Aussies Return to Cup
Aussies Return to Cup
Oracle Team USA's general manager Grant Simmer shares his insight into Oracle's unlikely victory ... and a glimpse of what we may see ahead for AC35 with Hamilton Island YC as the challenger of record.
With an Aussie challenger for the first time in years [the Hamilton Island YC] what does it mean for you personally and where do your loyalties stand with Oracle versus an Australian team?
GS: We’re at the stage in a Cup where people are looking at what their next project is going to be, who they are going to go with. Larry’s been really consistent with the team in that he said when the Cup finishes he wanted to take time to take stock of what had happened and to plan what the next Cup is going to be, and the make-up of the team is very much part of that. Until we know when and where the Cup is going to be and what the boat is going to be, it’s a matter of just being patient. I’m going to take some time to think about what I’d like to do next. I’m hoping there’ll be some good opportunities over the next few months. You get to my age and you’re thinking about doing it because you want to enjoy it, that’s one of my criteria.
The guys from HIYC—Sandy Oatley in particular who is a real enthusiast, he’s a good guy and I think he’ll be really good for the Cup—together with Larry’s people to decide on the next Cup, but that will be more on the event side than from the team side. The Oracle team at the moment is just in the process of shutting down, securing all its physical and intellectual assets, and then we’ll rebuild over the next few months, I expect.
What’s your view on a nationality rule going forward?
GS: I’m an Australian and have worked for a Swiss team and an American team. These teams are truly international, and I like that part of it. I think we should continue to have international teams. I know that there’s been talk of wanting to implement a nationality rule, but I doubt GGYC will do that.
What do you see as the biggest challenges of moving on to create AC35 compared to all previous Cups?
GS: We need to get more teams. We need to come up with a formula that gets more teams, but on the other hand it’s going to be very difficult not to have an event that matches AC34 in terms of being impressive. Going to a much slower multi or monohull—I think that would be difficult. Our sailors are just so into sailing these boats, they’re so exciting and it’s so full-on. Clearly it took some time to get confident to sail the boat but the Kiwis got there and we got there—we learnt to sail them at an incredibly high level, which if you’d asked us last October or November, we couldn’t have predicted that the racing would be at that level, sailing at such high speeds so close to the other boat. It's something we never would have envisaged. If we ever race in these boats again, it’ll go to another level for sure.
Do you expect the Cup will stay in SF?
GS: I don’t know. Ultimately I guess it will be Larry’s decision where he wants to hold it. In the end I know there were a lot of issues getting the event together in San Francisco, but it turned out to be a fantastic venue—the Pier 27 set up, the Village that the event people put together, the racecourse. We lost a little bit of time due to weather, but don’t forget in Auckland in 2003—we lost ten days in a row from one race to the next—so okay, we lost a little time in San Francisco but not much.
Will we ever get to the bottom of the weight-gate story? Why did it happen if the end result was pointless?
GS: It happened because it was a decision by the individuals involved. It wasn’t some grand plan of the team, but the team paid the price for it. There was absolutely no logic for the team to do something like that. We believe the Jury decision penalizing the team for something we didn’t know about was extremely harsh. It’s kind of history now, and in the end we overcame it. There aren't many people in the world who didn’t believe that wasn’t a harsh penalty from the Jury. It was difficult for all the team—aside from the two races, the last month prior to the Cup was very hard because a lot of people were distracted by the Jury process, myself included. It meant we couldn't get on with our two-boat program. It was seriously disrupted and one of the reasons we went into the Cup certainly less prepared to race. It was far, far from an ideal preparation for an event of this magnitude.