Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An amazing 24 hours

If there was a regret about today's events for the BMW ORACLE Racing team, it came from knowing that a good chunk of the squad was scattered in Valencia, Nice and Anacortes and couldn't be here in San Diego, in person, to see the team reach this incredible milestone with its wing sail.

Fortunately, many had a chance to follow along via a local, live webcam that was streaming video of the day's events, taken from the roof of a shoreside hotel. We know many of you were able, in fact, to tune in, which is fantastic. And I can report that without hesitation, every sailor stepping of the boat this afternoon had a big thank-you to send to Anacortes and Core Builders.

Early indications from today's initial tests are that the wing 'sings'.

It's certainly been a big day. At 02:00 on Tuesday morning, a key group assembled with Tim Smyth (NZL) to begin moving the wing sail. Less than 12 hours later, the wing had been installed, raised, and the boat was out on its first test sail. By the time the BOR 90 returned to its mooring a couple of hours later, big smiles could be seen stretching across the compound.

What follows are a few snippets of conversations heard over the past two weeks here, relating to this project.

At the end of October, Larry Ellison (USA) came to visit the big tent where the wing was being assembled. He thanked the Core Builders team for what he called 'herculean efforts', saying: "You've done an incredible job. Nobody has ever seen anything like this, because there has never been anything like this."

Joseph Ozanne (FRA), one of the lead designers on the wing project, on Monday afternoon, with the wing sail scheduled to emerge overnight: "It's a little bit of a strange feeling. The builders have handed it over (to the sailing team), but for the designers, we still need to see it perform on the water. The birth of this wing, for us, isn't until the first sail…"

On seeing the wing lifted from shore, suspended by two cranes and attached to the hull of the BOR 90, Max Sirena (ITA), who's toiled long and hard on this project: "I'm much, much happier now!"

Matthew Mason (NZL), boat director, looking at the wing after it's been attached to the boat and the crew has begun to lift it from a horizontal to vertical position: "It's a great achievement. This is a big milestone for the team to get the rig up to where it is now (25-degrees). It's freestanding and it's pretty much gone through its maximum load now. So far so good! We'd like to try and do a couple of runs later in the day if everything goes well and we don't have any hiccups."

Some good-natured banter overhead in the sail loft at 15:45 when the sailmakers heard over the radio the boat was on its way back: "Hey guys, let's get ready to unload the sails… Oh, right, we're already done. Never mind!"

Helmsman Jimmy Spithill (AUS), returning to dock, after his first flight with the wing: "When you think about what we did today - that wing was sitting here in the tent in the early hours this morning and to move it, get it on the boat, get it in position, move the boat off the dock, get the wing vertical and then to go out and sail around in a tight harbour like this one AND to fly a hull… That's a fantastic day! Full credit to all the guys who worked so hard on this project."

And the general sentiment from several skype messages received from across the planet this afternoon: "You guys look like you're having a lot of fun out there today."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks to all who aren't here in SD for their support.

The wing project continues on Wednesday, step by step.

Thanks as well to GMR for fabulous images today, and John-von and Rick Deppe for the video. There will be more.

I'm off to Nice early on Wednesday morning to catch up with the Louis Vuitton Trophy, but we'll continue to have reports from the team in San Diego as well.