Saturday, 30 January 2010

America's Cup: Alinghi's Sailing Team

Alinghi 5 training in Ras Al Khaimah. Ernesto Bertarelli helming, Warwick Fleury and trimmer, Pierre-Yves Jorand. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

Alinghi training on FONCIA 60' trimaran (1st day). Alain Gautier at the helm. Image copyright Jacques Vapillon/Alinghi.

by Alinghi media

Peter Evans (NZL)

Peter Evans. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

America's Cup tactician Peter Evans joined the Swiss Defender for the start of the 2006 sailing season. Evans brings a wealth of experience with four Cups - three with Team New Zealand (including two wins) and one with the Japanese challenge. He is a very accomplished dinghy sailor too, having twice represented New Zealand at the Olympics in the competitive 470 double handed class.

Evans manages the movements of the mast, both side to side and fore and aft. “Both positions get changed depending on which sail you have up. When you change sails you have to move the mast around and make big adjustments, so I work closely with the mainsheet and headsail trimmers.”

There are no experts in this game because everyone is learning how to use the cutting edge technology on Alinghi 5, but Evans has an array of instruments to help him work out where to position the mast. “We have some guidelines that we work to, and then we just test everything all the time until we find something that works.”

Evans is a good “seat of the pants” sailor, thanks to his days campaigning in competitive dinghy classes such as the 470. In recent years he has been spending his spare time sailing a Bladerider, a hydrofoiling International Moth dinghy which flies above the surface of the water at many times the speed of the wind.

“The way this America’s Cup has worked out, it has actually proved very useful training sailing the Bladerider because it gives you an insight into how boats respond to the wind when they’re travelling at twice or even three times the speed of the wind. So even though it’s not much more than three metres long, it is probably more relevant experience for sailing the big multihull than sailing on the Version 5 America’s Cup boats.”

The Moth sailing is also very good for sharpening reaction times, something else that is proving useful for sailing on board Alinghi 5. Asked whether he finds sailing Alinghi 5 to be enjoyable or stressful, Evans replies, “Both, because you can’t ever really relax on this boat because of the huge loads. You need to be aware of everything you do, because there’s quite a high risk involved in what you’re doing and there’s a high potential for damage. In the Version 5 boats, you had some more time to think and you could stay a little more relaxed and looking around and thinking about other things outside of the boat.”

Looking forward to racing in the America’s Cup match itself, Evans comments: “I think it’s going to be enjoyable. It’s going to be fantastic just to, finally, see the two boats come together and witness the technology involved, and just see what the outcome is. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Yves Detrey (SUI)

Yves Detrey at the launch of the Alinghi D35 in Villeneuve. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

Yves Detrey started sailing with Ernesto Bertarelli more than 10 years ago. In 1999, he joined the Swiss Maxi One Design, Alinghimax and for two years he dealt with technical matters on board, taking part in races and winning the Bol d'Or in 2000 and 2001. His break into America’s Cup sailing came about in Auckland, when he was asked to stand in for an injured crew member on the Fast 2000 team during the Louis Vuitton Cup. Three years later he joined Alinghi and has been with the team ever since.

Detrey’s job onboard is a continuation of the same job that he used to have on the Version 5 monohulls – floater/pitman – except that now there are no spinnakers, however there are still different headsails to get up and down for each leg of the course, and the loads are immense. “You need to be careful because compared with the Version 5 boats, the loads can be double, triple, sometimes even more. With stronger winds come bigger loads, so you’ve got to be really careful. Now after a few months of sailing we are getting used to it and it’s getting better, but the first time you just take everything slowly to make sure you are not doing something wrong.”

Nils Frei on board Alinghi 5 in Genoa. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

The speed of Alinghi 5 places a lot of emphasis on good communication and thinking ahead. “It’s all about anticipating what is going to happen next, trying to be just a step ahead of what’s going to happen and what’s going to be the next manoeuvre, what the tactician wants. But obviously, because it goes really fast, you need a lot of distance and also because everything is heavy; you can’t just muscle up a sail like you do on a Version 5! It takes time to hoist the sails we have on this boat and we are always trying to work out ways of speeding up these processes.”

After such a long build-up, Detrey is keen for battle to commence. “I think the most exciting thing is having the two boats line up together and finally seeing which boat is faster. It is going to be a different type of race, a different course, but it is going to be a big thrill.”

