Sunday, September 26, 2010

The week that was

BMW ORACLE Racing was a proud guest of honor at the Oracle OpenWorld technical conference last week in San Francisco. From Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s opening keynote speech to Lance Armstrong, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a hip-hop closing party, the week was full of goodwill and camaraderie.

Watch a video of the Q&A sessions hosted by Tom “The Chairman” Ehman.

The America’s Cup enjoyed a colorful stop at the San Francisco MOMA. The Cup stood tall in the huge atrium rising more than 100 feet, adorned in colors and hues not normally associated with the blues and greens of seawater.

Team members Ian Burns, Jono MacBeth and Brad Webb saddled up with Lance Armstrong for an early morning tour of San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront. The trio was among a group of riders who helped Armstrong launch a new dual green/healthy initiative of riding to work. Below, Burns (left white shirt) and MacBeth (right white shirt) pepper Armstrong with questions while helping set pace in the peloton.

(Photo courtesy R. Sellers/Hartmann Studios/Oracle Corp.)

Rock Opolis, the Oracle Appreciation Event, entertained some 40,000 guests on the final night of the conference. Six bands played on two stages, one outdoors and one indoors.

The Black Eyed Peas enlivened the crowd with their constant-motion hip-hop. Moments earlier on the indoor stage, Don Henley featured as the middle act for the packed audience. (George Johns photos)

Wrapping up the week, team CEO Russell Coutts took to the water as tactician for Doug Douglass in the Melges 32 World Championship, held on the Berkeley Circle. The crew aboard Goombay Smash (below) posted two bullets in the first four races to lead overall by 1 point before throwouts were counted. Their performance in the second half of the event didn’t add up as strongly and they placed seventh overall with 87 points. Luca Lalli’s Italian crew aboard B-lin Sailing captured the title with 48 points.

(Photo courtesy JOY/Melges 32 Class Association)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Live with “The Chairman”

BMW ORACLE Racing team members have been actively involved this week hosting guests at the America’s Cup Pavilion as part of the Oracle OpenWorld technical conference.

Throughout the week Tom “The Chairman” Ehman has entertained upwards of 5,000 fans with his presentation of the team’s win in the 33rd America’s Cup at various functions associated with the conference. He’s been assisted in turn by Ian Burns, Dirk de Ridder, Shannon Falcone, Stan Honey, Jono MacBeth, Brian MacInnes and Brad Webb.

In explaining their roles in the team and on the boat, the team members have revealed some interesting notes. Burns, for instance, noted that the trimaran USA gained 50 to 60 percent in performance from its launching in August 2008 through the Cup match last February.

“Nearly every component on the boat was replaced as we advanced the program,” Burns said.

One of the biggest changes, of course, was the addition of the wing and even that went through advancements. The original wing stood 190 feet tall, but grew to 223 feet as the team realized the platform could handle more power.

One of the best stories came from de Ridder, the trimmer of the wing. The Dutchman told listeners that he controlled the wing’s angle of attack with two garage door openers purchased at a hardware store. For such an advanced, complicated boat, the story of simplicity drew chuckles from the crowds.

“The boat has so much carbon-fiber in it that it kept shorting out the electrical control system for the wing,” de Ridder said. “Our technical guru Sheff (Mark Sheffield) got so tired of fixing it every day that he went and bought two garage door openers and hard wired them to the control system. It worked great.”

After the question and answer sessions team members signed posters, hats and t-shirts for the guests, all who were very interested in the presentations.

“My 10-year-old son is fascinated with sailing,” said Kevin from Annapolis, who has a picture of USA as the screen image on his smart phone. “He’s fascinated with numbers and math and wants to be a navigator. He wants to navigate the next Bermuda Race. He’s going to be thrilled with this.”

