Saturday, 6 February 2010

America's Cup: Profile of John Kostecki (USA), BMW ORACLE Racing

John Kostecki. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.

by Peter Rusch

American tactician John Kostecki has won an Olympic medal - silver in 1988 in the Soling - and skippered illbruck to victory in the 2001-02 Volvo Ocean Race. Now, there's nothing he'd like more than to bring the Cup back to his home state of California, where he started sailing as a kid.

"I grew up in San Francisco Bay sailing with my parents on dinghies and small keelboats and when I was about seven years old I joined Richmond Yacht Club on the east bay of San Francisco and started in their junior sailing programme and then slowly graduated up through the sailing programme there and then St Francis Yacht Club sort of adopted me and I started sailing for them."

Not surprisingly for someone hooked on sailing, he can remember watching Cup races on television and thinking, 'I want to do that'.

"Back in 1983 when Dennis Conner lost the Cup to Australia, I remember watching that on TV - and I remember it clearly - and at that point I was like, 'Someday I'm going to be an America's Cup sailor."

John Kostecki during the first sea trials of BOR 90. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.

Although the USA is vastly different to the America's Cup Class boats he guided to the Louis Vuitton Cup Final in 2000 with AmericaOne, Kostecki says that in many respects, his job now is the same as it was then.

"I help direct the boat in the right direction on the race course, determine where the best wind is according to the windshifts and try to place our yacht - hopefully - in a favourable position versus our competitor."

But he says some aspects of the job are very different indeed.

"In previous America's Cups the racing was on short courses in both distance and time. This time around we're going to have races that are three maybe four or more hours in length (and race courses that are 40 nautical miles long)," he explains.

"In the previous America's Cup you would focus on the first wind shift, so you're looking one minute up the track after the start. This is going to be very different. We're going to have changing conditions over a 40-mile course and so it's going to be more oriented towards offshore style sailing, where you're going to be racing through different conditions. So it's going to be bigger picture type strategies."

Even the way the team has trained has been much different from in the past. No two-boat testing, for example, and no full-scale practice races against an opponent on the trimaran. Instead, the priority has been to make the boat as fast as it can possibly be.

"In the America's Cup, the fastest boat normally wins, so we've been focused on making this boat as fast as possible around the race track," he says. "Our biggest improvement has been the wing sail. It's clear that once we had that on, the ability of the boat to manoeuvre, its speed, the ease of sailing, all of it combined, is much better.

"I'm optimistic... I feel good about it. I feel that we're going to put our best foot forward for the races."


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