Best of British
When, on January 4, 2007, Sir Keith Mills announced that he was creating a new British team, capable of winning the America's Cup, there was a certain amount of sceptism. It had all been said before and the record of past teams, with GBR on their sails, has not exactly been glorious.
Despite having an excellent record, in Olympic competition, Britain hasn't really looked like it could win the America's Cup, since it last had the 100 Guineas trophy and, despite Sir Keith's positive attitude, few thought this attempt was likely to be different. For a start, Sir Keith is rich, but scarcely in the Bertarelli, or Ellison league and, secondly, he would be up against it in persuading top people to risk it with a new team.
Well it looks like Sir Keith has solved both problems, for he has not only managed to persuade an array of talent to join TeamOrigin, but has also got another British millionaire entrepreneur on board, in the shape of Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse.
Naval Architect, Doug Schickler, went along to the Southampton Boat Show, on behalf of BYM News, to meet TeamOrigin and put some questions to design co-ordinator Andy Claughton.
There has been some discussion recently about teams that have "design by committee" versus. a design team structure with a responsible individual. What’s your opinion?
AC: I think it is very important that your principal designer has a vision for how he wants the boat to be and it is up to him to enact that vision. So I think that what the guys are trying to say by “designing by committee” was that it is always very difficult if you have two principal designers, one's stock will inevitably rise and the other's has to be diminished. So, I am quite happy with the concept of a single principal designer, but, there is the challenge to bring to bear the talents of a design team that is 25 strong, and make sure that everybody's skills are being leveraged into getting a faster boat.
Is 25 strong the current number, or a plan?
AC: Well, that is pretty much where we are up to. If the guys we expect to sign contracts, sign contracts, then yeah 25 or 30 will be the number.
Is there a main sponsor yet?
AC: We are in negotiations with several potential sponsors, but it is hard to get a signature on a piece of paper until the court case has all been solved.
Who will be in charge of Computational Fluid Dynamics?
AC: We have a guy called Rodrigo Azcueta. He is part of Juan's operation. One of the incentives in involving Juan Yacht Design is that they come with design office infrastructure that would take a team starting from the ground up quite a long time to put together. So it really becomes effectively a one-stop shop for CFD and mechanical design and that sort of thing.
Where will you be tank testing?
AC: We will definitely be tank testing through the guys at the Wolfson, but which facility we'll use depends on what questions we are trying to answer.
What about mast design and aero?
AC: We've got Mickey Ickert who is our aero director and Bruce Thompson. Guys who have worked together.
What was the main reason you chose Team Origin; coming home?
AC: Well I always had ambitions to work for a British America's Cup challenge. It feels like I have served a 20 odd year apprenticeship and now it is time to start the job.
We discussed briefly the hierarchical team structure. You said that you need a clear vision from your principal designer and that the advantage of going with a team like Juan and his company is that they bring a lot more capability behind just the one person.
AC: Yes; essentially when you are on such a tight timeline, you have got to build on existing relationships. So obviously Mike has a relationship with Juan's team in Juan design. They work with each other, they know each other and you are basically building on existing relationships.
Mike Sanderson is on record as saying the new boat levels the playing field. In one way, we know that is true, because bigger budget teams can spend more on the incremental changes in version 5. On the other hand, with such a short time frame, you really have to throw a fair amount of resources at the problem in order to get a good first start. How do you see it?
AC: Well, I think it does level the playing field, but only if you are well resourced. What you have done is you've taken the experience factor out of game. So everybody is starting new. But, what you haven't taken out of the game is that you need to have a well resourced team hitting the ground running.
With no two boat testing, does Origin intend to build 2 boats?
AC: That is the plan at present, yes.
With new boats is it safer to mode the boats fundamentally differently? Maybe you see it differently, but, in my opinion, BMWOR built two fundamentally different yachts for AC 33, but Mascalzone Latino really had two of one type, working on incremental improvements. Which way do you see it in a brand new class and wide open playing field?
AC: I think it is a bit difficult to answer that question until you actually see the rule. You might well find that the rule is so tightly drawn up, that the moding tools you have available are quite small. So that is up in the air.
Have you been asked already for your input into the new class?
AC: We are going to a meeting tomorrow, with Tom Snackenburg, Alinghi and with the guys from ACM. We hope to come back with some more information, but who knows.
Come back with, or put in some?
AC: It is going to be interesting. I don't know if we are going to be lectured at or invited for comment. We have had no inkling as to what they will be doing.
If you are asked to put in, what are your main priorities?
AC: I would like to see boats forced to be fairly similar. I think it has taken 100 America's Cup Class yachts to get to a point where we've had a tolerably close America's Cup match. It would be a shame to throw out that baby with the bathwater of a new rule. I think the public wants to see a close yacht race and the lead changing hands. If you have a very wide design space, then it will be one or the other boat's day and they will just yacht on.
I, personally, have some ideas about the version 5 IACC rule. To me it was all about the sails and a recent Grant Simmer interview backed this up. There was a lot of development in the sail department and I’d like to see a little bit more freedom in the hull and appendage department. Do you think think that is likely, or unlikely?
AC: I think it is likely. It will be important to get the right naval architectural solution. I think some people will get it right and some people will get it hopelessly wrong. I think there will be ample scope.
Returning to GBR 75, do you think that anything has to be done to the boat to catch up with the 2007 generation? You must know very well how it compares with Team New Zealand.
AC: I think there are a few things we will be able to do. It doesn't faze me at all having to race 75.
Do you think there is going to be a short design cycle to make it more competitive?
AC: It is certainly on our list of things to tackle, but fortunately we have gotten a very good rig, that came with the boat and, obviously, we have access to the latest sail designs through Mickey Ickert. So, we will certainly look to be absolutely on the pace with the aerodynamic package.
So this is clearly one of the later version 5 masts?
Last question. When Team Origin acquired the new boat (ex-SUI 75) was there prior knowledge, within Origin, that the class would change?