34th America’s Cup: Defender and Challenger Debrief

While watching the racing at the 34th America’s Cup told the story of the competition between defender Oracle Team USA and challenger Emirates Team New Zealand, watching the press conference after each of the 15 race days revealed how the sailors were dealing with it.

All of the press conference video is now archived in Scuttlebutt’s Complete Race by Race Replay, with notable remarks transcribed below from the final session after the American team successfully defended the Cup:

Emirates Team New Zealand – Challenger
Dean Barker, Skipper, on when you felt you were in trouble…
Probably yesterday (Tuesday) was the first time we really felt we had a bit on. The second race (Race 18) we led around the bottom mark and watched Oracle pretty much just sail around us and sail away into the distance on the upwind, which had been our strength.

Grant Dalton, Managing Director, on the progress of both teams…
Dean thought we were in trouble yesterday, but I probably slept better the past couple days than a week ago because I sensed something was going on. The upwind deltas changed about a minute and a half in the past week and a half. That was a huge improvement that they (Oracle) made… We’ve improved a huge amount as well. What went wrong is we weren’t quick enough in the end.

Grant Dalton, Managing Director, on the prospect of New Zealand competing in AC35…
I actually don’t know. I think on TV New Zealand, it was the highest ranking program in the history of the country… It rates really, really high but it doesn’t put money in the till. So I don’t know, it’s too raw for any of us to contemplate at this point.

Dean Barker, Skipper, on changes the team attempted…
The obvious difference the Oracle guys were doing better than us was in their ability to foil upwind. We had spent a fair bit of time experimenting with that, partially during the Louis Vuitton Cup Final and in the period between the finish of that and the start of the Cup. We were continuing to trial it as best we could during the Cup itself, as was Oracle. But in some way their systems or boat was better suited, or their technique or whatever it was, was better suited to be able to do it for sustained periods. They were certainly doing a better job at finding that extra gear that we couldn’t.

Oracle Team USA – Defender
Ben Ainslie, Tactician, on the turn around…
I have only been with this team 12 months but have been hugely impressed by everyone involved, from the sailing team to the shore team to the design team. Having sailed with Jimmy now, I am so impressed with how he dealt with the situation. I don’t know how many races we were behind, but he sat here, going through the same questions day after day, and he kept saying how we can come back from this, and we did. For me, I think about Andrew Simpson. We are all here today thinking about winning the America’s Cup. He was an amazing sailors whose dream was to win the America’s Cup, and we lost him which is very sad for all of us. But he would have loved this competition; he would have thought the racing today was amazing. That’s what he lived for, and my thoughts go to him right now.

Jimmy Spithill, Skipper, on the turn around…
We never gave up. You guys (the press) have questioned me about this relentlessly, but it really is about never giving up. We have just been through so much as a team, and faced some tough situations. I really feel that those moments, especially the capsize (in October 2012) and the situation before this event where we were docked two points and lost our wing trimmer, I really felt that brought the team together. They were very tough moments to go through.

For me personally, I look back to the capsize. I remember straight after it happened, and we didn’t get back home until 2 or 3 in the morning, and the next day I turned up at work and the first guy to call me was Larry. And I was expecting a call from Larry, to be honest, but I didn’t know which way it was going to go. And straight off the bat I put my hand up and said, “I am sorry, I am fully responsible.” And straight away he said, “I don’t want to hear that. You’re a champion, you have a champion team. It’s not the first bit of adversity you’ve faced, and you will come back from this.” It was one of the key moments in my life; I will never forget it. I am in debt to him, and that is what really drove me this whole time. I felt like I owed it to him because he believed in me, and believed in the team, and together we really believed that we could do this. It was a privilege to be part of this group.

Larry Ellison, Owner, on going forward…
We did get a challenge (for the 35th America’s Cup); we have a Challenger of Record. We will be disclosing that some time in the future. We are all going to sit down and talk about what kind of boats we want to use going forward. I think this regatta was the most magnificent spectacle I have ever seen on the water. San Francisco Bay is a great backdrop for a sailboat race. These 40+ knot catamarans are absolutely amazing.

I think a lot of people who were never interested in sailing got interested in sailing. I think a lot of young kids are now going to go out and try sailing. They might jump on a Hobie Cat rather than a Laser. Who knows how they are going to start. We tried by going to catamarans to make sailing a bit more extreme, a bit more friendly for the viewing audience…The broadcast made it accessible to a lot of fans for the first time. It is no secret that these boats are expensive, and we would like to have more countries competing next time. So we are going to have to figure out how to accomplish both. Get more countries competing but also keep it as spectacular as it was this last regatta.

On the location of the 35th America’s Cup, it will be a group decision. San Francisco is a great place; we would love to come back to San Francisco. It is a beautiful place to have a regatta, this was a spectacular regatta. But we will sit down and talk with the officials in San Francisco and see if it is possible to come back, and the senior people in the team will talk about the different options we have. Personally, I would love to come back to San Francisco.

 

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