Nils Frei (SUI)

Nils Frei. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

While some of his teammates stress the differences between sailing a monohull keelboat and a fast multihull, Nils Frei says his job has fundamentally stayed the same. “Trimming is always trimming; the principles stay the same regardless of what speed you are doing. You need to be very focused, always aware of the wind direction and wind speed, and you need good understanding with the helmsman and other trimmers.”

Frei has been enjoying the rapid learning process with Alinghi 5. “It’s a big boat with huge loads, and it’s a lot of fun to sail. It is a unique experience being on board this boat. I mean, who knows, maybe we are sailing on the fastest boat in the world and we’re all very excited about that. After gaining so much experience on the smaller boats like the Extreme 40s and Alinghi 41, it is good to be putting our new skills to practice on this boat.”

As a sailor who grew up around the Swiss lakes, Frei was already well aware of fast catamaran technology. After his high school exams he threw himself at an Olympic 49er campaign but that fell apart when he went to study in a different town than his sailing partner. Furthering his studies at the University of Geneva with a degree in Geography he then worked for the Berne Economic Development Agency promoting economic activity in Berne before joining Alinghi in 2003.

Joining Alinghi has been particularly memorable. “To win the America's Cup was by far the best I had ever done in sports and I'm really proud to be part of the Alinghi crew, where team spirit and respect are key to success. I'm also proud to be representing my country and to show through Alinghi, a multicultural, international and open minded Switzerland."

For the final run in to the 33rd America’s Cup, Frei believes it is important for the team to stay fit but not to work too hard in the final weeks leading up to the match. “When the Cup comes we really need to be focused, so we want to make sure that we are rested and ready. The most important thing at this stage is not to take too many risks. We must be careful with ourselves and with the boat because time is just too short to be able to break anything significant. Provided we are sensible, we will be in very good shape for the 33rd America’s Cup.”

Alain Gautier (FRA)

Alain Gautier. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

Alain Gautier joined Alinghi in 2008 and has been working with both the design and the sailing team on the Alinghi multihull project. "I am really enjoying working with Alinghi. It was a relationship that grew out of the mutual respect from competing against each other during the last few seasons of the Julius Baer Challenge on Lake Geneva.”

Gautier, a father of five, first came to prominence as the winner of the challenging singlehanded offshore circuit in France, the Solitaire du Figaro in 1989. He went on to win the most challenging singlehanded race of all, the around-the-world non-stop Vendée Globe in 1992.

He is also a big fan of Formula One motor racing, so it was no surprise when in the late 90s Gautier turned his focus on the fast and dangerous world of multihull racing, competing for many years on the ORMA 60 tri circuit. Now with the advent of 90ft multihulls for the America's Cup, the French speed-seeker is right in his element.

Gautier lent Alinghi the use of his 60-foot trimaran Foncia as part of the learning process of getting a group of monohull sailors up to speed with the principles of fast multihull sailing. It wasn’t an auspicious start, as the team accidentally capsized the boat during training, breaking the mast and injuring some of the crew, albeit not badly.

Asked whether or not he had forgiven the team, Gautier laughs, replying: “I was not at the helm, but I was on board as the skipper of the boat. When you are the skipper and the boat capsizes, then you have to take a big share of the responsibility. It was an experience for everybody. We were lucky that none of the guys were too badly injured. It took two months to repair the boat and then we were back in training again.”

Like many professional sportsmen, Gautier sees lessons in everything. “The capsize was a good lesson, for sure. Sometimes you learn more from your bad experiences and you learn more when you lose a race than when you win the race, and the same is true of situations like this.”

Working with Alinghi has given Gautier a chance to work with a big team, something which he has enjoyed greatly. “I have been sailing on multihulls since 1983, I’ve sailed singlehanded, and with crew on the 60 foot multihulls, but I have never worked on a project of this scale before. For me this has been a wonderful experience because these boats are really incredible, and the calibre of the sailors and the design team makes it a privilege to be part of Alinghi.”

Dean Phipps (NZL)

Dean Phipps. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

Dean Phipps has competed in seven America’s Cups, and he has won four. No doubt that experience will prove useful in this, his eighth America’s Cup, but Phipps is also aware just how much the game has changed. The Kiwi made his name as one of the best bowmen on the keelboat scene, although he has moved further to the back of the boat as he has got older. “I made the decision a long time ago to step back from doing the job on the bow, but you know, this is a great project; it’s a great team and a great boat to be part of because you learn so much everyday. Everything that we do, the way we test and the way we go about improving things, all of it is part of the game. Sailing the multihull is a big change from what we’re used to but it’s just great to be involved in it.”

