American Magic: The sprint against time

By | May 1, 2018

American Magic, New York Yacht Club’s team that’s challenging for the 36th America’s Cup, continues to gain momentum toward the 2021 competition. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with American Magic Executive Director and Skipper Terry Hutchinson for an update.

In 2018, your plan was to launch a new TP52 for the 52 SUPER SERIES, launch a new Maxi 72 for the 2018 Rolex Maxi 72 Worlds, and continue progressing the America’s Cup campaign.

Let’s start with the TP52.
Quantum Racing went in the water on April 26 and will be based in Palma, Majorca. Four days of testing will precede our first regatta, PalmaVela, on May 3-6. There’ll be some prep work immediately afterwards, and then we’ll set up for the start of the 52 SUPER SERIES near the end of May in Croatia. As for afterguard, Dean Barker will steer, I will be on tactics and Ian Moore will be our navigator. When Doug or Dalton DeVos is available to steer, Dean will slide into the strategist role.

And the Maxi 72?
The 72 is still under construction at New England Boatworks. Unfortunately she got delayed, and the expectation now is that she comes out of the shed at the end of August. The original plan was to launch late-July and make the 72 Worlds, but with the boat coming out a month later that’s not going to happen.

What happened?
It was nobody’s fault really, just one of those things. It seems to happen a lot when you build new boats. Some material we received wasn’t perfect, so in the interest of making the boat perfect we just hit the big red button to stop and resolve it. It was the smart decision to proceed cautiously and be mindful that the boat is a four-year program, not a one regatta program.

It’s frustrating to not get out on the water in the matter that Hap Fauth wanted us to, but it is a massive investment that we need to make sure is perfect. So we’re choosing a little bit more of a conservative path there. And with the previous 72 having been donated to the US Merchant Marine Academy, we’ll be sitting out the maxi season this year.

And now we get to the America’s Cup program…
With the launch date next year of March 31st as the first time a boat can go in the water, I would suspect that teams are working in and around a six week period beginning March 31st as the time to get the boats in the water. Our team is knee deep in understanding the parameters of the class rule, designing the boat, and getting that first glimpse at what it’s going to look and act like.

What is the build plan?
It’s a 10-month build so we need to begin soon. We have, as a team, rented our own facility to construct the boat in-house, but at the same time we have a great partnership through the Bella Mente with New England Boatworks. So some of the components we’ll do in house and some of it we’ll sub-out to suppliers in and around Bristol, Portsmouth, and Newport in Rhode Island.

Where is your facility to be located?
Not ready to divulge that. Next question.

New Zealand’s Dean Barker, who you’d previously said was hired to just steer the TP52, appears to now have an expanded role.
Dean’s been hired to be a helmsman of the America’s Cup team. We just had a great run at the Congressional Cup and the Ficker Cup, and we’ll continue our racing development in the TP52.

I see he is now residing amidst the fresh air of Park City, UT.
In the America’s Cup Protocol, the rule states that by September 1st of this year through August 31st of 2020, anybody who is a non-US born citizen has to spend 380 days in the country. After the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda, Dean and his family moved to Park City. His next move will soon be to Rhode Island.

There’s rumors of another US team.
I don’t really know anything, and to be honest, my focus is fully on what we are doing. But I’m never shy of competition, so it’s great if there’s more teams. However, as we’re learning, this America’s Cup campaign is a massive undertaking. We’re 12 months into it, and the amount of effort and energy that is going into this is certainly bigger than anything I’ve experienced.

It would seem daunting now for any group not yet fully running.
There’s a million different ways that you can skin a cat. When Luna Rossa bought Team New Zealand’s design package in 2013, they made it to the regatta but they were quite a bit off the pace. So that’s one way to do it. But to start from scratch, daunting is putting it mildly.
We’re so far into understanding what we’re taking on that every day you wake up with a bit of sweaty palms because it’s not a small undertaking. The functionality and the complexity of the AC75, when compared to a TP 52 or a Maxi 72, is off the charts. Those are Lasers in relation to this America’s Cup boat.

So Dean is signed on. Who else?
Besides Dean and myself, other members of the sailing team I can confirm are Andrew Campbell (USA), Bora Gulari (USA), Cooper Dressler (USA), Paul Goodison (GBR), Ian Moore (GBR), Joe Spooner (NZL), Jim Turner (NZL), and Sean Clarkson (NZL).

You put some of the team to the test recently during the Congressional Cup and Ficker Cup.
We’re three years out from the main event, so we have a long-term goal but also a short-term goal of developing our onboard working relationship. Those events presented an opportunity for us to get back in the boat together and just start that process of learning.
What I liked about it the most was there’s no hesitation about going into competition, no hesitation about putting ourselves out there, good or bad. Sure, we’d have liked to win the Congressional Cup, but where we are now is just setting the baseline to where we’re going to need to get to, to win the America’s Cup.

I’m guessing it’s been since the last race of the 2007 America’s Cup since you and Dean had teamed up.
I made the comment to him after our first day at the Congressional Cup. We came off the water with a good day and I said, “Jeez, this is heaps better than the last day that we sailed together,” where we lost to Alinghi by one second.

Since then, we’ve done way more yelling at each other than we have racing together, but there’s certain people that I’ve raced with, that regardless of the situation, I have a heap of respect for even though they’re competitors. Dean is one of them.

When we look at the opportunity that’s in front of us, and the experience that’s required to get one of these boats around the race course, there’s not many people in the world that have Dean’s level experience.

For the role as one of the helmsmen for the team, that person needs to have big boats experience, they need to have foiling experience, and they need to have event experience. There’s maybe four people in the world that tick all three of those boxes.

All of our decisions leading up to the start of the American Magic team is, we have to circumvent the time component because all of the notable competitors have that advantage. Team New Zealand’s an established team. Ben Ainslie is coming back. Luna Rossa, while not an established sailing team, they’ve been operating in some capacity, and they have the advantage of helping write the rule.

So we have to circumvent time. We can’t afford to waste time developing. You want to always have a good plan B, but at the same time you want to know that plan A can step right into it and not be concerned.

You’re not naive to how you’ll get grief for recruiting a foreigner to potentially steer the boat.
The primary, overriding goal is to win the regatta.

Yet your team has a significant goal to elevate the standard of sailing in the USA.
That’s absolutely right. Back in October, we said we’d be a multi-national team, and yet we already have on the team a number of born and raised US citizens. So it’s one of those things for now, but we can still impact the country in other ways, as well, which we will. But to have a long-term impact on the USA we have to first win the America’s Cup. We have to put ourselves in a position to be successful.

Just win, baby.
Indeed! We live in an environment that people are going to criticize, which I guess is their right. But at the same time we have to be smart and respectful of the opportunity that’s in front of us, of what our supporters are backing us to do, and compete in the manner that’s going to make New York Yacht Club proud, that’s going to make our sailing community proud, and that will allow us to be good representatives of our country. And these are achievable goals given the work done to this point within the Quantum Racing and Bella Mente programs.

Those are easy footsteps to follow because I think we’ve done a great job over the last decade of doing that.

This story is from Scuttlebutt Sailing News.