a loft up in Florence, I think it was Horizon Sails. Then he sold his share of the loft and bought a 44-foot race boat, on which we did the Transat in ’84, from Casablanca to Guadeloupe. I was three at the time, the youngest competitor in the fleet. I think the only reason we ended up in Antigua was Sailing Week was the last event of the Caribbean circuit.
[All photos are courtesy Guilain Grenier/Oracle Team USA]
So that’s the long response. What’s your short version when people ask you where you’re from?
The usual response is Antigua. I went to boarding school in England, but that was later on. Antigua is home. That’s where my family still live, and that’s where I grew up.
Let’s get right to the Oracle Flugtag entry. Why was this an important project to do now? As a team, you’ve got plenty on your plate during the next 10 months.
It was a personal thing of mine. I remember when I discovered that it was going to be here in San Francisco, I had an idea to do it. But with the fact we were just going to be launching the 72, it just wasn’t a priority. Then we ended up pitch-poling the big boat, and there was a week where management was assessing what we were going to do, how we were going to spend resources, and what our program was going to look like from now on, while we were repairing the big boat. At exactly that moment, Red Bull was really starting to pump up their “Flugtag is coming to town” sort of thing.
Seeing the wing sitting on the floor, I called up Puma, who’s another sponsor with that kind of background, always up for doing crazy things, and Red Bull and they were into it, so at that point I knocked on the door and spoke to Grant [Simmer] and Jimmy [Spithill] and said, “Hey do you think you guys could free me up so I could build a little project for Flugtag, to give San Francisco a replay of what happened on the Bay, but also put a little different light on what could become a really big set back for the team, but for us is something that we can brush aside. Put it in a different light.”
The team was in a pretty dark place after the pitch pole, even the team’s press releases alluded to the downcast mood. Did the Flugtag project help lift the team’s collective spirit?
Grant came back with a funny reply as soon as I pitched the idea. When OneAustralia snapped in ’95, the next day the sailing team all went out wearing their life jackets, playing a joke on what had happened the day before. A lot of times in these situations, that’s what you’ve got to do. You have to manage the feedback that you sometimes get when you start something like this, about us not being serious enough. I’m not of that mindset, I disagree with that. You’re always in such a competitive environment in these campaigns that if you don’t sometimes do some special projects and things on the side you sort of lose why you’re actually doing this to start with. I got into sailing because it was fun.
What happened after you got the go-ahead?
It sort of was one minute I had the idea, the next day I was driving to L.A. to pick up the [PUMA stand-up paddleboards], and after the weekend I started building it. I really didn’t have any idea of how long it would take, and we only just got it finished the night before. I had to do a few design changes in order to get it to McCovey Cove in time. I did 10 days straight, every day and in on the weekend to finish it, and you know it’s going to get destroyed. I connected with the shore team, when they put the thousands of hours into platform one, and a week later we bring it back in pieces. Then we actually ended up jumping, and we didn’t destroy it and there was no damage after the jump. We’ve got it sitting here in the base right now, and we’re deciding what to do with it.