Monday, September 8, 2014

Tribute to Tom Blackaller, Bay Area Sailing Legend

A wave from Lisa Blackaller-Williams on TOMCAT
This past weekend a special event on San Francisco Bay commemorated the anniversary of the 25-year passing of Tom Blackaller one of the Bay Area’s most celebrated sailors.

ACSailingSF, operated by Brad and Karen Webb, celebrated the occasion by taking Tom’s family for a spin on TOMCAT, a performance racing Prosail 40 catamaran which has served as a platform and inspiration for multi-hull America’s Cup sailing.

TOMCAT, the latest addition to ACSailingSF’s charter fleet, is named after Blackaller who began campaigning a Formula 40 catamaran with the same name in the ProSail Professional Sailing Series in 1988, and was leading the 1989 series at the time of his passing.

“Tom passed away 25 years ago today and incidentally it was a year ago today that the first America’s Cup in catamarans began, a spectacle on the Bay and something that Tom actually foresaw more than quarter of a century before it even happened. For us that’s very special,” Brad Webb addressed the group gathered dockside at San Francisco’s Pier 39.
Brad Webb toasts Tom Blackaller

Sailing Journalist Kimball Livingstone helms USA-76
To that point, Blackaller was once quoted, “The fastest boats are catamarans…with the pedal to the metal, flying hulls…I’d be back in the America’s Cup in a minute if it was held in big fast boats on San Francisco Bay.”

Blackaller’s family - daughter Lisa sailing with husband Teddy Williams and two of their three children - left the dock on TOMCAT while the rest of the group piled onto USA-76, San Francisco’s entry for the 31st America’s Cup in 2003 and on which Webb sailed as bowman.

A spectacular late summer day on the Bay, a
Blackaller-Williams family: Lisa, Teddy, Allie & Max
warm breeze built to a steady 15 knots by 1pm, about the time the two boats rounded the Blackaller buoy located just north of the St Francis Yacht Club, on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dockside later, Lisa commented, “Dad was a personality and a lot of fun. I love meeting people who knew him and to hear stories I still haven’t heard. The sailing world is a little less colorful without him - I don’t know how he would have ever done if he had to be “media-trained” as he didn’t hold back! My husband and my kids never met him so sailing today so was fantastic. To do that on honor of dad was so thrilling – he would have reveled in how thrilling AC34 was.”

Lisa described how her dad had become burned out after the 1987 Louis Vuitton Cup, when he was managing the syndicate USA (US-61), raising money and skippering the boat.

“He really had stopped sailing after that. It wasn’t until this Prosail series came along – these catamarans – that got him re-energized about sailing as he just loved fast things. I do wonder what role he would have played in the new AC as he would not have liked the politics of the whole thing and I am sure he would have had unvarnished things to say about it all…”


Paul Kaplan & daughter Sarah Kaplan
Paul Kaplan, co-owner of KKMI (Keefe Kaplan Maritime Inc.) and guest on board USA-76 first met Blackaller through racing, then the two became further acquainted as colleagues within the maritime industry.

“Tom sailed with us on our Quarter Ton yacht and we learned a great deal from him,” Kaplan recalled. “With regard to what Tom would have thought of AC 34, I’m sure that he would have been absolutely delighted to see the Cup finally held on the Bay. No doubt he would have had a few choice observations about what was wrong with the event and his observations most likely have been correct. In terms of the choice of AC 72’s catamarans becoming the yachts for the event, I can almost hear Tom say, “Well what the heck took you so “expletive” long to figure this out?"


USA-76 - Photo: ACSailingSF
Visit ACSailingSF for more info on catching a ride onUSA-76 or TOMCAT.

Editor’s Note: KKMI was responsible for making the necessary modifications so that USA 76 could obtain a USCG Certificate of Inspection allowing the yacht to take passengers for hire. The most significant changes included installing watertight bulkheads, an inboard diesel engine, modifications to the keel and the necessary safety equipment such as railings around the cockpit.
TOMCAT

Because ‘Tom Cat’ carries fewer passengers, the USCG requirements are not as stringent. The work KKMI did included to get her charter-ready included painting the hulls above and below the waterline and assisting with the commissioning of the yacht.








Thursday, October 24, 2013

AINSLIE HOLDS OUT FOR BRITISH RE-ENTRY TO CUP


Sir Ben Ainsle
Photo by Ellen Hoke/ellenhoke.com
At the 8th Annual Leukemia Cup Dinner hosted by The San Francisco Yacht Club, sailor, commentator and author Gary Jobson asked guest speaker Sir Ben Ainslie whether he’d like to round out his Olympic medals and recent America’s Cup victory with a Round the World win.

