Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition

Team Dennis Conner goes for USA-77, OneWorld chooses USA-65

Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition Nov. 11, 2002

Bob Fisher’s Report from New Zealand

Reevesgate Not Yet Dead
It is understood that there are some further developments afoot in the case of Sean Reeves and OneWorld. Testimony from the former Operations Manager of OneWorld, damaging in matters of Protocol, has been sourced, but has yet to be brought before the Arbitration Panel.


It will need the oral testimony of Reeves, or at least his permission for the release of this new evidence, before the Arbitration Panel could be asked to consider the new aspects of the case that it has already made judgement upon.

It is also understood that Sean Reeves has been giving serious consideration to testifying before the Arbitration Panel, but may have withdrawn that intention for personal reasons, some 1.6 million of them.

It is not only some of the challengers that are interested in Reeves’ evidence, but also the defender, as evidenced by attachment “D” in an affidavit sworn by Reeves on June 9th this year, an e-mail about spar fittings, which states, “I have heard recently that TNZ intends to aggressively protect their intellectual property.”


It is believed that Reeves’ evidence, if given, would provide far greater detail to alleged transgressions than previously given consideration by the Arbitration Panel. The sticking point for the release of this testimony may be in confidentiality agreements that Reeves has signed in the past.

Which Prada Will It Be?
The Prada syndicate received its new boat, ITA-80, from Cooksons and has raced it against its old boat on the Hauraki Gulf, and now seems certain to race the new boat against Alinghi in the quarter-finals. While this may initially satisfy Patrizio Bertelli, the Prada boss, he has ordered the old boat, that the syndicate has used in all the racing so far, to go into the shed for the major modification of the new bow, built in the Hakes yard in Wellington, to be added. Expect, therefore, for Prada to run out ITA-80 for the match against Alinghi (and lose it).

**Dennis Are You There? **
There is dissension in the camp – who should steer Stars & Stripes? In recent days, Terry Hutchinson has been seen behind the wheel, replacing original choice, Kenny Read, and there has even been the appearance of the iconic leader of the outfit, Dennis Conner, steering during a race. That day, there was greater and more stunning cohesion among the afterguard. Could it be that after abandoning the team to compete in the Etchells World
Championship, the return of Dennis Conner might change the fortunes of the team on which the fate of the New York YC hangs?


Team Dennis Conner finished seventh in the Etchells Worlds, is this to be its final position in the Louis Vuitton Cup?

**Fork & Spoon Or Real Keel? **
For the GBR Challenge team, it was first a matter of choosing the boat they would use. The alternatives were the conventional White Lightning, GBR-70, the boat that has been used for the two rounds robin, or Wight Magic, GBR-78, her hull-sister with a radical tandem keel configuration, a boat that has proved difficult to steer.

At the beginning of last week, Wight Lightning was the base boat for confidential trials with White Magic and those trials were held in a variety of weather conditions. After three days, the mast was removed from Wight Magic and re-stepped into Idaten, one of the Japanese boats that GBR bought two years ago when it began its campaign. Idaten has been “improved” out of class by the GBR design team, and the results tank tested so that its performance characteristics are recorded.


Trials between Wight Lightning and Idaten continued until the weekend. Minor mode changes have been made to Wight Lightning during this period and her performance monitored against Idaten. Sources in the camp suggest that Wight Lightning is now quicker and is the boat that will be used for the quarter final against Conner’s Stars & Stripes.–Bob Fisher

Bob Fisher will be Grand Prix Sailor’s correspondent on scene in Auckland throughout the Louis Vuitton Cup.

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“As we come into the real finals, the racing is going to be much more intense. If you lose you’re going to be eliminated.” -Russell Coutts

If you though the two round robins were fun to watch, just wait, we’re heading into the steel-cage death match part of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Two boats will not emerge from these quarterfinals and two more will be gone at the end of the second chance, or repechage round. The top four (in order), Alinghi, OneWorld, Oracle, and Prada will all have 2 chances to do or die while the bottom four, Victory, GBR, Stars & Stripes, and Le Defi (also in order) will be operating under the immediate threat of a ticket home for the holidays.

