Saturday, 16 April 2011
Mitch Booth, China Team. Image copyright China Team.
by America's Cup media
With its announcement last month that it had challenged for the 34th America's Cup, China Team served notice that it was ready to take on the best in the world. Now it has to build a team capable of doing it.
The 34th America's Cup will pose a big challenge to China Team, not least of which is building up a sailing team from scratch that can compete with the best in the world.
The man in charge of pulling the team together is well qualified. Australian Mitch Booth is a four-time Olympian with bronze and silver medals in the Tornado, and was one of the creators of the Extreme 40 catamaran. The new Sports Director of China Team is under no illusions about the scale of the task ahead, especially in terms of forging a strong team with Chinese, Anglo-Saxon and European sailors.
"The America's Cup is always a massive challenge," he says. "And I think to build a team from scratch is always difficult, particularly in the timeframe we have. For us, the challenge is in forming a strong team with the different guys.
"But one of our strengths, I think, is we're taking a new approach compared to most of the other teams. Our focus is on getting multihull experts rather than match racing experts. The team is going to be built around guys with a lot of multihull experience along with the Chinese sailors who we'll work with to build up their skills and experience. I think by doing that we're cutting a lot of time out of learning how to sail the boats."
For a multihull enthusiast like Mitch the last America's Cup between a massive wing-sailed trimaran and an equally groundbreaking catamaran was like a dream come true. As one of the initiators of the Extreme 40 circuit, he could already imagine the combination of that kind of technology with the 'stadium sailing' the Extreme 40 class exemplifies.
"The last Cup was quite exciting from a multihull point of view and seeing the Extreme 40 circuit grow from the ground up, you could see how there could be a blend of the America's Cup multihull technology with multihull racing like the Extreme Sailing Series format that could really change the sport. So I think what we have here is a great opportunity for the sport and for multihull sailors."
But to get there, China Team will have to be fast out of the blocks in recruiting the right people as well as sailing and racing together to build a solid team foundation. Booth is experienced enough to know there are no shortcuts to the process.
"Go sailing. Go racing," he responds when asked about the best way to overcome the 'new team' pitfalls. "Teams are built on working together in tough situations and in race conditions and by working through difficult challenges. We're designing a program with a focus on doing as much racing and spending as much time on boats as possible.
"We'll set up a training base with a couple of boats which we'll use as much as we can. The AC45 is a big part of the program as well. It's going to be a very important tool for us. But there's no point talking about it, you have to get out and do it in practice."
And the team will begin doing just that in the coming weeks when it begins sailing on the AC45 in Auckland.
Video of the entry of China Team in the 34th America's Cup:
"The focus now is getting the core group on board and hopefully that will cut our learning process of coming to grips with an AC45 for example and then we'll take that experience on to the AC72 as well."