Monday, April 25, 2011

Gary Lovejoy: AC 34 Media Maestro

Gary Lovejoy has the challenging job of heading up production for all media - all moving pictures and audio - for the 34th America’s Cup. The first and last time he worked in the America’s Cup was in Perth in ‘86/87, as producer for ITV in the UK.

56-year old Lovejoy, who hails from Plymouth, England (and NO, he swears he’s not the reason the World Series is headed to that city in a few months), comes to the prestigious position at America’s Cup Event Authority with 34 years in broadcasting behind him. In a positive way, Lovejoy is quietly philosophical about the task ahead…

SailBlast: Many promises have been made regarding media for AC 34. What’s the most challenging aspect of pulling this off with the new format?

Lovejoy: I think doing it all justice, really. We’ve got a fantastic opportunity here which may not be repeated - if we make a mess of this no one may want to try again. We’ve been given the chance with the new boats, with a Cup holder who has vision, with a venue that’s world famous, and the chance to go around the world in the interim and take our traveling road show to lots of different cultures and venues. The crews will be sharp from all that racing, and we’ll have to be sharp by the end of it all. The challenge is to live up to all those things that have been put in place for us. We are privileged in that regard and now have to make it all work.

SailBlast: What’s the plan for these next few test weeks in NZ?

Lovejoy: The principle reason is to look at the onboard cameras that will go on the AC 45s and also to look at the graphic system that Stan Honey and Ken Milnes have been developing. It’s unique and important enough for us to trial them in NZ several months before the first race. We’ll look at other things as well - like what’s the pace of the whole game now because these boats move so quickly. We’ll be fitting two AC 45s out with their racing kit and we’ll be looking to see how the pictures begin to fit together, how a two-leg sequence for example works, and how much do we rely on these onboard cameras. Are they providing us with more or less than we thought they would? That then dictates what we do with the other cameras.

SailBlast: What’s behind managing the sheer number of cameras & equipment?

Lovejoy: It’s complicated and it’s not just the video, it’s the audio as well. With all the audio circuits that are coming back you have to make live selections of both what video you are transmitting and audio. The management of that live is one thing, then there’s another level which is the highlights program to be produced later that day where we are duty bound to anything we’ve missed in the live coverage - let’s face it, we will miss some stuff because there’s not going to be enough eyes & ears to see and hear everything that comes off the water live and immediately transmit it. Anything that we miss that we find is significant that we establish exists in the hour or two after the race we’ll put into that highlight show. But, the highlight show shouldn’t just be a butcher’s chopping board and hack of the racing that we put together to run the required duration - it should be significant.

SailBlast: How did you figure out how many cameras you’d need?

Lovejoy: I think it’s a feeling that comes together over a period of time. One of the things we have added in just the last couple of months is a camera that will concentrate just on crowds on the land because as you know that we’re promoting the idea that we’re going to race in a stadium environment, in an amphitheater. In the first two regattas in Cascais and Plymouth we have an opportunity to see people around the “playing field” - or, the racetrack. I think this is very important because there’s not many sporting events that you watch on TV where there’s an empty background. Because of its nature, even the biggest of sailing events has in the past had an empty background - a blue sky and a horizon. If we do have thousands of people come to the waterside in Cascais and Plymouth, we should show that they are there. Psychologically that will help people who are watching online or on television, think, “I’m going to give this a chance because some people have given up their Sunday afternoon to sit on a picnic blanket and watch this, it can’t be that bad.” I’m talking about the non-sailing audience now and I think that’s an important part of this. We can get the crowds in and the race management people do want to take the racing to the crowd so we have to show that.

SailBlast: How many will you need on your team?

Lovejoy: At the first World Series event in Cascais, Portugal there’ll be about 100-110, just on the broadcast team and for creation of the feeds for webcasting as well. Those numbers will probably increase by the time we get to summer 2013 in SF, but also what will happen by that time is we will have inherited the national and international team broadcasters who will want to bring their people to San Francisco to cover the event. We’ll have to facilitate them, help them to settle into the international broadcast center, we’d have to give them all the feeds that they require and work with them. Perhaps also by then we’ll have added some things that will be different and require a few more people.

SailBlast: How many boats will you use on the water?

Lovejoy: We’ll have four, sometimes five for what people would regard as conventional cameras on the water over and above those aboard the racing boats. We could well increase that but not massively because you do have the onboard cameras and there’s a point you reach where you may waste your onboard cameras if you have too many other cameras. The AC 72s have more cameras on board than the 45s but we must be sensible with this - you could keep placing cameras around the Bay here until you run out of cable. What we have in the air (three helicopters for major races and two for a World Series match race on a mid-week afternoon), what we’ll have on the water - from a financial perspective as well we have to justify everything that’s there.

SailBlast: How do you plan to “tell” the sailing story to non-sailing fans?

Lovejoy: I’m not a sailing expert and don’t pretend to be - what I have to be is the person whereby, if it confuses me or loses me or if I don’t understand it, then we shouldn’t be doing it. I’m just trying to use myself as a sounding board for everything that we’re doing with the target market. I’m older than the target market but if the target market is people who want to follow sailing but for one reason or another have been frustrated or turned off by it or haven’t understood it in the past, you concentrate on the basic story then you have the special equipment with which to illustrate it. If you aren’t telling the story properly, people will switch off unless they’re sailing fans and they’re watching because they’re devoted. You shouldn’t be pushing people to those limits, saying, “You’ve got to watch because you love sailing - that’s unfair.”

How do you determine what the best stories are?

Lovejoy: I think we need to refine this a bit but we need someone who is prowling the area and who is on the lookout for things that slip by, someone dedicated to looking at our output to make sure that if we did drop something out that it’s logged - there’s probably no job description for that role but I think its an important role that someone will have to play especially in the fleet racing. The match racing will be a little different, less to concentrate on and fewer excuses to miss something live but it will still happen. What we will use is more EVS machines (the standard machine that replays motion), which brightens up coverage and is a clever tool that is improving all the time and essential to major sports today.

SailBlast: Where is Gary Lovejoy when all this happens - on land, on the water?

Lovejoy: Pacing up and down like an expectant father in front of a myriad of television screens and trying not to say anything because the producer and the director need to be given the live, free reign once we get going - they need the boring guy in the suit to get out of the way.

