Englishman Stead-ies Mascalzone's Afterguard

News brief

NBStead
Mascalzone

In this interview conducted by Mascalzone Latino Capatialia, afterguard member Adrian Stead speaks about his role on the team and the preparations leading up to Louis Vuitton Act 13, which begins April 3. During the last America's Cup, you were a tactician for GBR Challenge. How does your role with Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team (MLCT) compare?Last time with GBR challenge I was the tactician on the boat. Here with Mascalzone Latino I am a member of the afterguard, and I have been the tactician on the second boat for all of the inhouse racing, and I've done a couple of races against the other teams. Primarily my role here is to help on the management and performance side and to keep pushing things along with the team. It is a mix of coach, afterguard, and management consultant…bringing my experience from the last cup and as project manager.Now you have been sailing with the team for several months, what does MLCT have that is special?I think they've got passion. What I see here are passion and talent. There are some very good individual sailors that are coming together as a team. Everyone here is pretty new to the America's Cup and I think it's good the way they are learning and doing well. Even in the last 5 or 6 weeks with our in-house racing, it's amazing how things have progressed. We've been really encouraged by our performance both, in-house and against some of the other teams. Time will tell with the LV.Is the team competitive now?I believe that the team is very competitive. We've had some good practice races. Obviously these don't count as points towards the semifinals yet, but I'm pleased with how we've gone. We've made the most of the Valencian winter - We've sailed a lot and are happy with how things have been going.How is the team dividing up the few days that remain before the start of the racing? Or, more precisely, what do the race preparations involve?Well we've got a few final things to do: we've got a couple of informal races against other teams, the unveiling ceremony on April 1, the final tweaking of the race boats, fairing etc. We've got our new race sails coming on line, so we're working on those, making sure they're what we wanted. We've got the measurement process going through at the moment - to make sure the boat, mast and sails comply to the AC rule. How does the team feel about the 2 boats, ITA-90 and ITA-99?Well, I think we've got two good boats. Obviously we had problems with ITA-90 at the start of last year - that's no secret. We've fixed that, and ITA 90 has been a really reliable boat. Between 90 and 99 we've had some really good racing which has helped push our programme forward. Certainly having two boats has been essential for this winter period. We're very pleased that we were able to find the money to build ITA-99 so that we're sailing here with two new generation boats and not trying to race one boat against ITA-77, an old generation boat. I think the team feels pretty happy about them. Yes, we've probably got one we prefer more than the other in certain conditions. It's great having two good boats and we will keep pushing to try to make each boat faster.They say that the rule is now so tight that the boats are virtually indistinguishable except for their paintjobs, is that true? It's quite interesting actually. People have said to me, which boat are you racing at the moment? Between ITA-90 and ITA-99, personally, I can tell the difference and I suppose, when you work in the base for six months, the difference is obvious. There are some subtle differences between each boat. It is nice to know that people are struggling to tell the difference. I think either boat we bring out we can sail well and get the result.In the past Cup teams have had a tendency to hang on to their technical developments only revealing them at the final moment. Do you see the same happening now? The unveiling on the first of April is going to show what people are going to be using for the Act. I am sure that people may still have other small modifications to their appendages. One thing that is really notable this time is that the racing is going to be close. People are not going to be winning races by minutes, like they were in Auckland. For that reason, people need to go and race each other. That's what they've been doing with in-house racing. Yes, people may have some things hidden away. They may have slightly better foils or sails that we havent seen yet. The reality is that you don't want to lose practice races; you want to learn from these races. If you go out with sub-standard stuff and you get beaten, what do you learn? I think that people have been pushing pretty hard. I think that we have seen a lot of what all the teams' true potential are like. There might be a few surprises yet, but I don't think someone is suddenly going to put on something different and sail away from the rest of the fleet.Do you expect to see big differences in speed this year? I think the biggest difference in speed that we will see will be between the mode of the boats: if people have decided to make their boat a light air flyer at the extreme of the rule, or an all around boat, or a heavier breeze boat. So it depends where they pitch their boat within the rules. I think that's where we'll see the biggest speed difference. Obviously, because in April we're going to have potentially different wind conditions to what we might have in June. You've got to get through April and May before you can race in June. The biggest difference in speed we'll see will depend on what conditions the boats are made for.Is it still all about boat speed?I remember an advert many years ago for a sail-maker that said, "Boat speed will make you a tactical genius." I think that still applies. The faster you go the easier it is, so everybody is striving for that. If you can just go that one boat-length quicker up the beat, suddenly the whole race changes - you gain control and the race should be yours. For sure speed is a huge part of this game."In the America's Cup we talk a lot about the boats, you don't think that the afterguard are underestimated?No I think the afterguard are key to the team, as is everybody. America's Cup is a total team performance. You need to be fast, you need to sail the boat well, and you need to make sure the boat doesn't break. It is a total team effort on the water. When you cross the finish line and get a race win, it is the combination of everyone's perfomance on the team. The afterguard are the guys who can make the biggest mistakes and they can also be the smartest guys out there. I think we should remember that although the Afterguard can make or break the race, it takes the shore team, sail-makers and support people to get them to the finish line.How do you feel about the Defender racing with the challengers during the fleet races?I think that fleet racing is an amazing spectacle. It's another reason why the America's Cup has gained more publicity, because you've got everyone there. I remember in 2000 people didn't really like racing each other. Now you are forcing 12 Americas Cup boats on the same start line - it's just amazing. When we did the Road to America's Cup regattas in Auckland with 5 boats, it was a step in the right direction. Twelve boats including the Defender, it's got to be good for AC.Many say that the fleet races are a way to measure up with the other boats…what can you learn about the other boats during the fleet races?In fleet racing we do learn stuff, because people don't like coming last. People do not like turing up and sailing slowly because they're holding back, or that they've got better stuff, for sure. People out there will be trying to do well in the Act 13 fleet racing event. It's going to be a good indication of what people have. In the 3 or 4 days of racing, people will try to learn whatever they can. They will be lining up against each other, where ever they can, and seeing how they're going comparatively, how the boats go in straight-line speed, how maneuvrable they are. Are they faster up wind? Downwind? Are they faster in the light or heavy stuff? Certainly the fleet racing is a good indicator for everyone.Any forecasts for the LVC racing?I think the LV Cup racing is going to be the best and closest, yet. I've seen a lot of the teams out here who have come a long way. The LVAct 13 will be the first time we see everybody on the water with their new boats. I think it's going to be pretty interesting to see.What are your short-term goals?For us, the short term goal is to make sure that we are ready for the LV Cup. As I said before, our plan is going well. We just need to keep pushing that along to make sure that everything that we wanted to do is on schedule and to make sure that we're happy, confident, and comfortable with things.Would you agree with the statement that the new format favors Alinghi?The new format means Alinghi get to see everybody racing, the whole time. People are showing their hand earlier because they have to win races to get through to meet Alinghi. You could argue that the new format favours Alinghi. You could also argue that the format makes the challenger stronger, because he's done some incredibly close racing against 10 other very good teams, made up of personnel striving to make their individual teams as good as possible. You could say that the challenger is in good shape, but you could also say, that the challenger arrives, maybe, burned-out after so much racing. I think that you can argue it either way. You could say that the Defender is relatively sitting in the dark until the Cup. But I think we've seen in the past, that the Defender is happy to invite certain teams to race against - unofficially. The main thing is that the America's Cup looks very healthy with this format. I think people should take that as a very big positive. The event is very good now with the Acts. It is something that is very marketable over this two or three year cycle, depending on where the Cup goes. It's important for the future of the Cup.