Iain Murray, AC's Cool Head in the Hot Seat
Iain Murray, AC's Cool Head in the Hot Seat
It’s hard to say if Iain Murray, America’s Cup Race Management’s quietly spoken head honcho, will be pleased to see the end of AC34, or whether he almost wishes he could have it over again to make serious amends to a sailing event that has proven to be unpredictable.
At this stage of the game, with racing well underway, AC34 Regatta Director Iain Murray’s role is mostly about the racing. On race days, he’s at the Media Center first thing to give the morning media brief, then he’s off to the race committee boat to begin the day’s work—the real work.
On shore this past weekend record visitors checked into both the AC Village at San Francisco’s Marina Green, as well as at the America’s Cup Park at Pier 27, to witness the first races of the Louis Vuitton Cup Final. It was busy, the sun was shining, the beer flowed, people were happy. But out on the racecourse was another matter. It was back to one-boat-racing as both challengers incurred equipment breakages during the only two races sailed, and no racing as the breeze barely snuck up into the prescribed wind limit. The net result was Races 3 and 4 postponed until Monday. Here Murray explains how he is dealing with the daily frustrations of AC34.
How are you managing to juggle all the curveballs that must consume you on a daily basis?
[Laughs] It’s just what I have to do. It’s my job to keep this show running. I’ve got a lot of good people helping me and there’s a lot of experience in the race management team. The America’s Cup has always been difficult, I think going forward it’s no less difficult. There’s been a lot of difficult instances in the past, whether it’s been wing-keels, or plastic yachts.
Is this what you expected two years ago?
No, I can’t say it’s turned out quite how I expected. I think with all the action and bits and pieces, responsibility and liability has taken on a whole new level that I don’t think anyone could have anticipated.
Do you think that’s a result of having the event in San Francisco?
Certainly San Francisco, it’s a beautiful looking bay standing on the shore, but you go out there and it’s a rugged piece of water. There’s a lot of current, it’s cold and it’s windy. It’s not as pretty as the postcards—it’s a challenging piece of water and it needs respect. I think that takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a bit of trap, you can sit here on Pier 27 basking in the sun and then go around the corner and get hammered.
With so many disappointments and almost-daily disasters, what has been the most challenging of these and how have you dealt with it?
Clearly the loss of Bart [Andrew Simpson] has been the most difficult part of this Cup for everyone, it was just devastating for Artemis and obviously just devastating for friends and family of Bart. But, it’s also been devastating for the event. It’s dominated from May 9 to the end of July, and here we are in the Louis Vuitton finals and we’re really only getting back to where we hoped we’d be at the beginning with proper races and the focus on sailing.
I think it’s time that’s required to heal a lot of the tragedy in a way, and it’s hard to short-cut time. In the America’s Cup you always run out of time. You get to the end, and there are always people saying, “We should have done this, or that, what if we’d done that differently?” I get the sense that people are moving on, and certainly Artemis getting back on the water was a big part of that.
Where and how did things start going wrong in your opinion with this event?
It’s easy to sit here now, look back and say, “We should have done this or that.” I think probably the biggest disappointment to people is the fact that we’re so short on challengers, and you can ask yourself why is that so? Clearly the cost of the campaign is an issue, the complexity of the campaign is another issue. I think everyone looking forward is saying, “These boats are really cool, the guys love sailing them, we’re in the first generation of boats foiling and understanding the race formats.”
We came off something that was pretty good at the end with the AC45s and high expectations with 10 boats roaring around, a great event in Naples, great events here in San Francisco, and Newport [R.I.]. In many ways coming back to three boats has been a dip. If you look back, you can say we need more controls, we needed something more like an AC45, something that was maybe not an AC72, but not an AC45. Maybe we should have done it in an AC45—I don’t know. I think a 55- to 60-foot semi one-design boat is probably what you’ll see the teams looking toward.
Do you think the event will stay with a multihull?
People watching them love them, the guys sailing them love them. I just think it needs to be a lot less complicated [laughs].