SailBlast: The budget is purported to be in the millions - can you comment?

Lovejoy: We are controlling the budget. Sometimes with the venues it all slots into place perfectly and there’s no extra costs foreseen but sometimes it’s different, like with a leg on the Golden Gate Bridge. During the Cup itself we’ll be based at Pier 23, slightly around the corner to have a line of sight out there to pick up a signal. It’s only when you’re walking about on the Embarcadero that you realize where you’re positioned in relation to the rest of the Bay, which is what we did with John Craig (PRO) when he was explaining to us where he planned to go. We realized if the boats exit the Bay under the Bridge, turn around, and come back again, they’re going to disappear temporarily. We’ll have to bounce the pictures, as we really want that shot when the fleet comes back into the Bay but it will cause logistical headaches and more money.

SailBlast: What do you think you bring to the table with your experience?

Lovejoy: What the people who are working on this bring is a significant bank of knowledge already but we all have to be very open-minded and clear-eyed about what has gone before and what we want to achieve here and how we do it, which involves a mix of different skills and different backgrounds. We have to have people who have been through their football world cups and their Olympics so come the big day they can still produce what’s required. That’s what the old guys bring I guess. I’ve been lucky to have been exposed to different kinds of sports television experiences in different countries with different media groups and companies. I want to keep learning and I’m learning things on this job, which is important to me personally. I think it’s important that we’re all still learning and we’re all still prepared to learn. We’re being quite dangerously open and honest about what we’re trying to do here, it is a dialogue and we do want to talk to people and have them feel involved and for it to be fair. It’ll be a process as we improve what we’re doing and I’m sure the teams feel the same.

SailBlast: The work you’re doing now with the Cup must seem light years away from Fremantle?

Lovejoy: I was working with ITV and Channel 4 in the UK and we were following the British boat which was out of the game quickly but we found ourselves covering what was on the water a fantastic picture but it was done in a peak-time news feature magazine way - the program was at 6pm on a Saturday evening. The pictures were fantastic. Here, the technology has changed, the boats have changed massively and the distribution technologies have changed. We have a chance to do this on all sorts of platforms, from your mobile phone to your 60 inch plasma. So many things have changed but I would say that the six months I spent in Fremantle were six of the brightest, happiest most colorful months of my career. It was a fantastic event.

SailBlast: This one will be too!

Lovejoy: I hope so, that’s why I’m back. Everything is set up for this to be really, really good.

Sailblast: What’s the TV series that ACEA is planning to launch in July?

Lovejoy: With regattas on about every six weeks through the two -year period that last for two weekends, this means that for maybe 3-4 weeks we’re not necessarily on a TV schedule. In a two-year campaign leading up to the summer of 2013, we need to constantly acknowledge that we’re going to pick up new viewers along the way and they’ll need to be brought into the fold. Hopefully in an interesting modern way, the weekly show will take people along that journey, constantly featuring a little more in depth what’s happening on the water, who are the characters behind all this, what about the venues, how is San Francisco developing? There’s a great many things to look at - if you just did simplistic math and said we’re going to do between 90 and 100 shows, each program will carry four or five features - that’s several hundred aspects to feature.

SailBlast: Where will people be able to watch this programming?

Lovejoy: It’ll be available online regardless and it’ll be available to all of our TV rights holders around the world. Although it will be weekly, there’ll almost certainly be a monthly version available on airlines (the frequency with which they change their programming). We’re trying to make it available on all the media platforms.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kristen Lane: In Love with the 29XX

SailBlast caught up with Kristen Lane, recent winner of the Melges 24 Championship at Charleston Race Week. The following is Part 2 of an interview with Lane (see Part 1 at Lane and her Melges 24 team of tactician Charlie McKee, Willem Van Waay, Johnny Goldsberry and Matt Pistay will race the Melges 24 Worlds in Corpus Christi starting May 12.

After that, Lane is looking forward to spending time in a boat relatively new to her that she’s very excited about - the 29erXX. Lane got introduced to the 29er when she started sailing with Charlie McKee in Annapolis over two years ago and has been playing on it since. Last December in Sydney, Australia she met Julian Bethwaite, designer of the 49er and 29er, who got her into the XX. She recently sailed the 29er World Championship in Argentina but her heart’s really in the XX, which she describes as a ‘souped up, turbo version' of the 29er.

Said Lane, “It’s a double trapeze boat, it’s very fun and the best way to describe it would be an attempt to make something like the 49er but for two smaller people.”

Beyond that, Lane continues to be a big fan of match racing on the Bay now teaching clinics to PROs, and of team racing which is becoming popular at clubs on the Bay.

SailBlast: Why the 29XX?

Lane: I sailed the XX in Sydney for three weeks straight, every possible day that I could, it’s such a performance boat and a blast to sail. I returned from that trip completely in love with the boat and haven’t been in my normal 29er rig since - I’m a XX 29er sailor now (LOL)! Seriously, I want to focus on that boat, I have some regattas picked out here in the US and am returning to Sydney in the winter again for longer and looking forward to connecting with good local sailors there to get some coaching and become more skilled.

SailBlast: What do you like about sailing in Sydney?

Lane: Sydney is a fantastic place for skiff sailing. As a sailing culture, I think the US is behind if you look at where we focus on what young people are sailing and what types of boats we put even adults in to improve their racing skills. We have this myopic focus on slow “tactical” boats whereas I find it really interesting that the country of Australia is a country of sailors who have been raised on fast-moving boats - they’re some of the strongest, tactical sailors in the world, strategically good at what they do and because they sail fast boats the tactics become even more challenging. When you look at who the America’s Cup teams have up the mast calling strategy, many are skiff sailors.

SailBlast: Could skiffs be a better platform from which to teach sailing?

Lane: As an adult who learned to sail as an adult, I believe strongly in the same attitude that the Australians seem to have - make it exciting and fun - and it should be looked at for adults who want to learn and get better. Sure, I might be a little more aggressive than maybe the average girl who learned to sail six years ago but I just feel like the skiff is a wonderful platform because not only do you go fast, you have to learn how to use your body weight and understand the dynamics of a boat moving at that speed. Because the boat is going so fast, the loads on all of the sheets are minimal so for a small person you couldn’t really ask for a better set up. It’s thrilling, it’s educational, it’s easy. Kind of like the Melges 24 because it’s one of the easier keel boats to drive for the driver.

