America’s Cup: Iain Percy on Artemis Racing Progress
Artemis Racing team manager, Iain Percy, gives us the low down on the Swedish syndicate’s preparations for the America’s Cup out in Bermuda.
SRM: From what can see from afar Artemis appears to be going great guns over in Bermuda?
IP: Yeah, there’s lots going on. We've two turbos - as we call them - development boats sailing in Bermuda regularly, which has been great. It's no mean feat to get these kind of boats fully functioning on a day-to-day basis. It takes a lot of ingenuity and effort from everyone in the squad.
We are very pleased to be at this point but the turbos are just a means to an end and it's about using those boats for development, for crew training and learning as much as we can to put into the actual race boat.
Overall, I think we're in a good position but we still have a lot of work to do – particularly around sailing training. One of the things that I'm very aware of is that our sailors are very talented but they haven't had the experience of the multihull match racing that the likes of say, Oracle or the Japanese have. We are focusing on putting in training there. The good news is we've got a year to do that and two strong squads to do it with.
SRM: You opted to move the Artemis Racing operation out to Bermuda along with Oracle Team USA and SoftBank Team Japan. Has that worked out well for you?
IP: I think everyone has their own obligations and reasons behind decision like that one. For us, it was correct. We were in San Fran before and that is quite a different venue to Bermuda, so it wasn't really the place to train. I think it depends a lot on what your home base has, in terms of conditions and facilities.
We've been really happy there. The Bermuda government and the people are super welcoming and there's a huge buzz about the America's Cup. The atmosphere reminds me a lot of the Sydney and London Olympics. They were the ones that really stood out for me where the public got behind the event and basically really enjoyed it. That's the main thing.
I think as competitors, you get a big buzz out of the street parties, the general atmosphere and realizing that you are creating something with sailing that people are enjoying.
SRM: Are you operating a bigger squad this time around than last time given you are running two boats right now?
IP: Well, it’s two boats, but they're half the number of people on each. It's probably less sailors than last time, actually. We've got a lot of young guys and we’ve built the sailing squad up slowly. We still have some really notable talent, with Francesco Bruni, Nathan Outteridge and his 49er crew Iain Jensen and Paul Goodison - the new Moth world champion. We've got lots of talent around and some pretty strong grinders too.
We certainly have all the building blocks, but as I said, I think we put our hands up to say we haven't yet got the experience in some of the important areas of match racing in multihulls.
SRM: What do you think it is going to take to win the 35th America’s Cup?
IP: It's a technical game. Brad Butterworth famously said a few Cups ago that the fastest boat has won every America's Cup for 150 years. But we almost saw in the last Cup an occasion when the fastest boat didn't win. Then in the end Oracle got to grips with the potential of their boat and it was a whitewash from there. As soon as they worked it out they were almost a minute, I'll say, quicker around the course.
I don't think you'll see that. I don't think you'll see differences between the boats that are that big. Inevitably, it's going to become a real sailing race. Yes it will be about speed, but that speed will come a lot from technique and from the skill level of the sailors.
I think it's going to be an incredible America's Cup to watch. You'll see races all the way from the round robin series to the semis and the finals which go against the form guide because it's going to be that close on the water.
SRM: How much of an advantage do the holders Oracle have over the challengers because they can build two America’s Cup Class boats and the challengers can only build one?
IP: I'm not sure that two boats is such an advantage this time, because they get to race in all the Challenger Series racing - up to the semi-final stage anyway. That’s not something that's happened in the past and one of the big disadvantages for the Defender has always been that you didn't get to check in with the level of the competition. So you didn't get that important training and competition time. That’s a lot of the reason why last time Team New Zealand in a slower boat was so far ahead initially - they had plenty of real race practice from doing the Challenger Series.
It's quite an acute advantage to Oracle that they managed to negotiate a few years ago. It's always been the case that the defenders write the rules, so of course they are not going to write a rule that doesn't advantage them slightly.
SRM: San Francisco was a pretty spectacular venue for the 34th America’s Cup. What can we expect from Bermuda for the 35th Cup?
IP: Well first of all, it’s an amazing race course. One of the things that struck us straight away about Bermuda is just how good the sailing is. We really enjoy it because it's built for these kind of boats. It’s flat water, which makes things a lot easier. There’s a natural amphitheatre with incredible views.
In terms of the boats and the racing I think there's a natural development process and the boats are getting more and more efficient. All the boats are very impressive now, up-wind and down. The fleet racing all together is quite an awe-inspiring sight.
The public are really into it and even in training we have scores of boats out watching every day and I think that's really cool. I think the Cup itself is going to be fantastic for the spectators and for the sport. It’s going to be quite a spectacle to see and be a part of.
[Main Image: Artemis Racing]