Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sailor Profile - Shannon Falcone

If you've been reading our other team profiles, you'll know that all of our sailors got an early start in the sport. But Shannon Falcone (ANT), who works the foredeck on USA, takes that to an extreme.

"My family always sailed," he says. "My first big event, I was three years old - the transatlantic race - I got dragged onto the boat and sailed across the Atlantic with my parents. From then on, it's been sailing all the way. We ended up in the Caribbean after that race and we never left. I grew up in Antigua and there, you either sail or you go crazy!

"My earliest sailing memory was during that transatlantic in 1984. I was three and a half and I remember playing with my toy cars on the foredeck. But growing up where I did, I have a lot of memories of boats and beaches."

His early experience paid off. At 19 he ventured off the island, making his way by doing oceanic boat deliveries and it wasn't long after that he joined the Italian Mascalzone Latino team in Auckland for the 2002-03 Louis Vuitton Cup. For the last America's Cup he was with Luna Rossa, reaching the Louis Vuitton Cup finals, making this campaign his third Cup. And between the last AC and today, he's sailed around the world with PUMA, to a second place finish in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Shannon names his career highlights as the "Louis Vuitton Cup finals last time around and sailing in the last VOR with PUMA and getting a second place. But neither of those are top of the podium so that's why I'm still here."

He's a versatile sailor, having sailed in the pit and mast man positions on boats in the past. But when he sails on the trimaran, it's usually on the foredeck, where he can use his size to full advantage with the much bigger gear on board this boat.

"The reason I like doing foredeck is it's one of the few positions on the team where if you do your job right, nobody notices, but when you don't do it right, it's a bad day for the whole boat. The pressure is on in mark rounding and sail changes and things like that. And there's a lot of teamwork involved in getting the job done well."

When he speaks about the USA, his enthusiasm is apparent from the first word. This is a fantastic boat to sail.

"We have an 'insane' boat," is the way he puts it. "Every time we're on the water and sailing, we're screaming around. It's just unreal every single time. When you're on the boat, you're aware that you're one of the few who will ever sail on it. And you have to pinch yourself sometimes to realise that you're 30 feet up in the air and doing 25 knots upwind. It feels like flying. When the two hulls lift out of the water and you're slicing through the water on one hull it's a very smooth motion. At those speeds, on any other boat (if any other boat would do that speed) you would be soaking wet and hanging on for dear life. Here, it's much more relaxed. Just sailing."

Just sailing - something he's been doing his whole life.