SailBlast: Tell us about the match racing clinic you just held for PROs at St FYC?

Lane: The St FYC has recently made a large investment in a fleet of club J22s, which has been extremely well received by our membership. People are coming out to participate in team racing, learning how to team race, and also coming out to sail in match race regattas. If you like match racing, as I do, then you’ll know that there are really not a lot of regattas to go to, or there hasn’t been. With this investment by the St FYC, there are now four or five match racing regattas on the schedule just at St FYC alone this year. Match racing is exploding on the Bay and other clubs are beginning to get involved and wanting to host regattas. St FYC has even made arrangements to charter out their new boats to other clubs to help encourage more clubs to hold match regattas. That means that we now need PROS who haven’t match raced to understand what competitors are thinking during a match race and what the elements of the race course do to the tasks involved during a match race.

SailBlast: What are you exactly teaching?

Lane: I go through what I’m thinking as I prepare for a match race - from putting a team together, showing up on the water, prepare for a race - it was interesting to share the competitor side of match racing with PROs. What I find mostly with PROs is you can almost say that they are a certain personality type - excellent with the details, they understand the rules very well and they understand fleet racing. Some of the concepts of match racing in terms of the intensity of the fight that exists in a match race or the potential for such is not on their radar because it doesn’t have any place in their fleet racing mindset so it was great. We had 11 attendees, we met for 2 ½ hours and went through all of the different plays that I’m thinking about when I’m match racing, what the course should look like and why it’s important to have this type of racecourse so that competitors can have that kind of battle on the water.

SailBlast: And the obvious question, is this interest because the Cup will be on the Bay?

Lane: I do agree that in part there’s an interest because the Cup is coming here. One of the amazing benefits of the Larry Ellison selecting San Francisco as the venue for AC 34 is this entire population of sailors has now an interest in match racing. I’ve been interested in match racing on the Bay for a few years now - Peter (husband) and I do our mid-week-come-learn-to-match-race-with-Kristen every summer in Tiburon. That’s been going on for two years so I know there are some hardcore sailors interested in match racing. But when you consider the impact of the process of selecting San Francisco and now the planning for the America’s Cup has had on the number of people this process has reached - there are people just coming down to the city front, even walking in the door at the St FYC to see what it’s all about. Yes, people want to learn about match racing. We now have this fantastic vehicle for piquing people’s interest.

The truth is, that you know and I know that fleet racing is a little boring. If you’re setting the marks and or officiating a fleet race, it’s all very boring but in match racing pretty much everybody is playing the sport. People sailing the boats are clearly having an athletic time in match racing but the umpires are also actively engaged in the game as the race is going on, as is the PRO and race committee evaluating what the course is doing and how the competitors are racing and if adjustments need to be made. It’s a much more active form of sailing. As people become interested whether it’s because of the America’s Cup or the St FYCs brand new fleet of J22s that are always out on the city front racing and match racing, they’re going to want to try it so I think we’re going to see an increase in a interest in a more competitive form of sailing. I couldn’t be more excited.

SailBlast: You mentioned team racing taking off at the club level?

Lane: As a sport I think it’s thrilling. It’s definitely practice that makes the sport perfect. If match racing is turning the volume up on fleet racing, then team racing is drinking five Red Bulls and adding six other friends to the party. It’s a fantastic form of sailing. The St FYC team - members are stepping forward to train other members of the club and there’s more of a regular practice session developing.

It is also a perfect seque for youth sailing - if you look at the success of the St FYC J22s, you’ll notice immediately that the members who are rushing to train in the boat and represent the club are the younger members because team racing is and has been a staple within college sailing in America for years. Everybody talks about saving sailing and what to do with these people after they get out of college. Plugging into the St FYC J22 boat program and training for and representing the club is like going from their sailing team at USC or Stanford, moving to San Francisco to get a real job and now they’re on the St FYC team. I have to credit the leadership at St FYC who decided that this was a good thing to do. They did so hoping to reach that audience, that 20-32 years of age - it’s working and it’s great.

Photo 1: Mar del Plata, Argentina, 29er World Championship 2011
Photo 2: Classic Sydney Harbor in the 29erXX

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Testing Race Management & Onboard Media Systems

It seems like only yesterday that the venue announcement was made for AC 34 yet already America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) and America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) are set to begin a two-week dress rehearsal in Auckland next week of race management and onboard media systems in preparation for the first regatta for 34th America’s Cup teams at the inaugural America’s Cup World Series event in Portugal in August.

The testing is open to all competitors with or without an AC45. Two sessions are scheduled, April 26-29 and May 2-6.

The pre-season testing event also coincides with the next steps following the close of entries. Per the Protocol, competitors will submit a bond of US$200,000 by April 30, 2011, imposed to ensure competitors compete in the AC45 events and refundable if they meet all their obligations. The final payment of US$800,000 is due by Dec. 31, 2011, to cover costs associated with the AC72 series, also refundable at the end of the America’s Cup if all obligations are met.

Additionally, the entry fee for the America’s Cup event of US$100,000 is due by June 1, 2011. Iain Murray, Regatta Director for ACRM explained that the cost is not much different to AC 32 when competitors had to front up on entry with E1 million especially since then there’s been some +20% inflation to consider.

Meanwhile, competitors should also have a signed a purchase agreement for an AC 45 catamaran as entered teams need to have their boats ready to compete in Cascais. Core Builders Composites (CBC), the manufacturer of the AC 45, has increased the price of the AC 45 to E695,000 (US$1 million), an increase of E45,000 to cover the costs involved with CBC crew working double shifts to complete the number of AC 45s required.

“It’s simply a cost to produce boat, not a penalty,” Murray said.

American Terry Hutchinson, skipper on Artemis Racing says his team for one has been on the ground for four days in preparation for next week’s test events in Auckland.

“Not unlike the sailing team, this version of the America's Cup is taking on an entire new look,” Hutchinson said. “TV, jet ski umpires and onboard lighting systems are all becoming part of the new world. It is quite a bit different, but something that we need to embrace as sailors to take our sport to the next level.