Phipps has a lot of respect for the power and the loads involved with sailing Alinghi 5. “The thing is so heavily loaded that it really gets a little bit, well ‘scary’ is not quite the right word, but there are dangers involved in sailing one of these boats in big waves and big breeze, and that’s something we could easily encounter in Valencia. The boat is fully loaded in just 5 knots of breeze, and as the wind increases the loads just get bigger and bigger, and there is a risk that if you try to sail in too much wind someone is just going to turn the boat over. So I hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

There is a competitive bunch of sailors on board Alinghi, and in the heat of competition it will be difficult to hold back from pushing the boat to its limits, and possibly beyond. “We have just got to be sensible about it,” says Phipps. “You have just got to get round the course without breaking anything major, the same as you do in any yacht race. The difference is that with these big multihulls you reach that point much earlier.”

Phipps has experienced the “moment of truth” at the beginning of every America’s Cup match many times before, that moment when you line up against the opposition to find out who is quicker. There has been a lot of speculation about which multihull is going to be faster, although Phipps hasn’t paid much attention to the predictions. “It’s not until you line up on the same piece of ocean at the same venue in the same conditions that you start seeing who has the edge. It’s a reality check. It’s a great feeling when you line up in the first race to find that you’re just a little bit higher and handle a little bit faster than the other boat, and you just kind of get this fuzzy feeling through your body that everything you’ve been doing these last two years, has been a good thing.”

Then again, Phipps acknowledges that the 2007 match against Emirates Team New Zealand was a much closer competition, and that fuzzy feeling didn’t surface quite as quickly as it had in the previous three America’s Cup matches, each of which were won 5-0. This time, with a maximum three races at stake, no one is going to win 5-0 and nor is the team likely to get complacent about victory if Alinghi wins the first race. “You’ve always got the possibility of breakage with these boats, so it’s not just about having the fastest boat. But hopefully we have a boat that is both fast and reliable.”

Franck Profitt (FRA)

Franck Profitt. Image copyright Jose Delgado/Alinghi.

The 45 year-old Frenchman, with over 100,000 nautical miles of multihull racing to his name, brings decades of multihull experience to the team; he is a two-time Transat Jacques Vabre winner, four-time Tour de l'Europe winner, and winner of The Race aboard the giant catamaran Club Med. More recently he clocked up a lot of big multihull experience as a watch leader and helmsman aboard Groupama 3 during its record breaking 2007-08 season.

Profitt was delighted to be asked to help Alinghi with its multihull campaign. "It's a great opportunity. Being part of the design and sailing team is something exceptional. It's a great adventure. This is a great chance to apply all the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained in multihulls over the past 25 years. Basically my job is to try to help make the boat as fast as possible and to see how we can make ongoing improvements.”

His time sailing on board the large multihull Groupama 3 is certainly relevant, although Profitt highlights some obvious differences. “Groupama 3 is like a rally car, designed to be able to sail anywhere, around the world, with a lot of wind and waves. Alinghi 5 is more like a Formula One car, designed for day racing in light to medium wind. In France we are not used to having these kinds of budget and resources available, and we have a huge design team compared with any of the projects I have been involved with before. So really they are two completely different projects.”

For the America’s Cup itself, Profitt does not expect to be on board the boat. But this does not concern him, he says. “The exciting thing is to share this project with the design team and the sailing team, because I have been working closely with both of them. Ernesto is very passionate about this project, and all the people working on this team are extremely good at what they do. It will be great to watch Alinghi 5 cross the start line in race one.”

Nicolas Texier (FRA)

Nicolas Texier. Image copyright Bruno Cocozza/Alinghi.

Nicolas Texier was a specialist grinder on the keelboats, but on board Alinghi 5 the French sailor is operating in more of a floating position. “If I am onboard I go forward when they need an extra hand at the front of the boat, and then to the back of the boat when they need an extra and there, so basically helping out what wherever an extra set of hands is required. And then my shore jobs are helping look after the winches, keeping them maintained, and I’m on the diving rota for cleaning the hulls.”

In a past life Texier was a very accomplished rugby player, so what parallels does he see between the two team sports? “I don’t see much similarity, because technology is such a big part of the sailing world. Physically it’s completely different. Obviously in sailing strength and fitness are still important, but there are so many other technical aspects to the sport too.”

Perhaps of more relevance to sailing on Alinghi 5 are the two seasons that he spent racing on board the 60 foot ORMA multihull, Géant, in 2003 and 2004. Not that Texier feels there was much he could pass on to the rest of the team. “There is such big experience on this team. They learn very quickly and there’s not much you can teach those guys. So I try to be as helpful wherever possible, but really they figured it all out for themselves very quickly.”

