Friday, December 4, 2009

The sweet supplier

Life is going to get a little more difficult in San Diego for the team members still on site on the packing detail. Cathy Ryan (FRA) is leaving on Friday and her M+M machine is going with her. (More on that later).

Cathy started with BMW ORACLE Racing in October 2007: "I never knew anything about the America's Cup at the time. But a friend was working for the team and told me they needed some help. So I started working part-time, just 10am to 3pm, a few days a week, looking after the team apartments."

She laughs as she says this. 10 til 3 would constitute a very small fraction of her working day now.

From that start in Valencia, beginning a few months after the end of the 32nd America's Cup, Cathy soon became an indispensable member of the admin team. Her official title is Sailing Team Administrator but in reality, she's the den mother to the entire team, looking after, well, everything.

"Basically I try to look after everybody who needs help," she says. And that's about as good a job description as any. If you need help with something - travel, visa arrangements, laundry, organising thanksgiving dinner for 100, or birthday cakes, she's the one to turn to. She just gets it done.

"The job is never the same, there's always something different. And here, with so many people away from their homes or their families, I feel like a counsellor as well at times.People come in here, telling me their stories."

No doubt the counsel is welcome, but there's also the matter of the M+M machine that makes her office the gathering place for team members needing a sugar hit.

"I love sweets and sweet things. I always have to snack," she says. "One day I bought M+Ms and everybody seemed to like them, so I kept buying them. Then a few of the sailors had been on a weekend in Las Vegas and they brought this little machine back for me. So now, it's a tradition. It's amazing. People have a hard day, they're tired or frustrated, they come here, they grab a handful of M+Ms and, like magic, they're smiling again."

The M+M dispenser will soon be filled up in Valencia, where the team relocates at the end of the month. For Cathy, returning to her home in Spain can't come soon enough. She has her husband and two daughters there, and she's looking forward to seeing her first America's Cup.

"I've never seen an America's Cup race. I wasn't involved with the team last time and I think I went down to the port with my family for a look just once or twice, so it will be great to finally see what this is all about."