The training has been going well and we are rotating crew to give the whole sailing team an opportunity to experience the AC 45 and the wing in particular. Once we start racing the AC 45 later in the year, the of the five person crew limit will cut a number of our guys out. The time now gives us the opportunity to expose all of sailors to the 'beast'. When I look at Julien and Mango and see their bruises and bumps, it only reaffirms what we already know. The boat is going to eat a lot of people. The trick to it really is trying to figure out how to sail consistently while recognizing that it may not always be pretty.”

Photos: Gilles Martin-Raget

Prepping for a Windy Melges 24 Worlds

Kristen Lane and her team Brickhouse (tactician Charlie McKee, Willem Van Waay, Johnny Goldsberry and Matt Pistay) won the Melges 24 Charleston Race Week Championship last weekend. In just a few weeks she’ll be taking on many of the same teams in the Melges 24 World Championships in Corpus Christi, Texas (May 12-21). Lane, who lives in Tiburon, Calif., turns 40 in just a few weeks and has fast become one of the country’s top match racers - particularly impressive given that she only first stepped foot on a sailboat in her late 20’s.

Lane talked to SailBlast about winning in Charleston in one of the country’s most competitive fleets, what she expects to face in Corpus, as well as some other fun things she’s taking on to fill her dance card these days. The following is part 1 of a 2-part interview with Lane:

SailBlast: What did you do particularly well that helped you in Charleston?

Lane: We knew going into it that the Nationals were going to be bigger in terms of numbers than what the World Championships is going to be (for whatever reason there’s only 30+ boats registered for Corpus), so we knew it was going to be a fun challenge from the fleet management side. We went out and sailed the boat like we had been sailing it in all the regattas leading up to it. We’d been working with a coach in Miami before this event so everyone on the team felt like we were progressing every time we went sailing and we felt that way at the regatta too. We put that all together, executed it and it all worked out. The tactics were very challenging so it helped that we had made a lot of really good decisions. It all came together, it wasn’t any super formula, everything was just firing on all cylinders.

SailBlast: You’ve sailed Charleston before - was that a benefit?

Lane: I’ve done quite a bit of racing in Charleston so knew what to expect. It’s very challenging. Charleston is one of those places where you just cannot sail the shifts, you have to know where to put your boat on the racecourse - it makes all the difference in the world. The more boats you pack onto the racecourse the harder it is to fight for that piece of real estate that you need to keep the boat going in the fast lane for the currents. But we love sailing there. The weather is fantastic, the time from getting from your perfect dock to the racecourse is five minutes. It’s a perfect venue for the 24 on the inshore course.

SailBlast: What’s the competition looking like for Corpus?

Lane: I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Bora Gulari has done with his new boat not having been in the boat for long. He’s very fast. We were definitely chasing him around the racecourse more times than not. He’s one of the fastest US boats, if not the fastest. He’s definitely at the top of the list in terms of who is fast. One of the strongest US teams is Full Throttle - they’re the nicest guys out there on the racecourse as well as being the toughest competitors. I love racing against them. I’d probably put those two at the top, but it’s always great to spar with my teammates (LOL). Peter (my husband) and I have been working a lot training on our two boats. He oftentimes is faster than me and that pushes me to work harder.

SailBlast: Do you feel prepared going into the Worlds?

Lane: (LOL) It’s going to be really windy but I do. I’m more excited than anything because I just want to have one of those regattas where by the time you leave the dock you’re like, “Okay, here comes the breeze,” and you just sail the boat as fast as you can. They’re thrilling days of sailing and I’m looking forward to returning to that - I don’t know that it’s even possible to find a venue in America that could really prepare you for Corpus. It’s a really unique combination - everyone who is rolling into town for the Worlds, not matter how prepared they are, is going to have to go through some pains in the beginning. We’re doing our first training session there next week. It’ll be great to get back and roll through all the crew work in the very heavy air and revisit how that changes what I do on the helm. I’m excited for the challenge, the adrenalin and the experience of sailing the boat at top speeds and to compete against some of the best drivers in the world.

SailBlast: Let’s talk about the conditions in Corpus and the speeds you’ll be expecting.

Lane: When we were in Corpus last year, the light air days which were the race days ended up being 22 to 25 knots. A normal wind day there is 25 knots and it’s not unusual to have 30-35. The wind in Corpus is not thermal and it never turns off. You can walk out your door at midnight and it’s still 35 knots. It’s very warm, the Bay is on the shallow side and the chop is super steep. I expect we’ll race between 25-35 knots. Last year our top speed downwind was just over 22 knots - that was on one of the windy practice days. One of the impediments to sailing in Corpus is the chop so there’s always techniques and adjusting sail shape etc., whatever your program is for dealing with the chop. So, upwind we’re at about 6 knots but when we turn downwind we’ll be well into 20 knots no problem. The boats are right at home in those conditions - you certainly have to know how to handle them and because otherwise you’ll break things.

SailBlast: How long have you been racing the Melges 24?

Lane: We got our first boat in 2007 and raced the 2007 Worlds in Santa Cruz, my first Melges 24 Worlds. We also raced the Annapolis Worlds in 2009. Peter sails USA 63 which is the boat I had been using up until last October when I bought my new boat USA 812. I wouldn’t say there’s a performance difference in the new boat but I do think that as the boats are sailed year after year, it’s nice to have something that’s fresh. I think both of our boats are in superb shape and I’m extremely happy with them. Johnny Goldsberry (from Sausalito, Calif.) is in charge of maintaining our boats and is responsible for helping me with them for the Worlds and he’s done a fantastic job as our boat captain and on our sailing team for the past three years.

* Part 2 - Lane talks about her new passion, the 29er XX, teaching match racing to PROs, and team racing. Stay tuned.

Race Pics: Sara Proctor/ Sailfastphoto

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chattin' it up at GGYC

If there’s one subject that America’s Cup aficionados agree on, it’s that the event is all about its personalities. Thursday night’s shindig at the Golden Gate Yacht Club brought the point home in more ways than one under the guise of a US Sailing Speaker series program called “Cup Chat”. Event pros Hartmann studios transformed the GGYC into a pseudo TV studio Letterman style, complete with jazz quartet Cyril Guiraud and the American Quatro and announcer James Byers.