Texier is looking forward to that first moment alongside BMW Oracle. “It will be interesting to see if all the work we have done is as good as we think it is. We will soon find out how well prepared we are and it will be interesting to see how two such different boats compare.”

Although the America’s Cup was not a childhood obsession like it was for some of his team mates, Texier is now as passionate about the Cup as anyone. He has no regrets about having joined Alinghi back in 2003. “In your life if you have this kind of opportunity you have to take it. There is a big melting pot on this team, an international team with many professional people.

“In the beginning of my sailing life the Cup was not important but now it is, with experience and seeing what sacrifices you have to do to win this Cup and be on a big team. With sailing I learn many things especially from the different cultures, from the sea. You can learn every day and all your life, and not just about the technical side but about people too.”

Simon Daubney (NZL)

Simon Daubney aboard Alinghi 5 off Ras Al Khaimah. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

“We’re just loving it,” enthuses Simon Daubney about getting to grips with sailing Alinghi 5. “We’re energised by the whole challenge of it.” Daubney is one of the original Kiwis, the ‘tight five’ who have sailed together seemingly for an eternity. But the trimmer is keen to play down any special connection between him and his compatriots. “Alinghi has been going for 10 years so there is a much wider group of people who have been working together as a team for a very long time now. We enjoy the challenge of trying to find ways of getting the best out of the boat at all times, both on and off the water.”

Despite the significant differences between Alinghi 5 and the Version 5 monohulls that preceded it, Daubney claims that fundamentally his job as trimmer hasn’t changed all that much. “What is different is that as a team we were very good at the tinkering with the Version 5 boats and just getting tiny little gains and making two or three incremental gains here and there. Some of the gains were so small you could hardly measure them; sometimes you just went with what you thought felt best.

“Whereas with this boat, we wake up in the morning and we just can’t wait to get on it and go sailing, and when we learn something, it’s a big thing we learn. You’re making leaps and bounds rather than small increments so that part of it is way more enjoyable.”

That implies that Alinghi has still got a long way to go before the guys really understand what they’re dealing with, but Daubney says they have been learning quickly. “You know, the fact of the matter is it’s not that different. You know the wind’s always coming from in front, the apparent wind is always forward, and once you’ve got used to that, it’s just sailing. Sail trimming is about reacting to changes in the wind and the mode required, and while the first week on the boat was a huge learning process, jaw-dropping at times, after a while it begins to feel like any other boat and our jobs on board are basically what we are used to.”

Daubney has a wealth of experience from three decades of racing, starting in trapeze dinghies such as Cherubs on his home waters of Auckland before moving into the match racing scene. He is an eight-time world champion, has competed in three Olympic Games in the Soling, and has been on the winning team for the past four America’s Cups.

The way it’s come about is a huge team effort so everybody has a big role to play. You just can’t break it down as either a ‘design race or a ‘sailors’ race’. It’s just like in Formula One, where you can’t say it’s the driver or the car that’s important, because it’s the whole package.”

Whether they are sailors, designers or any other part of the team, Daubney has huge respect for everyone in Alinghi. "The people are the most important thing, there's a sort of unwritten code that makes everyone look out for each other, everyone moves in the same direction. It's a really satisfying thing being involved with good people.”

Warwick Fleury (NZL)

Alinghi testing in Ras Al Khaimah: Warwick Fleury. Image copyirght Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

What is it about match racing? "I enjoy the fact that it's one on one, win or lose. At the end of a race or regatta it's pretty clear how you have done, how your team stacks up.”

The 2010 America's Cup will be Warwick’s eighth; his first was in 1987 when he joined New Zealand's first America's Cup entry in Fremantle, Australia. He thought it was competitive back then, but: “The America's Cup keeps evolving and the bar keeps getting raised. You've just got to do better than you did last time.”

As Alinghi's mainsail trimmer, he says: It's a boat speed role. I work closely with the helmsman and the other trimmers, getting the maximum performance out of the boat. This is fundamentally the same role on any sailing boat; finding the right balance between the sails and the boat itself, relative to the wind and sea conditions, so that the boat can be steered at its optimum."

One thing that has surprised Warwick is how lively Alinghi 5 feels. “Usually, at least with a keelboat, the larger the boat is that you sail, the less sensation of speed you experience. Because of the greater mass of the boat things happen a lot slower and sometimes it’s almost like you are sailing in slow motion. Even though the boat may still be going very fast you just don’t feel it. I was expecting a bit of that with the catamaran just because of the scale of it but in reality it actually feels very much like a smaller boat. It’s surprisingly responsive so you have to be really, really quick and alert.”