Alinghi, being the top-scoring boat in Round Robins 1 and 2, was allowed to select its first victim and promptly tapped Prada. “Long term we see Prada as an extremely formidable team,” said Alinghi’s skipper, Russell Coutts in an interview with the New Zealand Herald. “We all know they are capable of performing changes and then coming out and sailing very, very well.”

Some pundits may say that Alinghi went for the weakest opponent, but it must be remembered that the Prada syndicate is the defending Louis Vuitton Cup champion. They’ve also been working toward the Cup since their defeat in 2000, and were very strong in the second round robin–winning 7 straight races after some boat modifications to ITA-74. ITA-80 sailed for the first time on Nov. 7, after being extensively modified, and considering the speed improvement by ITA-74 after mods, could well be another step faster. But the Italians decided Monday to keep ITA-80 in the wings during the quarter finals and sail ITA-74.

Alinghi do appear seamless, however, and have made the least fuss out of all the syndicates during the opening rounds. According to the Alinghi website, they won the first cross 87 percent of the time. That’s a regatta-winning percentage and may well be why Coutts has intimated that SUI-64 will remain their ride through the quarter finals. “We’re very comfortable with SUI64 so far,” Coutts said. “But we’ll be doing more testing with the boats and the rigs this week and will make the final call after that.”

Syndicate head Ernesto Bertarelli has put together a team that may well prove unstoppable all the way to the finals, especially if they beat Prada and gain an extra week off for tuning and testing before the semifinals.

By default, OneWorld and Oracle will face each other in the quarter finals. This all-American match up is hard to call. Larry Ellison’s sacking of Peter Holmberg and re-instatement of Chris Dickson as the head of the sailing team may have contributed some angst to the team but it seemed to work, as Oracle stormed back into the event with 7 wins, losing only to a resurgent Prada team. Whether it was Dickson’s influence or foil changes between round robins, it worked, and this team will be dangerous.

OneWorld is another relatively quiet team that’s doing well, but struggled a little in RR 2, with losses to Le Defi, Alinghi, and Oracle. The Le Defi win was the result of a bad kite drop and could easily be called a fluke, but the losses to Alinghi and Oracle were bad news, especially the latter, in which Oracle won after owing OneWorld a penalty from pre-start hijinks. To help jumpstart the team for the quarter finals, OneWorld will change boats and use USA-65 in place of USA-67.

In the bottom four, there’s lots of room for improvement, even by the surprising Victory Challenge team, which has proved to be lightning quick downwind. After seeking advice from the Brits as to who they should pick to race again, the Swedes chose Le Defi. While the French look bad on paper, they’ve got a relatively quick boat, and given the time, they could learn to master it. However, another afterguard shakeup, which sees Luc Pillott and Sebastien Destremeau replaced by Philippe Presti–returning to the helm after being flicked in RR 1–and Luc Gelusseau, may be too many changes for an already shaky foundation. But Presti has confidence in his matchup with Swedish helmsman Jesper Bank. “I was campaigning the last Olympics against Jesper Bank in the Soling and I learnt a lot from him,” said Presti. “I think I understand his game because I’ve used it to improve myself.”

Just above the French are Team Dennis Conner, struggling with boatspeed issues and most likely dealing with a lot of second-guessing from sponsors and the New York YC. In an interview with the Providence (R.I.) Journal last week, helmsman Ken Read answered some pointed questions from reporter Tom Meade.

“We have clearly been playing catch-up since the event started,” Read said, “and we do think that we will be far better at the start of the quarterfinals with all the changes made.”

Q: What’s behind Stars & Stripes’ showing in the first two rounds?

“Starting later than the other teams. Simple as that,” Read said. Instead of training as one crew aboard America’s Cup boats for the past two years, Read’s team has been racing on several other boats in a variety of events.