The evening’s line-up presented some of the Cup’s most colorful characters from the “old” school: Tom Ehman (newly appointed Vice Commodore of GGYC and spokesperson ORACLE Racing), Bruno Trouble (Louis Vuitton), and Peter ‘Luiggi’ Reggio (PRO extraordinaire), and for good balance a shot of youth in the form of Olympic hopeful Genny Tulloch. Staff Commodore Marcus Young moderated the event with as much irreverence and humor as subjects like Ernesto Bertarelli deserve, making it one of the most entertaining Cup related events I’ve been to in a very long time.

However, the question of personalities has been bothering me ever since and it’s clearly a big one. We have an organizing authority with little or no prior experience in the America’s Cup who can’t possibly appreciate the essence of what these characters mean to the event. For the first time this same organizing authority is assuming responsibility - previously that of Louis Vuitton - for the event’s media center - the very heart from where Cup personalities come to life through the thousands of journalists that cover the related Cup events. I hope the event authority takes this responsibility seriously…

But back to the question, with the dawning of this new Cup era, who will be the new generation of personalities in this next event? While I’m not sure this question was answered during the “Cup Chat”, it's clear from the following excerpts it’s time to start thinking about it.

Marcus Young: Bruno, this sport is really a little about technology, a little bit about sailors and a lot about personality, and there’s been a lot of personalities in this event for years and years. Who are you missing right now? Who do you wish was still doing this?

Bruno Trouble: The America’s Cup is full of personalities, it’s about personalities. Tom Blackaller - I wish he knows that we are here for the next America’s Cup because it was one of his dreams to have the America’s Cup here. For sure Tom is missing. But the America’s Cup, I don’t know why it has attracted or created personalities and I’m not only talking about rich people - Peter Blake was not rich - but there are huge personalities in the Cup historically. If it were only a sporting event, Louis Vuitton would not be part of the America’s Cup. We are part of the America’s Cup because it is an extraordinary saga of modern times.

When the Australians from Perth - Fremantle - no-one knew where Fremantle or Perth was - when they came to Newport in 1983, to fight against US space age technology, they were exactly like the young bankers from New York in 1851 coming to race against the best of the British fleets which was then the biggest country in the world and best navy in the world. I don’t know why but the America’s Cup has a lot of stories like that, a lot of personalities, it’s the richest sporting event in my opinion. I used to be a lawyer but I changed my life to give my life to the America’s Cup over the last 30 years and I discover something every week, every month. It’s extraordinarily rich.

Marcus Young: Reality TV show for the America’s Cup, good idea, bad idea? Tom, what’s your take on it?

Tom Ehman: I think that what Stan Honey and that gang are going to do with America’s Cup television is going to be high quality. There’s a show or a magazine show starting in July, once a month or maybe more often than that, so there’s going to be a lot of TV. I’m not sure if a reality TV show is correct but there’s going to be a major upgrade to TV for the next Cup.

Genny Tulloch: I think I’m with him (Tom) a little bit. It depends on whom you would cover. If you mean REAL reality TV like following individuals…well, there’re lots of scandals in the America’s Cup but you don’t want to see that side of the sport. BUT - personalities, that’s what sells sports sometimes.

Peter Reggio: It’s going to be about personalities, it’s what’s going to sell it. You’re going to have incredible visuals but it's the personalities that keep people involved. I’ve found the most fascinating thing about the America’s Cup since I’ve been involved in it is the people.

Tom Ehman: The boats are so physical to sail - it’s going to be all manual power - forget about the 72 but the 45 is already so physical that come time for the 72, the gang are saying that they’re going to be very physical, it’s going to be a young person’s game and I think we’re going to see the Jimmy Spithills and the other young sailors come into their own and I think they’re going to make it a much better game than we’ve seen in the past with some the older guys and gals sailing on these boats when we need to project for our sport youth, forward looking forward thinking, high tech high energy personalities.

Nonetheless, one aspect that the “old” guys are into is the move to the multihull for the next event:

Marcus Young: What do you think about cats racing in AC 34?

Peter Reggio: I think its cool. But I gotta be honest with you. I was a little skeptical at first but was fortunate enough to be involved with ORACLE during the media testing last August. I was not a true believer but when I started hearing reports about the way the 45s tack and flip the weight around - I wasn’t so concerned that it wouldn’t be exciting in cats but I was more concerned about keeping them engaged actually match racing because the whole idea is to keep them engaged - at least while we were doing the media tests. The guys are telling me that they tack faster than the version 5 AC boats anyway.

Marcus Young: Anything tacks faster than that. Just kidding.

Peter Reggio: It’s a match race and it’s going to work. It’s cool. In the TV trials, we set a windward mark and we gave them - the cats and the monohulls because we were testing both - two minutes upwind, round to starboard, set, you had to jibe instantly to get back through the starting line. There’s a lot of stuff going on - they've got three or four minutes of the entry, that’s going on, they go upwind, they’re going to get there together - I can guarantee in two minutes they’re going to get to the top mark together - then they spun around and had a crash jibe which is usually really spectacular especially catamarans - when things go really bad it’s kind of cool. You don’t have the ‘bang’, gun goes off and seven minutes of snoring time.

Marcus Young: Bruno, did you wince just a little when you found out we were going to going with a multihull all the way down the line, I mean, you’re a bit of a traditionalist…but Louis Vuitton is a very forward thinking brand?

Bruno Trouble: I attended the Hall of Fame dinner party last year and we had the Ted Turners and Ted Hood so on and some people who I thought were dead ten years ago. But they voted for the multihull in the Americas Cup and I was very surprised because some 95% of the audience was saying it was crazy to have a multihull in the Cup. I’m a traditionalist - I sailed in the Olympics in a monohull, I’m a monohull guy but I changed my mind. Only a stupid person would not change their mind and I totally support the move to multihulls.

