Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Philippe Presti. Image copyright Anne Hinton. All Rights Reserved.
Anne Hinton continues her occasional series on L'Equipe de France de Match Racing.
Philippe Presti, double Finn Gold Cup winner, former Finn and Soling Olympian, and Louis Vuitton Cup helmsman, most latterly with Luna Rossa for 2007, is one of the more senior members of L'Equipe de France de Match Racing, but still pulls in the results. Anne Hinton caught up with him recently during the RC44 Cagliari Cup in Sardinia, where he was, once again, match racing!
AH: Please tell us about L'Equipe de France de Match Racing?
PP: L'Equipe de France de Match Racing is a good setup. The French Federation and the Technical Division of the Federation Français de la Voile wanted to give more support to match racing after the last America's Cup. It is not within the power of the FFV to do an America's Cup team on its own, but they can teach people in order to get better match racers. In 2003 some money was put in this direction. Two years ago Areva came on board, after supporting America's Cup match racing.
AH: What is your own involvement in L'Equipe de France de Match Racing?
PP: I joined L'Equipe de France de Match Racing after being with Luna Rossa for the last America's Cup in Valencia.
AH: What is the current practice regime within L'Equipe?
PP: This year we practised for four days before the Marseille International Match Race.
Philippe Presti and his French Match Racing team at the Marseille International Match Race 2009. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/World Match Racing Tour.
AH: How did it go for you in the 2008 match racing season?
PP: I did not do many events, and finished below the guaranteed Tour Card for 2009, so now I have to ask for invitations from clubs for events. This is not so easy, as clubs like to ensure a mix of nationalities and there are already Frenchmen with places on the Tour!
Eight cards have been granted for the 2009 World Match Racing Tour. Of these, four were from the World Match Racing Tour leaderboard, two from the ISAF rankings and the two others are wildcards, which have been given to the skippers of the Alinghi (Ed Baird) and TEAMORIGIN (Ben Ainslie) America's Cup teams. [AH: We now know that the Alinghi card is no longer needed, so this will be reallocated by the World Match Racing Tour.]
Other invitations are from the clubs hosting each event, but most of these go to national sailors. Also, for example to go to Korea on the World Match Racing Tour, one must go twice - for the Qualifier too. Professional sailors have other engagements, which also causes issues.
AH: What match racing are you doing in the 2009 season?
PP: We have done the Marseille International Match Race and the Congressional Cup, and are now waiting for invitations, mostly for Grade One events. We will go to the French International Match Racing event in Pornichet, Croatia, Berlin, possibly Russia and maybe also a new event in Lanzarote (although this last conflicts with another event).
As a professional sailor one has a lot of conflicts, so getting to events is difficult. I only had one World Tour invitation last year - to St Moritz.
Pre-start circling with Seb Col at the St Moritz Match Race 2008. Image copyright Loris von Siebenthal/MyImage/World Match Racing Tour.
AH: Why do you do match racing?
PP: For three reasons - my own interest, for the America's Cup, although I don't have an America's Cup contract (as there is effectively no monohull America's Cup for many challengers to date), and for the World Championship Tour.
AH: What issues do you find with the match racing you do?
PP: Match racing does not provide enough money to live. The prize money does not cover transport costs to/from events when you have subtracted the tax and divided the money several ways.
AH: What is a good strategy to employ?
PP: The Kiwi guys cooperate with each other and put people into jobs and create teams. This helps people work together. There is now an attempt to do this in France. Sharing opportunities makes teams stronger - provides strength in depth.
AH: How did you get into match racing?
PP: I moved from the Finn to the Soling in 1997. The Soling Olympic format included both fleet and match racing, so I got into match racing. As a young, new, team we finished ninth in Sydney (eighth in the fleet racing and ninth in the match racing).
Philippe Presti and crew tearing downwind under southern skies at the 1999 Soling World Championships, Royal Brighton Yacht Club, Melbourne. Image copyright Anne Hinton. All Rights Reserved.
AH: Could you comment on the Kiwi BlackMatch Racing team?
PP: They are a good and cool team. They did an awesome job in Marseille!
In France there are a lot of us match racing, so support is shared. New Zealand has more focus on one team.
AH: Why did you get involved with the RC44s?
PP: They provide match racing! It is a very good, technical, boat with a strong line-up of skippers. It looks like a small America's Cup boat, but there are no changes allowed other than with sail development.
AH: When did you first sail an RC44?
PP: I was invited by Mateusz [Kusznierewicz] to fill in for him while his Olympic Star campaign took him away from [the RC44] Organika last year. I helmed in Garda and in Trieste for the match racing, and was then mainsail trimmer for Mateusz in Trieste for the fleet racing.
AH: ... and now?
PP: A good owner wanted help, so we have teamed up for the season. We do lots and lots of training.
AH: What do you think of the RC44s?
PP: The RC44 provides fair sailing and is an excellent boat. It is very well balanced - like a Star upwind. Sail shapes are similar to the America's Cup (version 5) boats, especially the big genoa. It is one of the few boats with a trim tab. Downwind it is different from an America's Cup boat and it is possible to double the speed very quickly.
AH: Why do you sail the RC44?
PP: The RC44 provides a chance to sail against America's Cup people and show that you are in the groove.
AH: How is it going in the match racing at Cagliari so far [after two flights on day one]?
PP: Both races were close. Against Dean Barker we won the start. However, Dean passed us at the top mark on the second round. Against Seb Col it was again very close, and we won this one. [AH: Philippe Presti finished second overall to Dean Barker in the RC44 match racing in Cagliari - level on points with Seb Col.]
Philippe Presti and Seb Col in the pre-start of their match race in RC44s in Cagliari, Sardinia. Image copyright Anne Hinton. All Rights Reserved.
AH: Who is crewing on your RC44?
PP: The crew is largely composed of former America's Cup team members, not my match racing team.
It is like Formula One with Russell Coutts involved. We have a team coach.
AH: Thank you very much indeed for your time.
Federation Français de la Voile - l'Equipe de France de Match Racing
To Come: PART FOUR - Sébastien Col, the current ISAF #1.