“No, not really!" said Ainslie, quite candidly, agreeing with Jobson that a hot shower at the end of the day is a good thing. He did add however that his Dad competed in the first-ever Whitbread race...and had also dealt with the difficulties of cancer.

“The reason we’re here tonight is I think everyone knows someone - friend/family member - who’s been involved with cancer or suffered from cancer. It’s obviously a very difficult disease to go through. My father actually suffers from prostate cancer so I know first-hand what a lot of people here have gone through. It’s a very difficult thing to have to deal with and so I think it’s amazing that you’re all here tonight and raising these funds.”
_______________

Gary J: Oracle Team USA was a little bit behind the 8-ball there, digging deeper, and there was a change. And you were the change, coming on board. How did it feel coming on a third of the way through the regatta and feeling like you had some pressure on your shoulders?

Ben A: We were obviously in a pretty difficult situation as a team. We were in dire straits and I think all of you here as sailors would know what the sport is like. There’s a lot of different components to it. So, yeah, we weren’t going particularly well, our speed wasn’t that good particularly on the upwind legs, I think the idea was to bring in a fresh face and a different perspective.

My goal was to try to be Mr. Positive even though things were looking about as bad as they could be to try and get some enthusiasm going. And of course this America’s Cup, it was always going to be a development race with a new class of boat with the AC72 multihulls, foiling and everything that goes with that. There was always a chance that we could develop faster than the other team and build some confidence from that. Ultimately that’s what happened. It was definitely a team effort - the designers, the boat builders, the sailors all coming together to make some..actually some quite small changes. There’s been a lot of talk about Herbies? I don’t even know what a Herbie is but maybe someone else here knows. But it didn’t have anything to do with us winning the America’s Cup, it was about small changes and looking at technique on the boat with the sailors and the designers and ultimately winning some races and getting some confidence.

Gary Jobson & Ben Ainslie
Photo: Ellen Hoke/ellenhoke.com
Gary J: Speaking of confidence, I was in England last summer when you got your 4th gold medal. You had dug yourself a little hole earlier in the regatta in Weymouth that you had to dig out of. In the end you had an unbelievable race when you came through and got the point that you needed and won a gold medal. The fact that you were able to do that last year, did that give you some confidence that you could pull it off again this year and at this level in the America’s Cup

Ben A: They are totally different challenges. I’ve been in a lot of difficult spots in my career as I know you have and a lot of great sailors have. Ultimately if you’re going to put yourself in those positions you’re going to end up in a tough spot from time to time. I think in this particular instance with this America’s Cup, it was really a credit to the team. There was no finger pointing, there were no heated arguments, we were clearly at a disadvantage earlier in the event and clearly behind speed-wise but we just kept to the task and I guess that’s really got to be credit to the management with guys like Russell Coutts, Grant Simmer and Larry Ellison to keep sticking with the team and keep trying to develop increased performance of the boat. It’s very easy when things are going wrong to start pointing the finger and even give up early on. I think it was impressive that the team stuck with it.

Gary J: It was fascinating to listen to you and Tom Slingsby talk - I think it’s a really good lesson for all sailors particularly young people that communication makes a difference. Did you plan that out, because in a Finn you don’t get to talk much to anybody?

Ben A: It was an amazing experiment because when they first put me on the boat it was really like putting three helmsmen together on the back of the boat. Jimmy and I had never really sailed together and I’d never sailed with Tommy either. It was a bit of a gamble for sure. I have to give a lot of credit to John Kostecki who did a fantastic job of tactician up until that point and it wasn’t that John had necessarily done anything wrong, it was that there just needed to be some kind of change to up the atmosphere on the boat because things were not looking good. John was just amazing. They’d made the change, he’d already left for home and I called him and said, “Look John, I’m sorry about this,” and he said, “It’s fine, I want the team to do well, I’ll come in tomorrow morning and we’ll go through all the software etc.” I hadn’t even seen the navigational software up until that point because I’d been steering the other boat. To have that kind of support, I think was just a measure as to the kind of team it was and especially John despite the disappointment of not being on the boat and racing.

Gary J: You’ve got to know how he is to race against, and of course you together had this unbelievable turn-a-round? Is Jimmy Spithill fearless?

Ben A: I’d say so. We all saw what he was like in the press conferences, right? You guys all had a good crack at him and he came through that pretty unscathed. He’s a machine, emotionless.