I was a bit worried as those boats are extremely fast but they will be close especially round the marks when we consider timing, but I had suspected, and I have changed my mind, that the boats may be far apart, that you may need two TV sets to watch the racing. But it looks like these boats are tacking very quick and these boats may stay together much longer than we expect. I think it's a great move for the sport and it’s our role in the America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup to show the way to new techniques and you must be proud to have this first event of a new era here.
Full Cup Chat report:
Video from the evening at:

Photo 1: Ehman, Trouble, Young
Photo 2: Bruno Trouble
Photo 3: Ehman, Tulloch
Photo 4: Reggio, Young

Thursday, April 14, 2011

China Team - Enthusiastic...& Funded

Even if AC34 dispenses only a handful of truly competitive teams which is the way it’s lining up to be currently (thinking ORACLE Racing, Artemis Racing and Emirates Team NZ), there’s no lack of enthusiasm among the less established teams, and for one of those teams - China Team - no lack of funding. In fact, I think large amounts of both enthusiasm and dollars can probably take a team a long way, and it appears that China Team’s Thierry Barot, CEO, concurs.

“In terms of sponsorship, we have over 50% of the budget that we need,” 53-year old Barot said. “We are very lucky - in China we are on the top of the biggest marketing wave in the world. When you see what China did with the Olympics it gives you an idea as to how the country will support us. When the Chinese decide to do something, they make the decision and go all out. It’s impressive.”

Barot’s history with yachting in China goes back to 1987 when, after racing on French Kiss in Fremantle in the 27th America’s Cup, he ended up in China managing yachts and related services. Barot, who is from Montauban, a small country city in southwest France known for its interest in rugby and not sailing, returned to Europe and back to professional sailing in 1998. In 2004, he was offered work back in China and subsequently became involved with China Team for the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia.

Barot says the new China Team in no way resembles the previous version, which was run by the former French syndicate Le Defi along with Mr. Wang Chao Yong, the current China Team investor. Barot received a call last November from Mr. Wang Chao Yong to see if he would lead a new China Team program, and immediately began putting together the Team. “Today, it is really a 100% Chinese program, with just a little outside knowledge,” Barot explained.

The sailing team will be Chinese and Barot admits that this will be challenging, simply because the sport is relatively new in China and the talent just not quite there - yet. “We have to be realistic but the yachting scene in China is developing very fast,” he said. “I did a regatta last summer in Qing Dao and was surprised to see the marina there completely full - people and boats everywhere - it was like, “wow - something’s happening here! The sport is growing like that every day here.”

Since the Beijing Olympics, Barot says China motivated to become more involved in professional sports and the next target was the America’s Cup. He explained that the Team’s development is more of a national concern, drawing upon expertise from national operations such as a huge technology-oriented sports academy in Beijing and some of the top hydro and aerodynamic technology people in China. “It’s like in New Zealand in a way - sports is a national concern - when the team wins, all the nation is there, when they lose, all the nation is there.”

He’s currently working with a core group of five guys - ex-Tornado and F-18 sailors as well as some match racers from around the world - who, for now, make up the core sailing team and act as coaches. Working with this group, he plans to build the sailing team in China with some 50 athletes, sailors and non-sailors, “who are up for the adventure, perhaps former rowers, rugby players,” he said.

China Team will also set up camp as early as this summer in San Francisco partly to look for more talent. “We are looking for North American sailors of Chinese origin and the west coast of the US has the biggest Chinese community outside of China so it’s a great place for us to recruit from.”

Barot’s already requested space for a base in San Francisco from America’s Cup Race Management. “We would like to spend two months in San Francisco this summer to start meeting the local community because we know there is a big interest in our team, and to meet some local sailors and get to know the conditions.”

He wouldn’t disclose what boat China Team will train on in San Francisco, “I can’t disclose at the moment what boat it is but it’s fantastic! I’ve been working long hours to make all this happen…”

San Francisco is also important to China Team for other reasons. Barot said he’s in discussion with North American companies regarding sponsorship. The Team’s been heartily welcomed by China SF, a non profit partnership between the San Francisco’s Mayor’s office and the San Francisco Office for Economic Development, whose charter it is to help bridge economic opportunity between China and San Francisco. Ginny Fang, China SF Executive Director said, “I hope that as they bring together their team of sponsors and businesses that support the Team that there’ll be a lot of Chinese businesses involved which will be a wonderful tie-in between the two countries and specifically San Francisco.”

For now, on April 18 China Team starts its first week of training in Auckland on the AC 45. A multihull sailor from way back, Barot was lucky enough to get out on the AC 45 in February with Dean Barker and the Team NZ boys and was blown away by the performance of the boat. “It was wild! I was impressed by the boat as well as all the work that the guys from Core technology and ACEA have done in such a short time - it’s amazing. I don’t think people realize what has been accomplished with this boat.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cup Shows At This Week's Strictly Sail Pacific

Before reading any further, quick, go to the following link and get your Scuttlebutt $5 discount code for your ticket to Strictly Sail Pacific, the largest sail only show west of the Rockies happening in the Bay Area this week: (alternatively, enter “Scuttlebutt” in the promotional code box).

With that done, read on…

Strictly Sail Pacific runs April 14-17, at Jack London Square in Oakland, California. The America’s Cup will be on display at the show throughout the day on Thursday, April 14, followed by an evening presentation and reception at the Waterfront Hotel from 6–8 pm. On hand to provide an update on what’s happening with AC 34 will be Kyri McClellan of the America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC); Mike Martin, Director of Rules Administration and Umpiring; Ian “Fresh” Burns, Design Team Coordinator with Oracle Racing; and Stephanie Martin, Chief Communications Officer of the America’s Cup Event Authority. Great line up.

There’s no doubt that the America’s Cup is already providing a boost to marine-based companies both around the Bay and further afield. Says Jonathan Banks, Director of Sail America, the non-profit organization that organizes Strictly Sail, “Our clients have a greater level of hope, enthusiasm and optimism for the market that the Cup will bring, and when people are feeling buoyant they are more likely to exhibit at shows, advertise in magazines and try to grow their business. From a long term planning perspective there’ a stronger commitment to keep the show in the Bay Area, be it Jack London Square or another location.

This is especially good news for the show which has had a fairly level attendance over the past few years but a decline since 2007 due to the recession and to renovations at Jack London Square which affected space available to the show. Banks says online ticket sales are tracking about 20% ahead of last year, a positive indicator.

