Three months ago, our team won the America's Cup.
If I had been asked three months before meeting Alinghi in the 33rd Cup if we would have been the first, I would have said: «Maybe. If we were lucky».
I really didn't know that.
On the one hand, I understood that USA is superior to Alinghi in its capabilities, especially in medium and strong winds. On the other hand, I was afraid that our incredible sail could ruin everything...
This is a masterpiece of design thought, but its device is very complex - hundreds of details, each of which should show 100 percent reliability. For example, each section of sails was controlled by computer electrohydraulic system - it was designed and created especially for us.
When the decision was made to participate in the regatta, the yacht was still under development. It was frankly scary to go out there. The load was enormous. In the pursuit of weight loss, we had to reduce the safety requirements to a minimum.
28,000 sensors supplied information about the allowable deformations in all elements of the structure, i.e. how much they could bend under the heavier loads without causing designers' concerns. If the weight was exceeded, an alarm sounded.
What was this load? I answer that.
- Compressive load on the mast is over 80 tons.
- Gennaker, over 10 tons.
- Genoa is over 11 tons.
- The geek-scotch, along with the soft sails, is over 25 tonnes.
Some of us used safety helmets, but in the event of a serious breakage they would still not have saved us! We knew that if a trimaran turned over, there was a high probability that someone would die.
There were no training races before the Cup - only tests. But if the boat is rocking well in «peacetime», then everything will only get stronger at the regatta! Our wing reached the height of 68 meters (this is the level of 18-19th floor), and the questions of its control did not give rest neither day nor night.
At a press conference on the results of the first race, I joked that during the previous three days I had slept no more than six hours in total. In fact, it was. At that time nobody knew - and you are the first ones I tell it to - we dropped (and broke!) the wing twice (first in December, then in February), working on the shore.
There was also a case. It was an exceptionally windy day in early January. The Alinghi tent was pulled down and our roof was four metres up and down. If it was pulled down, the heavy aluminium beams would fall right onto the wing. There'd be no way to fix it.
So, reading about our victory over Alinghi with a score of 2-0, about a good time gap of 5 and 15 minutes, do not think that everything went without a bitch without a hitch.
James and the team did a great job. James was in charge of the boat. His outstanding abilities had been talked about a lot before the Cup, but we were impressed by his innate talent as a manager and his passion to learn how to operate a multihull.
I am often asked about the strengths of BMW ORACLE Racing. In my opinion, the most important thing is that the team members are not afraid of responsibility. People are willing to work overtime and are able to cope with the inconveniences of being away from friends and family for a long time.
This Cup was unusual. We built the boat without any design restrictions (except for a few parameters). In practice, the main censors were imagination and time. Besides, we had to take into account the ship's decisions, i.e. our plans were constantly changing.
Our victory is also a fantastic triumph for Larry Ellison. It was his third attempt to win the Cup. It took him 10 years to win, and it was very important for him to be on board in the second race.
Larry's experience is invaluable. Even at the beginning of the preparations for the regatta, he gave the idea of where the main efforts should be directed, and after many months, the fairness of his judgments was repeatedly confirmed. Larry is well versed in technical nuances and, as a pilot, understands what it means to fly the wing, as well as the potential dangers when climbing and descending it.
He once asked me about a plan of action in case the wing was broken or damaged. When I answered that we simply didn't have a plan (we didn't have time to work it out), Larry said, "«Then make sure the hell it doesn't happen».
The reaction of Larry, in general, and any of us, at the sight of the wing at the stage of its creation - it is invariable «Wow!».
Ambition and imagination always make you want more. I think the most interesting thing in this life is exploring the limits of the possible. This is what yachtsmen, designers, shipbuilders do. That's the philosophy of our team.
We wanted to create a yacht as dynamic, as «efficient» as possible.
I think we did it.