Gary J: What sort of psychology was going on there at those press conferences?

Ben A: Unless there were some big changes I didn’t know about, I think he was pulling everyone’s leg. He was impressive, I think you’re right, he was certainly able to keep the Kiwis guessing about what was going on. You hear all the stories about us flying boat builders in from all around the world which was complete nonsense. I think it worked.

Gary J: The pressure was on, you started to go fast and you were making good calls. What was in your mind day after day - it stretched on for a week? What was the attitude on the boat?

Ben A: I guess in the end it was potentially a little bit of karma. As you pointed out earlier we went into the event minus two points for something that involved a different class of boat, something that was not the America’s Cup and something that was a complete balls-up. It was a complete lack of communication and a real honest mistake. We obviously got punished very hard for that and it was right that the team was made an example but at the same time it was a very harsh penalty. Maybe that was things just getting evened out a bit. But I certainly felt for the Kiwis. I sailed for the team for the 2007 Cup and know the guys really well - Dean, Ray and the rest of the guys. They’re all brilliant guys, great sailors and it was tough for them to have to go through that. I think the hardest part for those guys was that they had a whole nation waiting in the wings to bring the America’s Cup home. The more out team got better and faster it must have been tough to deal with.



Gary J: When the Kiwis almost capsized, what were you thinking at the time?

Ben A: That was a real game changer. For most of us on the boat that was the first race where we actually started being competitive upwind and we actually caught them up on that upwind leg. For whatever reason they had a bad tack, whether they were rushed or had a mechanical issue, that’s really what put them in that difficult position. But certainly for us, that situation there gave us the belief that we could match them upwind and if we sailed well we could beat them and for our whole team that was a massive boost.

Gary J: The Olympic Games in Weymouth, I was there and you were in the news like crazy - you were one of the superstars of Great Britain. How did you react to that pressure during the Games?

Ben A: I guess I didn’t deal with it very well in the beginning because for the first six races I was beaten by the Danish sailor who sailed incredibly well and I was really - think I need to go to a sports psychologist and work that out. It was a tough situation, there was a huge expectation on all of the home athletes to perform. I think the hardest thing is with past Olympics when you go away to compete, you’re away from home and all the distractions - you get on with it. When you’re at home, all of a sudden you have to deal with the expectations of sponsors, family, friends - there were people I’d never met before who claimed they were related to me in some way - that’s hard!  

Gary J: There’s a question that’s been gnawing at me for about a month now...who are you going to sail for in the next America’s Cup?

Ben A: That’s an easy question - I thought you were going to ask me something difficult. There’s a lot going on as you know - it’s an interesting period. We need to find out what happens with the next event what Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison decide they want to do. I think we’ll be happy being back here in San Francisco. It’s an awesome venue with great hosts. It’s no secret we’d like to have a British team involved in the Cup. Having said that, as we all know, it’s a big boys game. You can’t go into it without the right level of funds - you have to have the team with the wherewithal to win otherwise there’s no point. You’re wasting everyone’s time. We’re going to decide in the next couple of weeks if we can get that together so things are moving along quite quickly and hopefully that can be the case.

Gary J: Is it scary coming into the leeward mark at 45 knots?

Ben A: It is a bit dodgy at times, yeah. The funny thing was we had a lot of software and I had a tablet in the life jacket to help with navigation and as you all know everyone around the world got into the sailing. I was getting messages from around the world from everyone saying, “Finally I can understand what sailing is about, it’s amazing.” Also, I was getting messages from friends and family at home saying, “This is ridiculous, we’re trying to get our kids to sleep and the racing’s on at 10-11pm and the kids wont go to bed.” I had a message from my nephew who is 8 years old. He said, “Uncle Ben, the racing’s really fantastic but I don’t understand why you keep opening your life jacket and you’re looking for sweets.”

Gary J: I understand very early on that both John Kostecki and Jimmy fell overboard. Did you ever fall overboard?

Ben A: I very nearly fell overboard in training when I was steering the boat. The forces on the boat are amazing. We had designers who went out on the boat and they hadn’t been on the boat much before. If they were in the wrong spot and not holding onto anything when we were turning upwind, they’d literally go flying off the boat. So we did lose quite a few people off the boat. It’s easily done and we had some scary moments and I can say they were scary as we obviously know what happened to the Artemis team and to Andrew Simpson who was one of my best mates in the world. The America’s Cup was great but I think the way that the America’s Cup and the sailing community dealt with that was fantastic.

