Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes
America's Cup shore teams put in countless hours to keep the AC72s on course. Andrew Henderson, Rig Team Manager for Oracle Team USA, shares what goes on behind the scenes.
How many guys are involved in getting the boat in and out of the shed pre/post race?
AH: We have about 30 guys involved in the lift and the launch project, which starts pretty early in the morning, and same thing in the afternoon, about 30 people. If there’s a big issue that needs more hands, we have around 50 people we can bring together.
Who makes up the night shift?
AH: Mainly the boatbuilders at this stage. A team comes on at 4:30 p.m. and work through until about 6 a.m. Any issues, structural or otherwise, for example there are lots of fairings on these boats which require constant attention so the guys are often working on the fairings, making sure the boat is structurally sound so it's ready to go for the next day’s race.
When and how does the measuring of the boat take place on race days?
AH: We have the wing weighed at the end of the day which takes about half an hour. The following morning the measurers show up again and weigh the platform with the wing measurement. The measurers are at, or around, the boat from the minute we roll out in the morning until we start the race.
What happens between races?
AH: We have a team that gets on the boat - one guys checks the control system on the wing, someone checks all the moving parts like the blocks, the hull is checked, the [hydraulic] oil levels are checked, the electronics are checked for shorts—we probably have about 10 guys who jump on between races to make sure it’s ready to go for another round.
From the shore team’s perspective, do you feel a responsibility to the sailors once the boat docks out?
AH: Absolutely. My area is rigging, and for any major rigging failure there is massive potential for someone getting hurt so we certainly think about it a lot. We do have processes where we do all the checks, and we’ve done a lot of testing to make sure that the guys sailing the boat are comfortable with the rigging, for example.
How is the decision to make improvements to the boat conveyed to the shore crew?
AH: There’s a huge amount of data and a performance team that drives the backend. The sailors come back with their ideas, the designers and engineers come up with a plan, and we get a job list from that, we do the work, and then the guys go sailing. That’s what we’re doing today. It’s continuous, and you don’t always know where the end is, but everyone knows that now we have just a few days to go, maybe a week, and so we have to do as much as we can this week to try and win races.
Are these boats just a massive undertaking to you?
AH: It’s a huge project. We’ve done big maxi boats but nothing on this scale—the people, the technology ... it's mind blowing. These boats are fantastic, and it’s a great thing to be involved in. We have a great working environment, we’re given the tools to make our work safe, and the time to make it safe, so that’s reassuring.