“The learning curve is much steeper for us even though it looked as though we had a bunch of practice time,” he said. “We are making up for two years that other teams have been sailing. During our training, a busted mast and a sunk boat didn’t help matters, either.”

Q: What would Read have changed about his team’s program?

“Sailing for two years earlier with about double the budget and all that time to experiment,” he said. “But we knew what we were getting into, and believe that we have the knowledge to make the right changes at a steeper learning curve than others. Therefore, in the end, we are still optimistic.”

Team GBR and Stars & Stripes should provide some exciting racing. The two teams have met twice and are tied at 1-1. Both teams are on the hunt for boatspeed but the New Zealand rumor mill says that GBR’s second boat, GBR-78, supposedly equipped with twin rudders, is too touchy to sail and won’t be used in this Cup.

After spending long days last week sailing USA-66 and USA-77 against each other, Team Dennis Conner announced Monday that they would be looking to their second boat, the resurrected USA-77, in their search for speed. The rumor mill has churned out lots of dish about USA-77 since it began sailing, implying that the team wasn’t happy about the boat’s pace before the sinking. The new bow and other modifications may have helped, we’ll see on Tuesday.

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A Tough Road
Stefan Fodor, a grinder on Le Defi Areva, is sailing in his second America’s Cup–his first was in 2000 when he sailed for the Aloha Challenge–and has been through all the highs and lows associated with a Cup challenge. Fodor has been sending e-mails to family and sailing friends that have been entertaining, thoughtful, and insightful. We asked Fodor to share some of his experiences with the denizens of

“We were the last team to arrive in Auckland. Again, we faced a difficult decision regarding when to transfer our operations to New Zealand. Go early and be subject to the vagaries of the Southern Hemisphere winter or stay and test in Lorient. We chose the later and, as a result, were a bit rushed in finally setting up shop here on Halsey Street and getting in tune with the Hauraki Gulf’s fickle weather. As the saying goes here, if you don’t like the weather, wait twenty minutes and it will change.

“We started the first round robin with a blank slate and heaps of expectation. When it drew to a close, the blank slate was replaced a blank stare. Eight consecutive losses. How could this happen? Shoddy crew work and poor tactical decisions were the two main culprits. We are fortunate enough to have a relatively quick boat upwind and have since been working hard at optimizing it and improving our weaknesses (there are many).”

For the rest of Fodor’s story, see

Mr. Cool
In an interview on the Louis Vuitton website last week, Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker made some confident statements about how Team New Zealand views the competition so far. “With our campaign, we have a very good base to take from NZL-57 and NZL-60 as yardsticks,” said Barker. “We imagine all the challengers used NZL-60 as their base as well. We know we have to be a lot better than 60.

“We have measured NZL-81 against NZL-60. We are happy with the progress we have made. The billiondollar question is whether it is enough. There is no stage in this campaign where we can ever afford to relax. The development goes on right to the end.”

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Standings as of Nov. 11
Alinghi (13-3) 13 points
Oracle BMW Racing (12-4) 12 points
OneWorld (13-3) 12 points
Prada (11-5) 11 points
Victory Challenge (7-9) 7 points
GBR Challenge (7-9) 7 points
Team Dennis Conner (6-10) 6 points
Le Défi Areva (2-14) 2 points
Mascalzone Latino (1-15) 1 point
Mascalzone Latino is eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Competition.

Upcoming Schedule of Races
Nov. 11 to 19 Quarterfinals, best of 7
Alinghi vs. Prada
OneWorld vs.Oracle BMW Racing
Victory Challenge vs. Le Defi
Team Dennis Conner vs. GBR

Nov. 23 to 30 Quarterfinals Repechage, best of 7
Dec. 9 to 16 Semifinals, best of 7
Dec. 20 to 28 Semifinals Repechage, best of 7

Grand Prix Sailor and Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition are weekly newsletters compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. If you’d like to subscribe, see http://
Contributing Editors: Tony Bessinger (, Dave Reed (, Stuart Streuli (, John Burnham (