Gary J: Tell us a little bit about Larry Ellison from your perspective?

Ben A: The times I’ve known Larry Ellison he’s been very charming, very approachable, very knowledgeable about sailing. I think he’s clearly a very busy man. We saw him as a team perhaps three or four times during the whole 12 months I was with the team. I know he kept in regular contact with Russell Coutts and was clearly up on what was going on with the team, certainly he was out there everyday supporting the team - on the phone a lot to Russell during the races - he’s on it, he knows what’s going on. Certainly towards the end of the event he gave up his whole business week at Oracle World which must be one of Larry’s biggest weeks of the year work-wise, he gave it all up to support us which was fantastic. Certainly this whole thing that we’ve seen with the America’s Cup - yes, there’s been a lot of criticism, yes, none of us knew where this would really end up but we were fortunate that the event ended up the success that it was but we shouldn’t forget that it was really Larry Ellison and Russell Coutt’s vision to make it happen. The TV production in particular was stunning.

Gary J: I think you should sail for Great Britain and come challenge here. You could be the enemies but it could be exciting and the British have had such a long unsuccessful history in the America’s Cup that you could be the guy to turn it around!

Gary Jobson, John Walters (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society President/CEO,
 Sir Ben Ainslie, & SFYC Leukemia Cup Chair Tom Perkins. Photo Ellen Hoke/ellenhoke.com





















Saturday, September 21, 2013

CAN WE GO HOME YET?


It was Groundhog Day all over again for everyone involved in the America’s Cup, from fans to sailors to event organizers as Race 14 was postponed Saturday. All except perhaps Oracle Team USA, who must view each day this regatta is extended as a chance to continue to improve and develop their boat, whereas for the favored Emirates Team New Zealand, it prolongs the agony of having that dang trophy in their hot hands.
An unusual fall day in San Francisco saw a rainy front blow through with a southerly breeze during the morning, making it impossible to set a course. The Race Committee had given the teams fair warning of the system, offering up an alternate course, but neither team was interested, preferring to wait until conditions were back to a southwesterly on the course they’ve become accustomed to. Unfortunately that never transpired.
Meanwhile it must be a great time for Air New Zealand as many Kiwi fans have changed their plane tickets in order to stick around, while other Kiwis can’t get home soon enough, like Rob Salthouse, who runs the ETNZ fairings program. As part of the shore crew, Salthouse is longing for a day off and a sleep-in. The work of the ETNZ shore crew is pretty much around the clock, as Salthouse explained, “You certainly work pretty long hours, and you don’t get a lot of breaks. That’s probably the biggest thing about this event. When I think about what I’m looking forward to the most, a sleep-in would be good.”
Salthouse, a sailmaker and boat builder from New Zealand, has been involved in the Cup since Perth in 1986-'87. He worked for the Kiwi team in the ‘88 and ‘92 campaigns, skipped a few, and then rejoined the Kiwis for Valencia in ’07. He was brought in quite late in the current campaign to fill a gap that had developed with the AC72: to manage the Fairings program, a whole new role for these boats.
“I started off part-time to help the team from December last year through February, and I’m still here,” Salthouse said laughing. “The fairings have become a key component with the speed these boats are doing. As windage and drag become a big thing, we’ve been able to see potential and real gains in certain areas with the aero package that we’ve put on the boat. Coming from a sail-making background, this has been really exciting for me to be involved in. It’s all aero-related and fits in pretty nicely.”
