Horton Has a Job With a View

As wind strategist for Luna Rossa, American Andy Horton often finds himself up the mast looking for breeze. "A Voice from Valencia" from our May 3, 2007, /AC eNewsletter/

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Stuart Streuli

A week and a half ago, when Luna Rossa Challenge dropped two races in a single day, to Team Shosholoza and BMW Oracle Racing, many were ready to stick a fork in the three-time Italian syndicate. It wasn't just the losses-especially the surprising loss to the South African syndicate-but also the fact that the team's wins in Round Robin 1 of the Louis Vuitton Cup hadn't been all that impressive. Since that day, however, the team has reeled off nine straight wins and is currently tied with BMW Oracle Racing at the top of the leaderboard in the Louis Vuitton Cup. One of the key cogs in the Italian machine is traveler/wind strategist Andy Horton, a Vermont native in his first America's Cup campaign. We spoke with Horton on Wednesday, after clinical wins over United Internet Team Germany (by 1:02) and Team Shosholoza (by 25 seconds).Another two wins, neither what we'd call impressive, but two wins nonetheless.It doesn't matter how much you win by. Our goal is just to win every race, so we just stay between our guy and the mark, do some extra boathandling, keep it close-which is good for us in the long term-and just make sure we're winning and not taking any chances.So would you classify your tactics to this point in the regatta as conservative?I think they're just good. If we have a little bit of a boatspeed edge we make sure we keep the boats close together and don't take any chances. If we think we're even or slower, which hopefully we're not, then maybe we sail the shifts a little bit more and do our own thing. It just takes the chance out of it a little bit, but you won't see us winning by a kilometer. Hopefully we just win more races that way and don't lose any.Wednesday, with the flat water and the shifty breeze out of the south, seemed like a nightmarish day for tacticians and a tough day for favorites. Is it a more even game in those conditions?A little bit, I think so, because the water's so flat. We were actually happy because the morning when it was [directly] offshore with the clouds and everything, it was quite puffy and shifty. Some of the other teams that are not quite as quick would have a good chance of winning a race in that stuff. Luckily they postponed a couple of times, because one of the times they postponed there was a 50-degree shift on the left-hand side of the course and I was up the mast seeing it halfway up the beat the whole time. Luckily they postponed, which was a good call, waited for the breeze to come in, and then it came around. The boats were pretty close in speed because of the flat water, but there were big enough shifts, 10 or 12 degrees back and forth, that you could actually get around people if you needed to. Is this the sort of day, with the breeze shifting so often, where your job as a windspotter is extra hard?You just sail the same way every day and I think it works out in the long run. It wasn't that bad because I wasn't up the mast that much today. Both starts we had about 14 knots, slowly dying a little bit, so it wasn't that long of a day up there. And flat water is OK too.Today seemed like a day when you'd want to be up the rig, with the breeze so shifty? But it sounds like it's more of a windspeed decision?A little bit, and [the shifts] were pretty well-timed, so once you had a feeling for it, and with a good weather team you could figure it out, you kind of had a good idea what was going to happen. Then at the end of the race it was a little bit more up in the air, but it wasn't that hard of a day for shifts and weather. At least I didn't think so.