Auckland – It seems like a long time, but this is the America’s Cup and time is the biggest issue – you never have enough of it.
Every day is important. Is two years long enough?
“Not even close, we could use four,” explains America’s Cup veteran and Skipper of American Magic, Terry Hutchinson.
“Every single day is already accounted for as we work and prepare for the 36th America’s Cup.”
Each of the teams will now be at varying stages of their individual design, development and testing in their respective campaigns towards 2021.
But just what is going on behind closed doors right now will go a long way to defining success in two years’ time, according to Kevin Shoebridge, COO of the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand.
“Historically, when you look back on who has won any America’s Cup, it is often decisions that have been made two years to 18 months previous that are the key to what your performance will be at the end when it matters. A lot of the philosophy and direction that you take is often taken quite early. So, decisions we are making today, decisions we have just made with the design of the first boat could be critical to the outcome of the America’s Cup. So, there is no slow ramping up to the big decisions coming later on. The big decisions are now.”
With this in mind, it is anyone’s guess as to who is better placed at this point in time. Literally no one could know. But, according to four-time America’s Cup winner and INEOS Team UK CEO Grant Simmer, it’s not just making the right decisions, but how effectively you manage your time once they have been made, that matters.
“Normally if you manage your America’s Cup properly you run out of time at the same time you run out of money. You can sometimes find more money, but you can never find more time. So, managing time is a critical part of the program and this Cup is like any other – you have to time your developments to come online right at the end of the Cup.”
This all seems straight forward enough, until you start to add up the mountain of important milestones that need to be juggled and ticked off in the next two years and all of a sudden, the immediate and daily pressure on the teams is apparent, according to INEOS Team UK Skipper Ben Ainslie.
“We are up against it, so a lot of pressure is already on the team and the organisation to fulfil all of that. But that is part and parcel of the America’s Cup challenge, and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
Exciting indeed. Especially when the next most pressing milestone for the teams is getting their first AC75’s on the water and mastering their ability to race the giant foiling monohulls, a leap into the relative unknown.
“We have seen the smaller test boats out there warming up but to have the real scale 75-footer will be a big step up for all of the teams,” continues Ainslie.
“And then we go through a race circuit around the world and then into New Zealand in 2020 and into the Cup itself. Throughout all of that we have to bring new components online, and to try to really make sure they hit their deadlines so we can have our training and development schedule running as we want it. That’s probably our biggest challenge and then making sure we are absolutely maximising development times and opportunities that we have.”
It is pretty clear the arms race is on when you take stock of the pace the teams are working at around the world. Whether still in the infancy of setting up new teams like Malta Altus Challenge, DutchSail in Europe, or Stars & Stripes Team USA on one coast of the US, to American Magic on the other.
The East Coasters have been operating at a relentless level since they officially entered the 36th America’s Cup the very minute entries opened on the 1st January 2018.
Their focus now is eking out all the time possible on the water putting their “Mule” test boat through its paces by chasing seasons. Launched in the Newport Autumn, then moving south en masse, clocking up untold days in Pensacola, Florida for the winter.
“Everything that we are doing is developing either our Mule boat, or boat 1 or boat 2. There are so many items that are coming at us and so many choices that we are going to have to make as we work through this process, that you can easily see that as we develop our equipment, our sails, our foils that every day is going to be occupied,” explained Hutchinson.
Meanwhile, in Cagliari, Sardinia, Luna Rossa has quietly been focusing on the many important design aspects of their AC75 with one specific item sticking out as key to their design success.
“I’m convinced the main sail will be a key element as it’s a completely new project,” said Skipper Max Sirena. “It’s a very demanding and important project that we think can give big gains in terms of performance. Obviously the boat is like a puzzle, every piece needs to combine with the others, but we think the mainsail will be a key element.”
So much to do, so much to get right and that’s just to win the Prada Cup to therefore make the start line of the 36th America’s Cup Match in 730 days.