The ETNZ daily routine is similar to their competition down the road. The team’s day starts with a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting, and by 7:30 they’re into work, with the first part of the day spent preparing the boat for weighing and measurement, which takes about an hour. A wing lift meeting is held about 7:40 a.m., and shortly thereafter the wing and platform are pushed out of the shed. Salthouse says it takes about 70 people to get the Kiwi wing on and the boat into the water. It takes about an hour from the time to push out of the shed, lift the boat, and get it onto the mooring.
“The tricky bit about it is that we’ve always got to keep the wing head to wind so if you have a swirly breeze you have to be ready to rotate the boat platform under the wing at any stage, so it’s quite a critical phase while you’re connecting everything up etc.,” Salthouse said.
By about 10:40 a.m., ETNZ sails up to the America’s Cup Park and onto the mooring there, where fans get a great close-up view of the fantastic Aoteoroa, as the Kiwi boat is named, and support boats. A team of 40 to 45 people are on the water everyday including sailors, chaseboat and support crew. After racing the morning procedure is repeated: Two tugs plus a tender placed alongside the boat are used to bring the 72 to position within a pen, the crane is then connected to the boat to lift it from the water.
“That’s also a tricky stage,” Salthouse explained, “because once again you have to keep it all head to wind, and then as you lift and swing the boat over with any breeze you’re pretty vulnerable to it moving around. We have 10 tag lines on the boat to help steady it and keep it rotated in the right direction.”
The boat is pulled out and put on a cradle, the wing comes out, and the boat is rolled into the shed followed by the wing. That’s when the shore crew start and get into the post-race checks. In each of the areas (rigging, wing, structural) every little detail is checked on the boat to make sure there are no issues. It takes the Kiwis a minimum of two hours to do a thorough check on everything, a clean and polish of the boat takes about two hours, then the nightshift crew of seven guys stays on to do any other jobs that need to be done.
Work aside, the Kiwis have made time for an important ingredient in Kiwi sports: beer. Some of the enthusiasts on the team got into brewing their own home brew back in Auckland, and the management of a local San Francisco pub agreed to continue to brew the same beer for the Kiwis during their stay. The beer is called “Big Cat” after the bar back in NZ where the boys would have a few quiet drinks every Friday night, says Salthouse. “I’m not a real big fan of the brew, but it’s gone down quite well at times for sure!"
Speaking of Kiwi beer, Salthouse is looking forward to getting home. It’s been a long tour, he says, and breakdown of the base is already under consideration. He thinks it’ll take a minimum of two weeks to get the base and boat broken down and packed into containers. A core team of 20 to 25 bodies will remain in San Francisco to pack up while the rest head home to New Zealand. This will take place as soon as the Kiwis get their likely final win out of the way although, Salthouse cautioned, “We may have to wait for the dust to settle a little bit!”
Salthouse has worked both AC and Volvo campaigns and the obvious difference between the events is the numbers, a Volvo campaign being a lot smaller for starters with about 30 to 35 people in a big team. “You’re working a lot closer together in a Volvo because there’s a lot more overlap than in the AC, so you come out of a Volvo with closer relationships to the people you’ve worked with, not what you’d get in an AC campaign."
Having said that, Salthouse acknowledges that this AC campaign has been different to others he’s done.
“The culture in this team has had a really good vibe and feel right from the start. There’s a lot of excitement now which keeps us going so that side of it compared to other Cup campaigns I’ve done has been really fantastic and a lot of fun. Hopefully we can get the business done!”