Fans of the America's Cup crowd the trophy in an effort to get a picture

Tom Ehman addresses the crowd at the America's Cup Pavilion
The crowd gathers around a model of  USA
Brad Webb points out how the foredeck crew operated on the bow of  USA

A fan receives a signed poster

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trio joins Armstrong, others around San Fran

Ian "Fresh" Burns, Jono MacBeth and Brad Webb
In their day jobs, Ian “Fresh” Burns, Jono MacBeth and Brad Webb are, respectively, the design coordinator, grinder and bowman for BMW ORACLE Racing.

In the pre-dawn hours, however, they’re Lance Armstrong followers. At least for today.

The trio joined the cycling star, the all-time winner of the Tour de France and, perhaps, the most famous survivor of cancer, for a cycle around San Francisco this morning along with employees of Oracle Corp.

The ride, organized as part of the Oracle OpenWorld technical conference, helped promote a dual green/exercise initiative from Armstrong, who’s urging city dwellers to ride to work instead of driving as a way to get healthy while reducing one’s carbon footprint.

“He’s a hero of mine, and I think to a lot of people around the world,” said MacBeth. “The fact that he beat cancer and won the Tour de France seven times is amazing.”

The 50-minute ride avoided many of San Francisco’s famous hills and instead took the cyclists along the Embarcadero, the waterfront drive along San Francisco Bay.

“I was nervous the whole way,” said Webb, the bowman who braved the pointy end of the 90-foot trimaran USA. “It was nerve-wracking.”

Everyone was a winner in this ride, and afterwards the crowd of some 100 cyclists gathered for breakfast and a question and answer with Armstrong. One of the questions from the crowd came from a woman whose sister has cancer.

"The most important thing I can relate about having lived through cancer is to be an engaged patient,” Armstrong (left) replied. “Understand what’s going on with your body and establish a relationship with your doctor. 

“When I had cancer in ’96 there was no Google, you couldn’t get on the Internet and search about your illness. We had to go to the bookstore. Now, with the Internet, the patient is empowered,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong said that his involvement with cycling is winding down. While he’ll do events like the Tour Down Under and Tour de California, he won’t compete in the Tour de France.

Armstrong said he plans to compete in the New York City marathon this fall, and hopes to compete in triathlons after deciding if he can still swim. 

“Cycling is a very political sport, it’s not a perfect science,” Armstrong said. “You have to manage 200 guys, the elements and things like cobble stones. One day the guys are your allies, then your enemies the next. It’s like wrapping chess, NASCAR and the Tea Party into one.”

The BMW ORACLE Racing cyclists finish the cycle with Armstrong

Monday, September 20, 2010

Drummond, Jones inducted into Hall of Fame

At the 17th America’s Cup Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony presented by Rolex on Saturday night at the New York Yacht Club in Newport, R.I., the inductees included BMW ORACLE Racing team members Mike Drummond and Murray Jones.

Mike Drummond accepts a Rolex timepiece from Gary Jobson upon entrance to the America's Cup Hall of Fame

Drummond, the team’s design director, was welcomed to the Hall of Fame by team CEO Russell Coutts, who was inducted in 1996. The two worked together in Team New Zealand and were reunited in BMW ORACLE Racing for the 33rd Match.

Jones, now a member of the team’s afterguard, was inducted along with fellow Kiwi legends Simon Daubney, Warwick Fleury and Dean Phipps. As a group they won four America’s Cup Matches from 1995 to 2007, posting a 20-2 record along the way. Famed New Zealand television commentator Peter Montgomery presented them to the hall, where they joined crewmates Coutts and Brad Butterworth (inducted in 2004).

The Hall of Fame also welcomed Halsey Herreshoff of Bristol, R.I., to the hall. Herreshoff is distinguished as the most active America’s Cup sailor during the 12-Meter era, racing as a bowman, crew boss or navigator in six campaigns and four matches. A naval architect and marine engineer, Herreshoff is also the founder of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame along with the late Edward du Moulin.

Below is Coutts’ presentation speech of Drummond.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the America's Cup Hall of Fame, good evening.

