Saturday, 16 April 2011

America's Cup: Striving for Perfection: Artemis Racing's Rodney Ardern (NZL)

Rodney Ardern, Artemis Racing - Artemis AC45 launch and shakedown. Image copyright © Gilles Martin-Raget /

by America's Cup media

Artemis Racing's Rodney Ardern is among the most experienced professional sailors you'll find. A two-time winner of the America's Cup in 2003 and 2007, Ardern also has four Whitbread/Volvo races to his credit as well six America's Cup campaigns.

Now, he brings his wealth of experience to Sweden's Artemis Racing. We caught up with him in Qingdao, where the team is racing in the Extreme Sailing Series, as the crew builds its hours on mulithulls ahead of the first America's Cup World Series event in August.

Among his team mates, he has more catamaran experience than most, having sailed with Alinghi on their giant catamaran in the last America's Cup. And after spending so much time on catamarans over the past three years, including winning the iShares Cup in 2008, he's glad the America's Cup has made the move to catamarans.

"I've had the benefit of doing quite a bit of multihull sailing with Alinghi over the past three years and before that I'd done a bit on F18s and other bits and bobs, so I've really enjoyed the multihulls," he says.

"I think it was time for a new boat. It's really enjoyable to have a new challenge rather than sailing the same old boats for 20 years."

In contrast to the America's Cup Class monohulls, the AC45 and AC72 will pose a new problem to Ardern and his team - how to sail effectively with less people and less power on board than they'd like to have.

"I do think we're going to be on the shorthanded side (in terms of crew numbers) and that's part of the challenge of laying out the new boat (AC72). I wouldn't say we were carrying extra people with the old Cup boats. But what you ended up with was nearly perfect crew work because there were 17 crew on board. I think that's going to be the challenge now - getting as close to perfect as possible with the limited numbers and horsepower due to the smaller crew numbers and crew weight limit.

"Without the huge mainsheet loads (due to the wing) it should be manageable, but there are a lot of things to do, daggerboard going up and down for example, and the distance to cover moving from side to side, as opposed to everyone standing in the same small cockpit on the old boats; that makes a big difference."

Leading the Artemis Racing team is CEO Paul Cayard, who Ardern sailed around the world with on the Pirates of the Caribbean boat in the Volvo Ocean Race in 2005-06. Having sailed (and lived) with Cayard on a 70 foot boat for the better part of nine months, he knows his leadership style up close.

"When he's sailing he wants to do everything. He leads from the front and wants to show that nobody sits back and waits for someone else to do it; so he'll be the first guy to get up on the bow to lend a hand during a sail change," Ardern says.

And he thinks that having a sailor as the CEO is a big advantage when it comes to deciding how to spend the finite resources that rule any Cup campaign - time and money. "Paul really understands what the sailors and the other parts of the team want and when they really need it. He has a very realistic approach to that because really knows the whole game."

Back to the current task at hand, the Extreme Sailing Series in Qingdao, Ardern says the regatta provides another opportunity to spend time on multihulls, learning the new game of the this 34th America's Cup.

"Even though we're not sailing with a wing here, the racing is still about getting off the start line well and understanding the characteristics of multihulls and how they accelerate and slow down and how much time and space it takes to tack and gybe and what losses are associated with each manoeuvre, how much room you need for tacking to leeward of someone and things like that. So there's a lot of understanding of positioning and multihull characteristics that we can benefit from and take into the America's Cup World Series events later this summer."

For the AC45, the weapon of choice at those World Series events, Ardern is excited by the prospect of racing them:

"I think they'll be very good to race," he says. "I don't think it's going to be that difficult or that different. It's about understanding the acceleration and deceleration of the boats and positioning. Things can change very quickly. You can get yourself into and out of situations much, much more quickly.

"I think the AC45s should match race well. They're a nice boat and very well balanced. Until we saw the video of ORACLE last week, they seemed to be very safe (laughing)! But seriously, they are great. It will be a lot of fun to match race them."

America's Cup