Warwick Fleury. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

As the man controlling the most powerful sail on the boat, Warwick is well aware of his responsibilities on a boat as frisky as Alinghi 5. “You just have to be switched on all the time. This is one of the differences between multihulls and keelboats. A keel under the boat will get you out of trouble a lot of the time, whereas with a multihull you just have to be aware one hundred percent of the time when you’re sailing. Many of the mishaps that occur on multihulls happen before or often after a race when the natural tendency is to relax and to let your guard down. On this boat, we can’t afford a big mistake and so from the moment we hoist the sails we just have to be focused.”

Despite the big learning curve they’ve all gone through, Warwick has a lot of faith in his teammates. “I think Alinghi’s biggest asset is its people. Alinghi has been around as an America's Cup team for ten years now which is a lot longer than any other team. I think it’s almost a unique team in that we have had so few personnel changes over the years. As a result the team is very strong and it runs very efficiently.”

Pierre-Yves Jorand (SUI)

Pierre-Yves Jorand. Image copyright Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

If there’s anyone in the team who is not that impressed by the speed of Alinghi 5 it should probably be Pierre-Yves Jorand. A former European champion in speed skiing, Jorand represented Switzerland in the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France. Having achieved speeds of up to 225 km/h, he decided to give up the dangers of speed skiing after the birth of his daughter.

If there are any similarities between speed skiing and sailing, Jorand says that balance is something that is important in both sports. “When you’re trying to fly a hull, there is a lot of balance involved, with the way that you trim the boat. Also, aerodynamics is an important factor in both sports where you are trying to reduce the effect of drag as much as possible.”

Even in the 32nd America’s Cup, where the boats were rarely moving faster than 10 knots, sailing teams became very obsessed with the notion of reducing windage. Now, on a boat that is capable of exceeding 30 knots, reducing windage is absolutely critical - something else that Jorand knows a lot about. “If you see my haircut, you will understand how seriously I take the idea of reducing windage,” jokes Jorand, who is bald. “I expect my team mates to do the same with their hair, if they are serious about winning the America’s Cup! But, you know, in Valencia in February it might be cold enough that we need to wear some hats if the wind is strong.”

Having spent the 32nd America’s Cup working as a coach from a chase boat, Jorand has been working as part of the sailing team, operating the mainsheet traveller. For a speed merchant like Jorand, the move from monohull to multihull has been very welcome. “It is fantastic. For me it is the best job in the world, actually. Sailing the most powerful sailing boat in the world, working in a great team, I enjoy every single day. When I was younger and I was doing all the speed skiing, I was always looking for the best performance, for that feeling of ultimate speed. In sailing, you get that feeling of ultimate speed from sailing a multihull, which is why I became a fan of multihull sailing more than 20 years ago. So I am glad that multihull sailing has come to the America’s Cup.”

Lorenzo Mazza (ITA)

Alinghi 5 in Genoa Alinghi training in Genoa: Lorenzo Mazza. Image copyright Guido Trombetta/Alinghi.

"I like match racing, I like the focus of a team. I just enjoy what I do. I like sport." Lorenzo Mazza started sailing during his summer holidays with his father and sister and started racing when he was 16 years old. Since 1981 he has sailed professionally on IOR/IMS yachts, winning several World Championships, the Admiral's Cup and the Sardinia Cup.

Between 1987 and 1989 he studied yacht and boat design at the Southampton Institute of Higher Education. Interested in the technical element of America's Cup campaigns, he likes to get involved with the construction of the boat, the deck layout, the system specifications, testing of structural components and the optimisation of sail shapes. As an Alinghi trimmer he says he enjoys his role onboard, "...because it requires full time action. As soon as the boat starts sailing it never stops.”

Joining Alinghi for the 2003 campaign he says; "I was honoured to be invited. Since joining the team I've discovered a lot of talented people here which is good because although I'd been involved in the Cup before, I realised I had never actually been in a position to win it. It was interesting to see close-up the differences to my previous experiences, to work with a group of people that knows what it's like to win and to be able to contribute to that winning formula was an opportunity that meant a great deal to me."

