Brad Butterworth is a Funny Man

The Alinghi skipper tests his comic chops during a pair of press conferences one day before the first race of the 32nd America's Cup. He also announced the crew list. Thoughts on that announcement and a smorgasbord of other topics.

AC07_0622_PressConf
Ivo Rovira/alinghi

VALENCIA, Spain-We're inside of a 24 hours until the first race of the 32nd America's Cup. I wish I could say I can feel the electricity in the air. But all I can feel is the dull thud of the headache brought on by too much champagne last night at the America's Cup Match party and not enough sleep. But hey how often do you get to see the only rock star to sail in the Whitbread Race performing live on stage. That's right the headlining act for the black-tie gala was none other than Duran Duran. The party was quite a spectacle, and though I wasn't able to attend the Louis Vuitton party a few weeks ago, I was told this was a marked improvement. There were plenty of stick-thin models wandering round, including Naomi Campbell, who much to my chagrin didn't throw her cell phone at anybody. Maybe she's nursing a rotator cuff injury.I left early (as in early in the morning), hoping to get enough sleep so that I would be half conscious for Alinghi's 9:30 a.m. press conference-further proof that the defender really does have it in for the press pool. Unfortunately, I was one still of the last people to arrive and got stuck in the blazing hot sun while Ernesto Bertarelli, Brad Butterworth, and Grant Simmer graced us with a few moments of their time. Butterworth announced the crew list for Race 1. For my loyal readers, it was identical (even down to the positions) to the one I printed a few weeks ago. Am I clairvoyant or what? What they thought they would gain by keeping this so secret is beyond me? But if you'd like to hear Butterworth roll through the list of names click here. The absence of Jochen Schuemann is interesting. According to Butterworth, the German Olympic legend wanted to drive the boat and was beaten out by both Peter Holmberg and Ed Baird. Still strange that he wasn't included in the afterguard. He is a rare talent.I thought briefly about writing some sort of a cohesive preview of the America's Cup match, but I can't seem to form any complete thoughts. I also compiled a little podcast on Thursday, you can link to it here. It doesn't help that despite nearly an hour of recorded interviews, there really was very little of note said today.So here's a collection of odds and ends as we prepare for the 32nd America's Cup.Apparently Saturday is not only the first day of the 32nd America's Cup, but also the day of an annual festival in Valencia where, from what I hear, the entire city goes to the beach tomorrow night, lights fires, and jumps over them. I have a feeling that it's going to be one crazy day.One trend I noticed during the Louis Vuitton Cup was an inordinate number of trailing boats following the lead boat through the gate, usually around the right-side mark. I asked Torben Grael about this after Luna Rossa Challenge's 5-0 loss to Emirates Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals. Here's what he had to say. Today I checked in with Peter Reggio. He said the teams have requested that his crew set the gate dead square to the wind. Given how often the right is favored in Valencia, and that right-side mark also ensures you the starboard advantage, the introduction of the gate mark hasn't been as effective as it should be in providing an opportunity for the trailing boat to gain some separation All too often they've followed the other boat around. The teams should allow Reggio the option to drop the right-hand mark a quarter- to half-boatlength aft of the left one, forcing the leading boat to make a choice: sail more distance to get the favored, and right-of-way, side or take the left gate. That would make things interesting.If there was one moment I'll remember from the America's Cup Match party it was while I stood next to Angus "I'm not a pachyderm" Phillips (who was leaving Valencia for good on Saturday) and we critiqued the performance of Simon Le Bon, who looks a lot younger than his 50-odd years, but sounded a little off vocally. At one point, I asked Phillips when Le Bon had sailed Drum in the Whitbread. He thought it was the late 70s, where as I was thinking more along the lines of 85-86. We've debated it back and forth for a little while and then I finally said. "You know, I'll bet that in the next five minutes someone who knows the answer will walk by." Three minutes later, Brad Butterworth, in a very chic velvet tux, was standing right next to us. "Eighty four," he said. "That was the one with Lion New Zealand." This is a pretty cool sport, I thought.Speaking of Butterworth. He was in good form at the press functions today. He is quite a funny guy and never beyond making a few cracks. I do think, however, that he often uses humor to get away from a question he doesn't want to answer. It's a good ploy. Click to listen to him give a a little grief to Alinghi design coordinator Grant Simmer, the navigator on Australia II and a regular on the B boat, or listen to him talk about his relationship with helmsman Ed Baird. Finally here was what he had to say about the difference between his first America's Cup competition in 1987 and this one.With the boats seeemingly somewhat different in terms of design, the weather could play a significant role in deciding this event. Emirates Team New Zealand's NZL-92 appears to really enjoy lighter air, despite what the team says about being ready to sail in anything. So with that in mind, what's the forecase. Well, it looks favorable for New Zealand fans. Dean Barker gives us his prediction here. That said, BMW Oracle Racing design coordinator Ian Burns told me it looked like ETNZ has remoded the boat a bit, putting on a longer keel bulb, which should have a lower center of gravity and provide more stability. The trade off usually comes in downwind speed (more surface area means more drag) and also maneuverability. Barker confirmed that they've re-moded the boat a bit.For those who have read my editorial about Alinghi's draconian and mis-guided press policy over the past few weeks, click here to read it, here's Bertarelli's response to a question I asked him about why the team decided to lock down its sailors before the big game and make it hard for the media to do any pre-event press. To say he ducked the question would be understating things mildly.I will, however, give Bertarelli credit for answering questions in three different languages (English, French, and Italian) during the course of the two media sessions. The only thing I can do in more than two languages is order another beer.One thing that America's Cup Management appears to have finally gotten right for this Cup match is that it will give the teams the names of the sailors that will wear microphones during the racing. For anyone who saw the semifinals and was able to listen to John Cutler talk his team down a tense run, this should greatly augment the coverage of the match. Just another reason to tune it to the coverage on Versus, which starts tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.Here's Bertarelli's response to a question about the now defunct nationality/residency regulations and whether they have a place in today's Cup. If Emirates Team New Zealand wins, this decision will be a huge saga. For an really thoughtful perspective on this subject, here's what Alinghi grinder/mastman Mark Newbrook had to say on the subject. I also broached the topic with Terry Hutchinson. If Emirates Team New Zealand wins the America's Cup and if they institute a strict nationality rule (two very big ifs) then Hutchinson could well have sailed himself out of a job. Not surprisingly, Hutchinson, always known for his focus, said the topic really hadn't entered his mind.During I asked Barker if the team could carry any lessons from the "Dark Days of 2003" (his words) into this match. What is most interesting about his reply is that Barker seemed more at ease with the press during this press conference than he had at any point during the Louis Vuitton. A relaxed, and confident, Dean Barker is essential for ETNZ.I saw Ray Davies, Emirates Team New Zealand's onboard weather strategist, at the party last night and told him that I had been all set to write a story about how Alinghi was out partying two days before the big race and Emirates Team New Zealand was home getting a good night's sleep, but then I started seeing the occasional ETNZ sailor wandering through the crowd. He laughed and pointed over my shoulder at Butterworth. "Brad's still here," he said. "When he leaves, we're leaving." Who said the match racing wouldn't start until Saturday?