They are the most feared four words to any Americas Cup sailor “Youre 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 BMWs) 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, “Youre off the boat,” but to Ellison. The owner quite obviously knew a thing or two about Aucklands 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 Americas Cup skippers who have been fired, including Bob Bavier, Ted Turner and John Oakeley.
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 Americas Cup, we were here to learn, but we will be back for sure. We want to stay in this Americas 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 Americas 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
Pradas 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 Cooksons yard under the cover of darkness and arrived in 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.
Its on the same level of possibility as the change that may occur in the GBR Challenge boats. Peter Harrison said, “At the moment we dont 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 Americas 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 Saturdays race against Alinghi.