As posted at: http://www.sailingworld.com/racing/americas-cup/can-we-go-home-yet

Photo: Chris Cameron/ETNZ

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ORACLE’S COMEBACK NOT ENOUGH TO OVERCOME KIWIS


Peter Isler shares his thoughts on AC34
Sir Ben Ainslie is no stranger to comebacks and the mindset required to overcome setbacks, as he stated just yesterday following another loss to ETNZ in Race 11, “I think you have to keep believing. We’re obviously in a very difficult position, but we’ve proven we can win races—we’ve got to win a lot more races to get even with the Kiwis, but it's a possibility.”
Mindset or not, the reality is that today the 34th America’s Cup is likely to become the Kiwi Cup. Dawn Riley, former America’s Cup sailor, commented that, in her book, there’s not a whole lot Oracle Team USA could have done tactically to save the day; it was more of a matter of consistency, “A tiny bit of speed deficit was compounded on one race by a bad start, or coming off foil at exactly the wrong time in another, or expecting the wind to be lighter in another.”
She concurred, “The jury decision didn't hurt in points really, but I'm thinking it hurt more than we realized in distraction.” And, in town for the Rolex Big Boat Series, renowned tactician Peter Isler weighs in on just that which has plagued the American team from the outset, but also how they’ve made the best of it to put on a show like sailing’s never seen before.
Oracle’s starts were more favorable in the earlier part of the series—what do you think has attributed to their less successful starts since?
PI: The one semi-obvious thing was they came out with a short bowsprit. I think that may have been due to the fact that the wind instruments that are now on the end of the bowsprit—when you bring them all the way back in there, there’s just tons more disturbance, and they didn’t take the time to learn how to recalibrate them. I’m sure they’re using some sort of wind direction number to help them get the timing right at the start, when to pull the trigger, etc. It just looked like they didn’t have one piece of data when they cut the bowsprit off—their timing was all off. It could have been due to over-reliance on electronics that were no longer as tuned up as they had been when the instruments were out in more of the free flow of the boat.
Oracle has improved 100 percent, and they’ve been in the chase ... but just unable to nail it at crucial points in the race. Your thoughts?
PI: A good friend of mine, Vince Brun, once said, “When you have boatspeed then you look like the world’s best tactician. When you don’t have good speed, it’s impossible to have good tactics.” In some ways it's true. A lot of times the simplistic thing to do is to look at the boats and say, “They’re more or less even, therefore when they go right and left and back together again, it’s all tactics.”
But, that’s an over-simplification, and there’s a boatspeed factor that’s mixed in there. One thing when you’re analyzing it, it’s dangerous to attribute all or nothing to boatspeed. That said, the problem with these boats, especially upwind, is that the tacks are costly (even though they are tacking pretty well now). Because of the short boundaries—and we saw it with the 45s—once you pick your gate, you’ve pretty much set up your strategy/race positioning for almost the whole beat, unless you want to spend another tack, you’re going to go right or left to the boundary then bang off of it and boundary back.
If you tack in the middle of the beat, it’s a pretty rare thing. Then add in the mix of San Francisco Bay and the fact that the current on that part of the course can, with changing tides, be completely the opposite direction on the right edge to the left edge. It’s an interesting challenge, and I think all the sailors are trying to get it right, and sometimes they don’t because of the wind shifts or the current being a little bit different to what they expected. And of course when the boats come close and you have a crossing situation in the dial downs etc., then it shifts over to boat-to-boat tactics which is as much the helmsman as it is the tactician. You think of Jimmy as being the battler, the boxer etc., but Dean’s been at times just as aggressive as Jimmy.
How much can be attributed to Oracle’s capsize as a reason that they’re not as polished as the Kiwis?
PI: Two things: The Kiwis had a couple of weeks advantage by learning to foil first and really developing it in secret before any of the other teams cottoned onto it. They did a really good job of maintaining that advantage that they have. At the same time, the superpower, our home team, had a huge setback with their capsize that precluded them from being able to play catch up even when they did cotton onto the foiling. The foiling totally changed the game of this America’s Cup. Even the designers admit that they are accidentally what they [the boats] are now. They didn’t intend—at least the version one hulls—to be riding above the water or foiling upwind. The Americans lost any chance they did have of getting on with the foiling game early because the boat broke, a double whammy.
What are your thoughts on these boats as ideal match-racing boats?
PI: There is no ideal match racing boat, it’s like horses for courses, it’s like what’s your favorite, there is no ideal horse. All of us, from the spectators, the media, the viewers, to the sailors, are all almost daily getting more into these boats match racing. It is spectacularly fun to watch. It’s the coolest match racing I’ve ever seen. I think they’re great, there’s obviously other issues and considerations beyond how cool they are, but in terms of a match-racing boat, they’ve got everything—they’re manueverable enough that they can play some tactical games. It’s not all the subtleties you get with a heavy keelboat that goes really deep downwind and the trailer can’t attack the leader by throwing bad air on them because they’re going so fast, but I think the whole new game is pretty darn cool. I love it, and if you asked me, you, or the viewers just back in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the answer would have been completely different. Good on these two teams to show us really what these these things can do.
How’s Ben doing at the back of the boat?
PI: He’s a leader and competitor, and he’s in the perfect position really right now. From my perspective, he was hired to help the team and bring more experience on board, but I also saw him hired to put him on ice to keep him out of the hands of the enemy. With this awkward situation with JK [John Kostecki] Ainslie had this totally unexpected opportunity to show everybody what he could do. He’s super smart, a great sailor, and he’s done a really good job of stepping in.

When Cheese got taken out of the mix—Cheese, JK, Spithill were a powerful team; they’d won an America’s Cup together, done all the ACWS events together—I don’t think we really appreciated just how much of a setback that was. All of a sudden, lose a few races, confidence ... who knows what really went on within the team, but certainly Ben has come in and kept Jimmy happy. That’s what a tactician does—it’s skipper entertainment (laughs). Maybe it’s now a Ben, Kyle, Jimmy thing.

At that level, you can talk about Ainslie or Kostecki, it’s plug and play. Put any one of those guys on any boat, and they’re going to look and sound good. There are times that with boatspeed and other issues where—rarely—one of these guys has a bad day here and there, but either of those guys are winners and I’d be happy to have either one of them onboard. At the end of the day it comes down to a kind of comfort level—the kind of "X Team" factor rather than who is making a better decision at the time, it’s more the chemistry.

http://www.sailingworld.com/racing/americas-cup/oracles-comeback-not-enough-to-overcome-kiwis

Photos: www.americascup.com