AC 36: The big boys weigh in

America’s Cup challenger American Magic opened the doors of the historic New York Yacht Club on 44th Street to offer a campaign update on October 23. Here’s the report from Scuttlebutt contributor Cory E. Friedman:

“I had heard that you were a serious man, to be treated with respect.” – Don Vito Corleone, The Godfather (Paramount Pictures, 1972)

Recent America’s Cup team introduction news conferences have been desultory affairs – sailors dressed like a cross between hobos and Maytag repairmen wearing jeans, lots of team logos and even team caps indoors standing around sheepishly while team photographers fill the CF cards in their Nikon D5s and Canon EOS 1-Ds.

But the American Magic event in The Model Room of the New York Yacht Club was something completely different – more like a throwback to the days when J.P. Morgan headed Cup defenses for the NYYC.

There was nary a team sailor in sight and the only team logoed gear was a team jacket presented to Airbus Commercial Aircraft EVP Engineering Jean-Brice Dumont (but not donned). Instead Team Principal & CEO John “Hap” Fauth, skipper Terry Hutchinson, and Dumont made the presentation with Fauth and Dumont doing the talking, while Team Principals Doug DeVos and Roger Penske sat quietly in the front row.

Everyone wore a dark suit, white shirt, and tie. The overall impression was seriousness, solidity, and competence. Fauth, DeVos, Penske, and Dumont clearly know how to get a cutting edge technological job done and are prepared to do what it takes. They won’t be asking how much it costs. They can afford it. Terry Hutchinson knows how to manage a racing team (and keep his mouth on a tight leash at events like this).

A major part of the event was the announcement that Airbus will bring its formidable technical expertise to the design team, which now includes the best designers ‘available’, i.e. not already working for Team New Zealand or Luna Rosa. Refreshingly, Dumont volunteered Airbus’ emphasis on safety. Not stated is the fact that no one wants another Artemis/Simpson disaster, which for Airbus would be a step into really deep merde.

When I asked where the buck stopped on safety, Terry Hutchinson, who was badly burned over safety at Artemis, quickly raised his hand. No one said otherwise except to emphasize that Terry would have the benefit of input from the rest of the design team. Fauth and Dumont further emphasized safety and Fauth even followed up on the subject with me after the presentation.

While the team will be using technology and computer modeling to substitute for two boat testing as only one boat is allowed, there were intimations that an announcement would be made in the near future of a more concrete mechanism for intramural practice and training on this sort of boat.

The involvement of Airbus and a look at the team roster makes this an international effort. Dumont emphasized Airbus’ US operations and production. France and French sailing was never mentioned by anyone at the event. I didn’t get a clear answer on how that international effort would be balanced with the American character of the NYYC American Magic challenge, but presumably that will be worked out as the challenge develops.

After all, Charlie Barr, a Scot, is NYYC’s most celebrated America’s Cup skipper.

We’re not far into the AC 36 story and there will be a lot of twists and turns before anyone hoists the Cup and there will be many opportunities for slips between the Cup and the lip. Team New Zealand and Luna Rosa will be tough adversaries. The Brits can’t be counted out either despite their dismal results in recent ACs. As a congenital American flag waiver, I am cautiously optimistic based upon what I heard.

Comments are closed.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

Skip to content