Grand Prix Sailor--America’s Cup Edition

Issue 7, Nov. 3, 2002

©franck Socha/louis Vuitton

Backlash
By Bob Fisher

They are the most feared four words to any America’s Cup sailor — "You’re off the boat." They mark the end of a career, sometimes temporary, but occasionally permanent, dependent on the manner in which they are delivered, but they can be heard by any one of the 16-man crew.

A week ago, skipper Peter Holmberg heard the words from the boss of the Oracle BMW Racing team, billionaire Larry Ellison. It was part of a re-structuring program that Ellison planned when he returned the renegade Kiwi sailor, Chris Dickson, to the fold after a year in the wilderness. Dickson was back, but in full charge--both the sailing and design development teams were in his bailiwick.

And that was where the decision backfired on Ellison who has shelled out $85 million of his own money (and some of BMW’s) and had been heard to remark, "I shall drive whenever Peter lets me behind the wheel." Not any more. No sooner had Dickson sailed the boat in one race, and won against the lowly placed Mascalzone Latino, than he instigated his own re-structuring.

In charge of the sailing team, Dickson, the man that Ellison had fired a year earlier for being a disruptive influence in the crew, said, "You’re off the boat," but to Ellison. The owner quite obviously knew a thing or two about Auckland’s untamed sailing talent and was learning just how ruthless he can be in his desire to win.

Ellison now has to watch the racing from his 236-foot luxury palace-on-water, Katana. He joins a long and illustrious list of America’s Cup skippers who have been fired, including Bob Bavier, Ted Turner and John Oakeley.

Sad Good-Byes

The saddest good-byes are always to the nicest people. And so it was with the greatest regret that the 2002/3 community parted with Vincenzo Onorato and his Mascalzone Latino team. The Latin Rascals achieved a measure of popularity in Auckland quite out of proportion to the size of their camp. When Onorato said that his team was in the competition to learn, he meant just that.

As he heralded his departure, he maintained that attitude, saying, ‘This is our first America’s Cup, we were here to learn, but we will be back for sure. We want to stay in this America’s Cup game.’ He admitted that Saturday had been a very bad day, adding, "We had no expectation to survive a long time in this very tough America’s Cup."

The margins of defeat for Mascalzone Latino became smaller and smaller--a fair measure of its improvement and led Onorato to state that as a result, "we started becoming more and more confident in ourselves. What we miss is speed, but we knew that." They will be missed for more than that.

Back in Action

Prada’s second boat (ITA-80) is back in Halsey Street after a three-week sojourn in the yard of Cookson Boats. It now has a completely new bow section, the result of a coordinated effort by the design team. It arrived there on Saturday and work continues around the clock.

"We expect to have it sailing by Thursday," said the Prada spokeswoman, Alessandra Ghezzi, "against Luna Rossa." When asked if there was any possibility if the new boat could take part in the quarter finals, Ghezzi was slightly more reticent. She smiled and said, "It is a possibility, but not definite."

Not content with a major re-build of their latest Luna Rossa (ITA-80), and the remodelling of the bow of ITA-74, to the reputed design of team boss, Patrizio Bertelli, the Prada syndicate has had another new bow constructed for ITA-74.

One day after ITA-80 left the Cookson Boats yard under the cover of darkness and arrived on Halsey Street (Syndicate Row) at 3 a.m., another bow left Hakes Marine Construction in Rongotai, near Wellington, on a low-loader bound for the Prada compound in Auckland.

Paul Hakes, the owner of the Rongotai yard, was with Cookson Boats until he was lured to Wellington to build a new offshore racer for Stewart Thwaites.

It’s on the same level of possibility as the change that may occur in the GBR Challenge boats. Peter Harrison said, "At the moment we don’t frankly know which we will play, but we will learn in the next ten days." There are those who want to use the secret weapon in GBR-78 that the Brits are believed to have and are reluctant to reveal.

How Fast is Alinghi?

"I think we saw one of the America’s Cup superpowers flex their muscles today--some of the modes they showed upwind were impressive. Simply, they were just faster." GBR trimmer and sailmaker, Simon Fry, after Saturday’s race against Alinghi.

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They Said It:

"We haven't decided who we'll pick. Probably we'll be looking to pick the strongest team. There are different strategies you can take and one of them is to pick the strongest out of the four.
"They're all pretty tough. On any given day any boat could win¿we need to sit down and discuss who we should race¿any one of those three boats is pretty potent."
--Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth in a story by Peter Rusch. For the complete story on the choices faced by Alinghi and Victory Challenge heading into the next phase of competition, see http://www.louisvuittoncup.yahoo.com/story862.html

"It felt just like old times. It's fun to sail with him. Maybe he was a little rusty in these boats, but in the end he did a great job. It was a really nice lift for us."
--Tom Whidden on sailing with Dennis Conner, who made an unexpected appearance at the helm for Team Dennis Conner's Nov. 1 race against Mascalzone Latino. Conner might have been a little rusty, but he still beat the Italian team by more than a minute. For Sean McNeill's story on that race, http://www.louisvuittoncup.yahoo.com/story844.html

