As newcomers to the America’s Cup arena, Artemis Racing suffered more than just growing pains in its AC34 debut. Following the tragic death of Andrew Simpson in an unfortunate training incident, it was highly doubtful that the team would regroup both emotionally and physically to sail again, but against all odds they did, competing in four races against Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals. Although he’s adamant that it’s been a relentless team effort that got the team back on the water, it’s clear that Artemis Racing skipper Iain Percy, long-time Olympic sailing partner and close friend of Simpson, was a motivating force behind this massive achievement. Here Percy talks about the end of an era, and perhaps surprisingly, the beginning of a new one.
What’s the break down procedure after an AC campaign ends?
IP: One of the unique aspects of the America’s Cup is that the winner decides the next competition. It’s sometimes one of the frustrations and sometimes described as one of the unique beauties of the Cup. Certainly from a planning perspective, it’s one of the frustrations. I think it’s pretty normal for teams to stop after a Cup, and personally I think it’s very important that a team takes a break to regroup before very carefully reforming. That’s what Artemis Racing is doing. Torbjörn, at our final press conference, very clearly stated his passion to do the next Cup. We don’t want to repeat mistakes by jumping in without proper thought and proper vision. So, we’ve stopped and we’re packing up.
What happens from a practical standpoint?
IP: We have a lot of things of value that need to be maintained and put away properly. We have a small squad remaining at our base in Alameda packing up and putting equipment into containers, including things like machine shops that can be reopened at any moment in the future. It’s a 100-person organization so there’s a lot of personal gear that needs to be go back to where people want it to go. It’s a huge logistical challenge. There’s also a lot of work to be done in taking an audit and doing a genuine inventory of all our equipment and IP gear. It’s really not much more magical than that.
Who is still on the payroll, and who has finished up?
**IP: **There’s a small squad of people here putting things in containers. There’s an area of the organization that needs to keep going, like answering to the press etc. Nathan [Outteridge] and I are still here because we’re passionate about the Cup and Artemis Racing. It’s not for me to announce who is still with the team, that will come at the appropriate moment. I think anyone who knows Torbjörn knows that he’s incredibly serious about what he wants for Artemis Racing, and I think they also know that Artemis Racing has proved to be a very enjoyable place to work. I think when you see the people who are keen to stay involved, it’s pretty clear it’s going to be a dominant force in the America’s Cup. I think the key message is the reason that you’re speaking to myself and Nathan—is because we really do believe that this team can be special.
So you’re keen to stay on with Artemis Racing?
IP: Yes, absolutely. I see what I think everyone else around the sailing community sees—that Torbjörn is passionate about the Cup, about winning, that he’s incredibly in touch with the team. He’s very much a leader and a guider of the team in a positive sense. That for me is a huge motivation. I’ve done this game for a little while now, and I’m less naïve than I used to be. So I know that when these things are done properly, they can be incredibly enjoyable, good places to work with good people in a fun collegiate environment where we can exercise the passion for the technology of our sport. If done wrong, it can be quite difficult. For me Torbjörn stands out as someone able to do something properly.
Sander van der Borch/Artemis Racing
What’s happening with the Artemis Racing boats?
IP: [Laughs] It reminds me that after our last day sailing, one of the crew said to me, “This may actually be the last time this boat sails!” As history goes, that may well be the case. In a way it’s a shame with the Cup, particularly with this Cup and the last Dog Match, that they’re not the kind of boats you go out for an afternoon sail with a few mates, that’s for sure. It requires a lot of people on the shore and very confident people on the sailing front to be able to take the boats out on the water, which inevitably means it’s a huge operation to go sailing. It’s really not worth it unless it’s relevant to the next Cup. That remains to be seen. The USA tri hasn’t been on the water and for a reason.
In retrospect, what was the high point of the campaign for you personally?
IP: For me it was six or seven months ago after Bart and Iain [Jensen] had joined the team bringing this can-do attitude coming from the Olympics, with the Olympic spirit of doing absolutely everything you can to win. They’re all great guys; I’ve known Bart all my life, Iain and Nathan more recently. We had a common kind of culture and way of working which came together as a lot of energy around the base and a lot of other good people who grew in that environment. We had found out that we were on the wrong path with the red boat so were redeveloping our boat and our wing, and getting faster and faster at putting it all together. It was a fantastic working environment and was the highlight few months. Nathan was really getting into the foils and foiling solutions, Bart and myself were taking on the aero side with the wing. We were grabbing this thing by the scruff of the neck. It wasn’t just us four—we were joined by a lot of great people—the 100 people in here were humming. It was a fantastic thing to get up in the morning and come to work. I felt things were driving at such a speed. I’ve never been in a sailing team or an America’s Cup team where everything was going at such a pace.
Likewise, where did things start to go sideways for the team?
**IP: **Like all these campaigns, it usually happens very early on with the very first few decisions that you make which are exponentially important. We failed—probably—to capitalize on some of the existing experience in the multihull world both on the water and on the shore which would have put us on a faster track to the detail and refinement stage. I wasn’t involved at that stage, so it’s not fair for me to look back and judge it.
On the occasions you did sail how did it feel being on the water as a team?
IP: It was great fun. Myself, Iain, Nathan—we love racing as do all the other boys on board. It was a very special moment when we crossed the line in the first race. We were almost two minutes behind, and I’ve never done that in my life, but it was the biggest victory I’ve had in almost all my sailing. I’ve never worked or felt more together as a team. I think Nathan said as we crossed that line, “We’ve done it boys,” and I think most of us had a tear roll down our cheeks as we really had done something that all of us thought was almost certainly impossible. Not impossible emotionally, but impossible practically. The thing was such a huge challenge and on top of the emotional challenge that we felt. I keep saying to people, “Those who didn’t go through that period with us inside Artemis Racing will never understand the mountain it was that we climbed.” And, those words of Nathan’s as we crossed the line kind of summed it up for all of us.
Sander van der Borch/Artemis Racing
What is next for you personally?
**IP: **I have a few regattas coming up, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ll be doing my first RC44 regatta with Torbjörn. I’ll be doing the Bermuda Gold Cup with an old team representing the Andy Simpson Sailing Foundation with myself, Ben Ainslie, Christian Camp, and Matt Cornwall, which is the team of four of us that Bart would join in a five-man match-race boat and always came as our coach to Bermuda. We’re really lucky to have been sponsored by the event sponsor, The Argo Group, to donate to the charity for us to race for Bart. That’s been great for the foundation and for the four of us who were all good friends of Bart to go back to a spot where we’ve been together many times. Racing is something that’s in our blood, and sometimes with the America’s Cup you get all too little of it so I’m looking forward to getting out and feeling the adrenaline of the start line again.