Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sailor Profile - Matthew Mason

Matthew Mason (NZL) brings a wealth of experience to the team, not only as a sailor but as a boatbuilder and shore team all-rounder.

This is his sixth America's Cup and he has ties to Russell Coutts dating back to Team New Zealand days back in the 90's and skipper Jimmy Spithill from the OneWorld campaign in 2003. Prior to that, Matt also sailed in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1993-94.

"I've been sailing since I was about eight years old," he says. "I started in New Zealand sailing P-Class and came up through the other junior classes. Then I left school and did a boatbuilding apprenticeship. I kept at the sailing, not professionally, but my job just led me to the water a lot and I started sailing full-time when I was about 21.

"I first realised I could earn a living at it around the early 90s. It was still pretty hard back then, but I was lucky enough to be involved in the '92 AC for New Zealand and then in 1995 in San Diego as well. It was around then when you could make a reasonable living at it. Well, almost," he laughs.

Matt came to the BMW ORACLE Racing team relatively late, and counts his service in terms of weeks, not months or years.

"I haven't been involved very long," he admits. "I was lucky enough to be invited to San Diego in September to help do some deck layout changes and one thing led to another. It was going to be a three month stint and I'm still here now.

"On shore I run the boat - they call me the boat director - which involves overseeing the whole boat operation. We have had so many things going on, and that branches out to the wing sail as well.

"Now, since we've been in Valencia I've started to do quite a bit of sailing with the guys. And just over the last week or so, I've been asked to join the sailing team, so it looks like I might be lucky enough to be racing in the upcoming Match. I feel very privileged to be sailing on board with the guys. It's an incredible boat and really something special.

"It was only six weeks ago or so when I sailed on the boat for the first time," Mason says. "It was breathtaking to be ripping along at 20 knots or more in almost no wind and the main hull lifts out and everything just goes silent. The leeward hull slices through the water…amazing."