“We’re hoping for attendance similar to last few years (approximately 12,000) with single to low double digit growth. With the America’s Cup at the show, it’s lining up to be a good one. We sold out all of our land and booth space about a month ago but were able to go back to the Square and negotiate to use additional areas. Our goal was to fill was the center marina basin and we squeezed the last boat in just a few days ago.”

For businesses like Ronstan USA, the show offers a great opportunity to present products directly to local sailors and to network with local industry associates who they don't typically do much business with according to Alan Prussia, VP Sales. “The Cup will be great for our local business albeit on an indirect basis,” Prussia said. “Our retailers, riggers and sailmakers should see significant increases in business which is what we’ll benefit from.”

Sean Svendsen, VP and COO for Svendsen's Marine and Boat Works, a national retailer located in Alameda, Calif., agrees that while its hard to gauge the effect that the Cup will have on his business people seem to have a renewed interest in their boats.

“Certainly there is a lot of buzz amongst Bay Area residents in general. Based on the totality of it all, we are gearing up for greater utilization and service demand. We've been exhibiting at this show for at least 15 years. Coincidentally in our first 10x10 foot booth we sold America's cup logo wear. Now we regularly consume about 2000 square feet +\- of display space and sell hundreds of products at the show.”

Bottom line, said Banks, is that it’s clear that the America’s Cup Event Authority’s vision for the Cup is to reach a broader market/audience and to use the Cup to bring more people into the sport of sailing, which is very much aligned with Sail America’s goals.

Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget

Price Tag On AC 72 Design Program

For teams entering the 34th America’s Cup, approximately E1.25 million ($1.811 million) will get them the design program announced by America's Cup Race Management last week, a program that's reportedly equal to that which the big boys like ORACLE Racing and Artemis Racing will be using for their AC 72 design.

This opportunity represents the first time ever in the America’s Cup that a shared design program is being offered to teams to jump-start their boat design program for the fast high-tech AC 72, which will be raced in the 34th edition of the event.

Talking to SailBlast in San Francisco, Iain Murray, America’s Cup Race Management CEO said that purchasing the design program will save teams a substantial amount of money but more importantly, time in getting to the start line with a competitive, technology-driven boat.

“What we (ACRM) are doing would cost the teams substantially more than that, multiples of that in fact,” Murray explained. “But the thing that it saves them, most important, is 8-10 months of design work. If you’re just coming in, you can’t make that up unless you started in October last year.”

While all the teams expressed an interest in such a program from the outset, and a number have said they will buy the program, Murray said it’s a little too early to say which teams will step up. For those who do, they’ll also have consultation access to the design leaders who designed the program - high performance multihull designers VPLP of France and North Technology Group (NTG - designers of the wing and sail package), headquartered in the US.

When asked how much of the AC 45 design template was used to create the design program Murray responded, “Obviously the AC 45 has been very helpful for all the designers around the world - they’ve all given it a pretty thorough looking over. The designers we’ve got are no different to any other in that they’ve all been swarming over the AC 45, C-class cats and I’m sure they’ve been studying all sorts of stuff on USA-17. Having the AC 45 sailing - the most relevant, scaled down boat - has been most helpful for everyone.”

While the teams can launch their AC 72s as early as next January Murray said it’s hard to know when the first will actually hit the water.

“Considering that there’s about an 8 month build program that would mean teams will probably start in May/June but I think they’re probably going to use the design time as long as they can, so I could see them more realistically sailing April/May/June 2012.”

A first glance at the players who make up the design team would make it seem that it’s heavily weighted on the Euro side. Murray concurred that there is a very big skill base in Europe especially given that the America’s Cup has been in Europe for a while now. Nonetheless, he states that NTG has a very strong American influence and a very strong New Zealand manufacturing base.

“It’s a very international mix, and at the end of the day, we’re trying to find an answer to design and cost effective build/construction with the best people we can find which includes all those people. Sure, there’s a strong European influence - VPLP are French multihull designers extraordinaire, but then a mono hull just won the Barcelona Round the World Race...”

Russell Coutts has talked of the possibility of commercializing the AC 45, but even now that there’s an AC 72 design program on the table, Murray says that at present there’s no discussion of doing such with the AC 72. Rather the focus is on helping the teams and building a viable America’s Cup event.

“What we’re trying to do is to put as good a team of people together as we can - and we think we have an excellent team of people - and to help start the teams in an orderly process of designing the boat in the way some of the bigger teams like ORACLE and Artemis would go about it, and to have a design that is the equivalent of a big team’s design available to them.”

Photos: Gilles Martin-Raget

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stan Honey Appointed AC34s Director of Technology

Stan Honey, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year 2010, has been appointed to Director of Technology for the 34th America’s Cup by the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). As many sailors know, Stan’s list of accomplishments, both sailing and professional, is long and deep, from navigating ABN AMRO to victory in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race to navigating Groupama 3 in setting the Jules Verne record for the fastest circumnavigation of the world under sail in 2010.

Non sailing fans may know Stan as the guy who led the development of the yellow first-down line widely used in the broadcast of American football and the Race/FX tracking and highlighting system used in NASCAR, among other applications. He’s particularly excited about his new role with ACEA as it combines his two sets of interests.

“I’ve been working in technology and TV special effects, in sports TV for other sports for a number of years and I’ve also been working as a professional sailor,” Honey said. “This is the first time that those two careers have combined so that makes it fun for me.”

Honey, who turns 56 on April 8, has spent a good part of the past year working on the system that’s being built to enhance the TV broadcast of sailing through inserting graphic effects using the same kind of animated elements that have appeared in Ian Taylor’s work in Virtual Eye since 1992 and inserting them in the live helicopter video during racing.

“The main goal is to resolve the frustration that people had in the past where if you were looking in the helicopter view you could see the boats but you couldn’t tell who was ahead and who was behind because you couldn’t see the wind direction and you weren’t really sure what perspective you were looking from, whereas when the TV would shift to the animated view, then you could tell who was ahead or behind but you couldn’t see the boats,” Honey explained. “If someone was falling back you couldn’t tell why - did they have a broken halyard, for example.”

Essentially, said Honey, he’s providing the race commentators with a story telling tool that they can use to explain what’s going on, where the lay-lines are, who is ahead and what decisions are going to have to be made at a certain point while also enabling fans to still be able to fully see the race and the boats.