Sometimes the art of selling can be better achieved by being subtle!

Just ask Mike Drummond.

Russell Coutts presents Mike Drummond to the Hall of Fame
Early on in Team New Zealand’s first defense campaign – in about 1997 – Mike left an A Class catamaran on my dock at Lake Pupuke on Auckland’s North Shore.

“Why don’t you try sailing a real boat?” suggested Mike.

And some 13 years later, we have multihulls in the America’s Cup.

No doubt multihulls were on Mike’s mind back then, but I can assure you, not many others were thinking that way!

In fact, let’s roll the clock back, to December 2007, when it became obvious a multihull contest was inevitable.

I can tell you, there were some very glum faces in our team, especially among the monohull specialists.

But one face had enthusiasm written all over it – that was Mike’s.

Because behind his modest, quiet demeanour is an incredibly innovative person who loves the idea ... of ideas!

Let’s think about some of the innovations Mike’s been associated with – and I emphasize SOME:

The criss-cross rigging system which every team adopted.

The Hula – and you’ve got to say that making an entire false hull covering a quarter of the boat and getting the measurers to call it an appendage was some kind of genius!

And, of course, Mike was “The” big proponent of the 68-meter wingsail which we used in the last Cup.

And boy, did he have to do some selling to get that idea accepted!

In fact, considering “all” the important choices during our last campaign, Mike was right on all the key concepts, all the way through.

In any America’s Cup campaign, especially a new and difficult one, people with such ability are like gold.

Often, it’s the skippers and sailors who get the attention, but all of us know just how vital design is.

So that’s why I’m particularly delighted to see Mike get this recognition.

Also, because he has helped more than a few of us here win on the water.

All of us who have worked with Mike know he has never been one to talk up his own achievements.

Yet he has won four America’s Cups – two with Team New Zealand, Alinghi and most recently BMW ORACLE Racing.

In 1995, Tom Schnackenberg said Mike’s contribution was three times what anyone outside the team realised.

In 2000, Mike was recognized as a key decision maker in the design team and navigated in two races.

And when you talk to people about Mike, and what has gone into his level of achievement, a few themes always emerge.

One is just how incredibly smart he is.

It amazes me how Mike can effortlessly crunch complex mathematical calculations in his head – while keeping up with the flow of a meeting at the same time.

Another quality is humility.

Yes, Mike, I know I’m starting to embarrass you. But don’t worry; I’m just warming-up.

And the third thing is determination.

As a 9-year-old, Mike started racing at the Glendowie Boating Club in Auckland.

He progressed from P-class to Flying Ants, racing up and down the Tamaki River with a lot of success before moving up to 470s.

A pretty good source told me that at the end of one regatta Mike finished just one point behind Chris Dickson.

His parents were trying to console him saying 2nd was still good.

“No,” Mike said, “only the winner counts.”

So Mike had the America’s Cup in his veins even then.

Then, like a lot of us back then, Mike came into the America’s Cup by accident.

Which I guess is a happy or an unhappy occurrence depending on your point of view!

The first he heard about New Zealand’s first Cup challenge was when he read about it in a yachting magazine.

This was in the mid-eighties – Mike was working on a synthetic fuel plant New Zealand was building in response to an oil crisis.

And it says a lot about the sophisticated Kiwi hiring techniques of the time that the magazine article just said:

“Anyone who could help the team should give them a call.”

So, a little later, Mike, aged 22, rocked-up to an Auckland boatyard.

There, under a tent, and without any security whatsoever, was the mold for the first-ever fiberglass America’s Cup boat.

As I understand it, Russell Bowler (of Farr Yacht Design) then proceeded to interview Mike rigorously.

“So, you know what a chain plate is?”

“Ah…sure I do, yup.”

And remember, Mike had only ever sailed small dinghies at this stage.

“Well, can you draw up and engineer the chain plates and detail how we attach them?”


“By tomorrow?”