Mazza says trimming the headsail on Alinghi 5 is nothing like trimming on a Version 5 monohull. “You need to have much quicker reactions, more movement, it’s much more dynamic. The understanding between trimmers and helmsman is different too. We are more related to finding a good balance, and then you get the speed. When you get the balance you need to make sure that you are in sync with the other people on board, on mainsheet and traveller. The interaction between the team is the most critical thing.”

Mazza has enjoyed the transition from being a specialist keelboat trimmer to understanding what makes multihulls tick. “One of the things I've most enjoyed is the racing on the Extreme 40 circuit even if the racing was very peculiar. It was not very technical sailing but very good competition, and I've been missing the competition, which is why I look forward to racing Alinghi 5. There are always more developments that could be done, but I just want to get on with the racing.”

Juan Vila (ESP)

Juan Vila. Image copyirght Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi.

Having studied Civil Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Barcelona, Vila did his first round-the-world race. While serving in the army for a year from 1989-1990 he sailed in his first Whitbread and with his technical background the obvious role for the Spaniard was to become the navigator.

Since then, he has alternated Whitbread (Volvo) campaigns with America's Cup campaigns. Just weeks after winning the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race he joined Alinghi to help with the electronics and navigation systems.

Vila enjoys the cosmopolitan make-up of the team, and believes it is one of Alinghi’s strengths. “I think the international team is one of the great strengths of Alinghi, you see different ways of doing things.” This has been particularly useful with the development of the multihull, which has required more free-thinking and fresh ideas than ever before.

With Alinghi 5 capable of travelling up to four times the speed of a Version 5 keelboat, Vila knows that he has less time to extract all the information from the navigation systems. “It’s a challenge with the speed of the boat because everything happens quicker. The difference is that you have to anticipate more and just keep on relying on time rather than distance, because distance comes up very quickly. Also because the course is so long and you’re maybe many, many miles away from the next turning mark, you won’t be able to see it most of the time.

“Having good weather predictions will be more important than in any other America’s Cup, because if the boats go in opposite directions they could be in completely different wind. It’s going to be important to know which side of the course to go and also how you want to get there.”

As to what has interested Vila most about this campaign, he doesn’t even need to think about the answer. “Definitely it’s the chance to sail on this boat, which is a dream. This is a once in a life opportunity to be able to sail on a boat like this.”

The chance to play with cutting-edge technology is also very exciting for an electronics expert like Vila. “The control systems are very impressive, and also the fibre optics that we are using to help understand the huge loads on this boat, and which hopefully will make sure that we always sail the boat within its designed structural limits.”

Does does he feel any additional kind of stress or pressure sailing such a highly strung boat as Alinghi 5? “Well it’s pretty much like any other race. You are going to have your ups and downs but basically you just need to keep to your normal routines and make sure that all your preparation is done properly before the race so that you get there in the best possible shape.”

Loïck Peyron (FRA)

Alinghi 5 training in Ras Al Khaimah: Loick Peyron. Image copyright George Johns/Alinghi.

Loïck Peyron is one of the world's most renowned multihull sailors. The charismatic Frenchman has crossed the Atlantic 43 times, 18 of them singlehanded. He has raced around the world twice, holds three Transat titles and two Transat Jacques Vabres. The America’s Cup opens a new chapter in his career. "In every sailor's mind, the America's Cup is part of life. I have been following it for many years and now to be working for a team like Alinghi makes me proud," says Peyron.
"There is a tremendous amount of work for sure, but it's a big challenge. An impressive strength of Alinghi is that it has a lot of knowledge from a lot of areas of the sport: monohulls, offshore sailing, multihulls; especially from Switzerland. The way the team works is based on team spirit and the method works really well; they have proved it many times.

“For me it is really fascinating to see such a big family with a lot of ways of doing things which are quite impressive. It is really professional for sure. And there are a lot of people, that’s the main difference between this and other projects I’ve done.

“The few French here, myself, Alain and Franck, to name a few, have spent many years trying to do things with few people and small budgets. So it is very interesting to be part of something with more resources. It means that you can explore many areas of technology. The result is a boat that is very elegant and efficient. Often boats that look elegant are efficient, and that is certainly the case with Alinghi 5.”

Even with all his long experience in multihull sailing, Peyron has found himself on a massive learning curve. “In terms of sailing, we are learning every day. We are learning a lot of things about big boats for sure because there is a lot of power and some special things really linked to the size itself which are very interesting to discover or to confirm. But also this has been a chance for me and the other French multihull veterans to test our experiences from other types of multihull and see how they apply to a boat of this kind.

“It has also been interesting to compare what was supposed to work in theory on paper, and what actually works on the water in reality.”

More to come...


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