The technology of the winged sail is not new, but I was impressed by its power and the speed and ease of changing the shape of the sail. The wing area is smaller than the mast and sail combinations we used before. That's because the lifting power of the wing is disproportionately larger. The sail has 9 flaps, each of which can be operated separately. The trimmers, like Jimmy, had to learn new skills.
Now that we are responsible for the America's Cup, our main challenge is to come up with a sensible solution that takes into account the interests of 12-15 good teams.
As you know, valuable lessons for the future can be found in the past. Remembering the America's Cups, which I saw as a spectator and took part in, I can't help but mention some really amazing regattas.
1987, Australia, Fremantle - there was something fantastic. The action full of drama and successful from the point of view of TV broadcasts - wind, waves and sunlight combined to give a great picture.
The Auckland Regattas are well remembered: those two games clearly demonstrated how a harbour specially built for the America's Cup could scale up the event and bring economic benefit to the host city.
In 2003, the Swiss announced a competition for the right to be the venue of the Cup, and as a result it won the third largest city in Spain. At the same time, for the first time in history, the challenger entrusted the defender with the commercial rights to the qualifying and cup competitions.
When the Swiss athletes first brought the Cup to Europe, several cities competed for the right to host the regatta. Profit from the Cup increased tenfold - and the consolidation of commercial and media rights played a significant role in this. Ridiculous things like when one watchmaker sponsored a defender and another sponsored a contender are a thing of the past, just like when one TV company received the right to broadcast qualifying stages and a completely different one - the final Cup match. Valencia turned the coast into a beautiful port, and the regatta itself was one of the most successful in the history of the Cup.
Despite the fact that the ACC5 class boats have been sailing for 17 years and by 2007 were finally out of date, the fight turned out to be very fierce and spectacular. So what went wrong last time? Why did the disagreement arise?
One of the main problems was that the Defender was able to control all the rules, as well as unilaterally choose the race committee, the Umpire and the international jury. All of this could have been avoided if those aspects had been managed by an independent organization.
This way guarantees equal rights and fair rules for the defender and the challengers - and the next Cup will be like this. At the consent of participants such system can be confirmed as constant. As, by the way, and selection process in jury - it will be better, if disputable questions will be solved in due time by professionals responsible for it. In this case, you will not have to go to the courts in New York.
On the other hand, we understand perfectly well the importance of preserving the unique, traditional aspects of the Cup - the regatta should by no means be turned into an ordinary race.
For example, the fact that the winner has the right to determine the venue of the next Cup and to make a commercial profit helps the participants to gain support on political and regional level. It is also a good incentive for team owners to do something for their country. The ability to choose a venue is probably the most important trophy in modern sport.
So, we're all for fair rules.
Our views are shared by the new registered challenger (Challenger of Record) - Italian club Nautico di Roma, in particular, the head of the team Vincenzo Onorato. The winner of the 34th Cup will be the one who will be able to design and build the fastest boat and will be better than his rivals.
We had already started to listen to the teams, particularly at the recent Louis Vuitton Trophy races in Auckland and La Maddalena (Sardinia). We also recently held a boat design conference for the future Cup, which brought together some 20 of the world's top sailing yacht designers.
Our message to the contestants is that we are open and open minded. We already have feedback on our work - and it is positive. Our goal is to make the 34th America's Cup the best ever so that it will help to expand the circle of fans and fans of sailing. We are committed to respecting tradition and doing our best to attract additional audiences by using the latest technology, especially in the television industry.
The America's Cup is 159 years old. It is a unique sporting event. Taking part in the Cup has always been quite difficult. Appropriate funding and a cohesive team of talented designers, scientists, craftsmen and yachtsmen are required. In addition, a system of effective teamwork needs to be developed. It's like starting a startup with ten others at the same time. There are four years of fierce competition ahead - and only one will survive.
In other words, the America's Cup is a very difficult competition. But that's the beauty of it.
So, my question is: will Russia participate in the 34th America's Cup?
I personally really hope so.