To do that, the boats on the race course have to be tracked very accurately by measuring not only their position but wind direction etc. The position of the helicopter also has to be measured extraordinarily accurately in order to be able to precisely insert the graphic elements in the video.

Given that Honey and his team will have plenty of data to work with, it’ll also be used to support John Craig, PRO, in more efficiently being able to adjust mark positions, to determine OCS at the start, and also to support Mike Martin, chief umpire, who can use the data to determine overlaps at zone entry - at the marks - and for the umpiring and penalty fulfillment of the race and so on.

The extent of the technology and equipment involved in Honey and his team’s effort to enhance the broadcast delivery of sailing is mind-boggling. British company SIS LIVE recently won the contract to design, build and deliver High Definition (HD) agile cameras and digital RF microwave links for the 34th America’s Cup, responsible for the onboard cameras, onboard encoding and onboard microwave transmission systems required to get the signals off the boat.

Honey says there’ll be seven cameras on board each boat, plus one media cameraman, so multiply that by the number of boats racing and that presents a huge amount of coordination going on between determining what feeds to bring off the water down to basic things like maintaining the huge amount of electronic equipment in a marine environment.

“We have more cameras on the water than we have abilities to bring signals ashore so that if you had ten boats in the water and there’s eight cameras on each boat, there’s 80 potential feeds,” Honey said, “But we only have the ability to bring 12 off the water due to the limitation of the microwave spectrum, so then it’s the job of the producers who are making the decision of what the story is to determine which are the most important signals to bring off the water.”

The equipment that has been developed to date was put to test last month in Redwood City, Calif. aboard Cal 40s and another trial will be done in New Zealand in a few weeks on the AC45s. While the roll out of the equipment will be ready for the first World Series event in August, Honey says the gear will become increasingly sophisticated as his team aims for continual improvement in the graphics that they’re able to provide to the producers.

The cost of all this remains a mystery and while the SIS contract with ACEA is reported to be a “multi million pound” deal, Honey would not divulge even an estimate of the dollars being dropped on the project.

“No, I can’t give you an estimate. It is a lot of money and that’s one of the things that’s been interesting - the commitment of the Event Authority and Race Management and ultimately of Larry Ellison to do a first class job of the TV production and at a very high level.”

Honey resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and is married to Sally Lindsay Honey who also a very accomplished sailor and two-time US Yachtswoman of the Year. The couple has one son who lives in Portland, Oregon who, according to Honey, enjoys sailing “but is not quite as serious about it as Sally and I.”

Photo Credit: Claude Breton

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

34th America's Cup Heats Up: 123 Days Until Start of World Series

With the March 31 deadline for teams to enter the 34th America’s Cup without penalty now behind us and the venues/dates for the 2011 AC World Series announced it’s been a busy week in the America’s Cup. 14 challengers have filed entry applications and three venues are scheduled for this year’s World Series events. The first event will be held August 6-14, in Cascais, Portugal, the second event in Plymouth, England September 10-18, and the third event in San Diego between mid October and early December, a somewhat mixed bag line up given that most bets were on locations in the Med and Newport, Rhode Island.

While the first event in August is about a month later than was originally discussed, it gives the new teams a little more time to work out on the AC45s, and for ORACLE Racing, clearly ahead of the program in the new cat, even more time to concentrate on the two-boat training they’ve been doing over the past few weeks in Auckland.

SailBlast caught up with John Kostecki, ORACLE Racing tactician, who confirmed that the slight delay in getting to Event 1 of the World Series is no big deal for the Team. “We’d always been shooting for July this year for the start of the World Series but now its slightly delayed there isn’t any huge change in plan for us - just gives us a bit more time in the AC45 to keep learning the boats and improving as a team.”

SailBlast: What will the different locations present in terms of challenge in the AC45?

JK: That’s a good question (LOL)! Out of the three venues I’ve only ever sailed in San Diego. I’ve heard that Cascais can be kind of windy, I’ve spent a little bit of time in Plymouth during Fastnet races. To me it looks like three pretty different race tracks and I know that ACRM is trying to learn from the AC45 sailing that we’re doing down here in NZ on different race courses so I think we’ll be experimenting different race courses down here to set up the first World Series events. I think it all depends on exactly where we sail in those three different venues. I would imagine San Diego we’re going to be sailing inside the Bay which will be great - a tighter race course with some boundaries which obviously we’re trying to set up for the next America’s Cup in San Francisco as well. If we’re close to shore it could be quite shifty and puffy and some smoother water but good tight racing and hopefully good for the spectators.

SailBlast: What are you finding out about match racing the AC45?

JK: It’s pretty good - very exciting actually - but not too different than what we were doing in the last Cup. We just started two-boating a couple of weeks ago, we haven’t done too much racing but we’re started to get ramped up into the racing side. It looks encouraging, starting is a little bit different than with the monohulls - fewer maneouvers but still quite exciting. I think the final 30 seconds to a minute is not too different to monohull match race starts. We’ve had some good close racing in the racing we’ve had so far. It’s encouraging.

SailBlast: What is ORACLE considering for crew on the World Series?

JK: At the moment we’re planning on having two teams on the circuit, with five crew and a media guest. We’re working on that now and hoping that after this session to slide straight into the World Series with the two teams that we have racing right now. It’s a mixed group and we’re rotating people around so I don’t think we have any final decisions on who will be on which boat but we try to and keep things as even as possible because that’s how we can leapfrog and improve. The boats are initially very physical and challenging to sail, particularly in the breeze. I think it’s going to be quite exciting for the media guests (LOL).

**Current competitor list: ALEPH EQUIPE DE FRANCE (France), Artemis Racing (Sweden), China Team (China), Emirates Team New Zealand (New Zealand), Energy Team (France), Mascalzone Latino (Italy), ORACLE Racing (USA), Venezia Challenge (Italy) and Team Australia (Australia), plus four undisclosed teams. With ORACLE Racing previously accepted as the defense candidate, twelve of these teams have been validated while the remaining two will be checked against the qualifying requirements in the coming days.

Interesting factoid: the 15 entries from 12 countries surpass recent Cup events, which averaged 11 entries for the events in 2000, 2003 and 2007, and nearly equal the record of 16 entries during the 1986-87 Cup in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Photos: Gilles Martin-Raget