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