And so, at $15 a day, Mike had his first job in the America’s Cup!

Back then of course most New Zealanders had never seen a large keel boat, let alone sailed one.

Pretty well everything had to be approached starting from complete basics.

And it is Mike’s exceptional ability to do just this that has brought him to where he is in the Cup today.

As I’ve already said, during the last campaign he was the first to lead us very strongly towards the wing.

Most people accepted that it should ultimately prove superior, but at the time it was a huge decision and carried an enormous risk.

When Larry heard of the decision the team had made, he paused and said, “OK, but what’s the back-up plan?”

I paused and replied, “Well, there isn’t one.”

After a long pause Larry replied, “It had better work then.”

And it’s in a situation like that when you need someone who can apply a lot of knowledge across the many different areas of the boat.

Mike, you may have not expected to find yourself here tonight. But believe me none of your peers are surprised.

The boats you have helped create are clearly some of the most innovative in the history of the Cup.

It’s an honor to be here tonight, to congratulate you on a distinction you so richly deserve.

Well done Mike. And well done Simon, Warwick, Deano and Murray – it’s been a very, very fun ride!

(Photos courtesy Paul Darling)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Team welcomed at Oracle OpenWorld

Although the BMW ORACLE Racing victory tour officially ended in June, the team is still being celebrated for its victory in the 33rd America’s Cup.
Team founder Larry Ellison (right), the CEO of Oracle Corp., opened the annual Oracle OpenWorld business conference on Sunday night by presenting 15 members of the team to the audience at the Moscone Center ahead of his welcoming keynote speech.

Oracle OpenWorld is the world’s largest gathering of Oracle customers, partners and technologies. Simply put, it is a massive conference with a record attendance this year of 41,000 registrants from 116 countries. It features more than 1,800 sessions, 400 partner exhibits and nearly 400 live Oracle demos.

A total of 726,000 seats were required for the conference, and the estimated population of San Francisco is slightly more than 808,000.

The America’s Cup trophy and members of the team will be on display at the America’s Cup Pavilion in the Moscone North Upper Lobby.

The America’s Cup Pavilion provides a showcase for the BMW ORACLE Racing experience and will be open throughout the week with morning shows and panel discussions hosted by the team’s head of external affairs, Tom “The Chairman” Ehman.

Team members will be available for question and answer sessions and to sign posters. The Pavilion is open daily beginning at 9:30 am.

Team members stand beside the America's Cup at a welcoming reception

Larry Ellison gives his opening keynote speech

A model of USA 17 is on display at the America's Cup Pavilion

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Programming note

The sailing program Mainsail was at the International C Class Catamaran Championship in Newport, R.I., last month recording the action where BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and sailing coach Glenn Ashby placed second to Canadian victors Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke.

The program features interviews with Spithill, Ashby and Clarke as well as some outstanding race footage. Watch Ashby and Spithill nail a port-tack start at high speed in winds around 18 knots!

The program will be aired this weekend on CNN International on the following schedule:

Thursday, Sept. 16, 1230 and 1730 BST
Saturday, Sept. 18, 0730 and 2100 BST
Sunday, Sept. 19, 0430, 0830 and 1600 BST
Monday, Sept. 20 at 0230 BST

The program can also be viewed on the CNN website:

Jimmy, Glenn contend for Aussie SOY

Jimmy Spithill and Glenn Ashby have been brothers in arms for the past several years, their bond growing from skipper and coach to crewmates.

Glenn Ashby (left) and Jimmy Spithill prepare for the I4C
Now they’re going head-to-head in an awards battle that pits Mr. Big Trimaran against Mr. Consistency.

Spithill and Ashby are among the seven finalists (including two dinghy crews) for Australia’s Male Sailor of the Year award presented by Yachting Australia. The nominations recognize outstanding achievement during the period from Aug. 1, 2009, to Aug. 15, 2010.