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They Said It, Part II

"As wonderful as this event is, I think it should have more meaning. Given the amount of money being spent on this, I always thought there should be a greater good being thought of. That's where we came up with the environmental-challenge theme.
"Speaking for Paul [Allen] and myself, we both would like to prove that nice guys can win (the Cup). We don't want to be presumptuous in calling ourselves nice guys. But Paul, he's about as nice a guy as I know. And people can judge for themselves whether I am. We just view it as something that should be won nicely, if possible."
--Craig McCaw in an interview with columnist Ron C. Judd of the Seattle Times. For the complete story on the quietest syndicate chief in Auckland, click here http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/134567094_judd01.html

"I don't want to talk about it. The hearing will be [Oct. 31]. There's a number of errors ranging from where the course area was, the length of course, as well as procedural errors. Correct me if I'm wrong but it's probably the first America's Cup race that's gone round an island since 1851. We certainly didn't expect to be sailing round islands and through headlands. Had we known that we probably would have had a different set of charts on board."
--Ian Walker, GBR Challenge helmsman, on the team's Oct. 30 race against Alinghi. GBR Challenge filed for redress and received it from the International Jury. The race was to be resailed over the weekend. For the complete press conference after one of the toughest days, wind-wise, on the Hauraki Gulf, see http://www.sailingworld.com/sw_article_AC.php?articleID=1456
For the story on GBR Challenge's successful redress hearing, http://www.louisvuittoncup.yahoo.com/story831.html

"Well we thought we had it repaired after the first race. We had asked the race committee for some time to try to effect a repair so that we could race the second race. We thought we had it fixed. We sailed upwind and it looked okay. But then when they had a delay because of the first squall, when we started the second sequence it was quite windy--21 knots we were seeing at the top of our mast--and when we sheeted on it was quite obvious the repair wasn't holding, it was quite scary that it could have ripped out and hurt somebody on board and done some serious damage so that's when we decided it was better we try to have the umpires to come over and have a look at it before we tried to race with it."
--Bill Trenkle, of Team Dennis Conner, on the damage to Stars & Stripes that caused his team to ask for a postponement of their scheduled Nov. 29 race against Oracle BMW Racing. The postponement pushed the race committee past the 4 p.m. deadline for a start and the race was abandoned. Oracle BMW Racing filed a protest, but later withdrew it. http://www.sailingworld.com/sw_article_AC.php?articleID=1451

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Recent Results from Round Robin 2
Oct. 30
Flight 5

Prada beat Mascalzone Latino by 1m:42s
Alinghi beat GBR Challenge by 7m:45s (GBR Challenge filed for and received redress for this race which was to be resailed.)

Oct. 31
Flight 6

GBR Challenge def. Mascalzone Latino by 1m:40s
Oracle def. OneWorld by 40s
Prada def. Victory Challenge by 10s.
Team Dennis Conner def. Le Défi Areva by 49s
Alinghi off

Flight 7
Alinghi def. Team Dennis Conner by 49s
Prada def. GBR Challenge by 16s
OneWorld def. Victory Challenge by 21s
Oracle vs. Le Défi Areva postponed by Le Defi for hydraulics damage
Mascalzone off

Nov. 1
Flight 8

Victory Challenge def. GBR Challenge by 1m:1s
Le Défi Areva def. OneWorld by 57s
Oracle BMW Racing def. Alinghi by 4s
Team Dennis Conner def. Mascalzone Latino by 1m:9s
Prada had the day off

Flight 4
Oracle BMW Racing def. Team Dennis Conner by 18s
GBR Challenge def. Le Défi Areva by 14s
Alinghi vs. Prada abandoned due to heavy wind.

Nov. 2
Flight 9

Le Défi Areva def. Mascalzone Latino by 1m:10s
OneWorld def. Prada by 54s
Alighi def. Victory Challenge by 29s
Oracle BMW Racing def. GBR Challenge by 2m

Flight 5
Alinghi def. GBR Challenge by 1m:26s
OneWorld def. Team Dennis Conner by 1m:19s
Oracle BMW Racing vs. Victory Challenge postponed due to damage on Oracle's USA-76.

Nov. 3
Flight 7

Oracle BMW Racing def. Le Défi Areva by 1m:7s

Flight 5
Oracle BMW Racing def. Victory Challenge by 43s

Flight 4
Prada def. Alinghi by default

Standings as of Nov. 3
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
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://www.sailingworld.com
Contributing Editors: Tony Bessinger (tony.bessinger@sailingworld.com), Dave Reed (dave.reed@sailingworld.com), Stuart Streuli (stuart.streuli@sailingworld.com), John Burnham (john.burnham@sailingworld.com)