Spithill’s nomination is owed to his role as skipper of BMW ORACLE Racing in its victory in the 33rd America’s Cup. Spithill guided the giant, 90-foot trimaran USA and its 23-foot wingsail to a resounding, 2-0 victory over Alinghi.

Spithill is just the second Australian to ever skipper an America’s Cup winner. John Bertrand set the mold in 1983 when he led Australia II to the victory that ended the longest winning streak in sporting history, 132 years. Spithill previously won the award for achievements in 2005-06 when he won the Melges 24 and match racing world championships.

Ashby was nominated for his two world championships during the nomination period. In September 2009 Ashby was crew for skipper Darren Bundock in winning the Tornado World Championship. It was their second consecutive Tornado Worlds and third since 2006. In July Ashby won his record-setting seventh A Class Catamaran World Championship, which ranked as the 14th world title in his career.

As crewmembers, the duo reverses roles. Spithill crewed for Ashby at the F18 World Championship in July, placing 18th out of 80 in the Gold Fleet, and the International C Class Catamaran Championship last month, where they were runners-up.

The awards are scheduled to be presented on Oct. 15.

Ashby and Spithill were a formidable duo at the I4C, but couldn't overcome the Canadians' new design

Monday, September 13, 2010

The future is multihulls

Russell Coutts, CEO of BMW ORACLE Racing, unveiled a new vision for the future of the America’s Cup today at a press conference at the team’s base in Valencia.

Coutts was joined by Vincenzo Onorato, President of the Challenger of Record syndicate Mascalzone Latino, in announcing that the next craft for the 34th America’s Cup will be a high-performance, wingsail catamaran known as the AC72.

Other new developments include the formation of an America’s Cup World Series to bring Cup racing to new shores and audiences beginning next year, the creation of the AC45, a scaled-down wingsail catamaran intended to acquaint monohull sailors with multihull racing, and the Youth America’s Cup, which will begin in 2012.

“It’s very exciting,” said Murray Jones (right), afterguard member of BMW ORACLE Racing. “The boats are going to be very physical – grinding the sails and the daggerboards up and down in tacks is a real challenge. It’s going to get everyone thinking of new ways to do things. And it’s going to be exciting for the young sailors. It’s good to give them an avenue into the game.”

Today’s announcement of the Protocol, class of boat and year of the match cements three of the four cornerstones for the next event. The final piece, the venue, is scheduled to be announced by the end of the year.

For more information, please visit the America’s Cup website.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nice ink

Yachting World editor David Glenn rode aboard USA-98 last month at the 1851 Cup during the race around the Isle of Wight. Riding as the 18th Man behind the afterguard of Jimmy Spithill, John Kostecki, Ian Moore and Murray Jones, Glenn walked off beaming from ear to ear. He filed the report posted below in the October 2010 issue of Yachting World.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Plaudits for Turner, Smyth

Congratulations to BMW ORACLE Racing boatbuilders Mark Turner and Tim Smyth who’ve been voted the Seahorse Sailors of the Month for September. Turner and Smyth were recognized for their determined effort organizing and coordinating the construction of the 90-foot long (on waterline) and 90-foot wide trimaran USA, which won the 33rd America’s Cup Match last February.

Turner and Smyth were but two of hundreds of people who spent more than 150,000 man hours creating the largest America’s Cup challenger since New Zealand in 1988. The piece de resistance of the design was the towering wing mast that stands 223 feet tall. Not only is the wing 55 percent larger than the wing of an Airbus A380 passenger jet, it also inhibits the trimaran from passing under many of the world’s bridges.

Turner and Smyth beat out another BMW ORACLE Racing team member for the honor, Glenn Ashby. Ashby, the sailing coach during the lead-up to the 33rd Match, was nominated for winning his seventh A Class Catamaran World Championship in July.

Previously, team founder Larry Ellison won the June Seahorse Sailor of the Month award for his resoluteness in chasing the America’s Cup and also capturing the RC 44 event in Copenhagen at the beginning of June.

See also: