On May 10, St. Francis Yacht Club entered America’s Cup XXX. This was the culmination of six months work in finding start up support and recruiting a core team of talent. But it is just the beginning of a lot of hard work to prepare the fastest boat and best crew to try to take the Cup away from the Kiwi’s in 2000, admittedly a tall order. In some ways I can’t believe I am doing this to myself and some of my best friends. But I am addicted, I guess. At least that is the excuse I come up with when questioned by my wife.
After my participation in the last two America’s Cups, where I was at the helm of the losing yacht in the finals each time, I am very aware of the value of having a fast boat. I want to acknowledge that Russell Coutts and his team were probably the best team of sailors in San Diego in 1995 as well as having the fastest boat. But their skill probably did not account for all of the delta in the race results. I would really like to have the fastest boat in 2000. How do I get it?
The business of yacht design has become more and more technical. In addition to wind tunnel and towing tank experimentation, incorporating analytical tools(including computational fluid dynamics codes) into the design process of America’s Cup yachts has proven determinant. The codes are primarily used to measure lift & drag on hulls, and appendages. By using computer models the designers can evaluate 1000’s of designs. The accuracy of these models is critical. The Kiwi’s bit off pieces of the puzzle, like the winglets, and used proven codes (models) to optimize those pieces. The designers did the integration. Ultimately a fully integrated, dynamic, computer model will be available. It is just a question of time. The one good thing about the Kiwi’s putting the Cup off for five years is that we now have time to do some serious technical work. In fact our technical team, led by Bruce Nelson, has already begun working.
In mapping out our challenge for 2000, I spoke about all the above with Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape Communications. He also happens to have a Ph.d.. in Physics so he understands all this stuff better than I do. Jim was, and is, motivated by the challenge, and believes that we can bring a new level of technology to the business of designing America’s Cup yachts. When Jim offered to Chair our challenge, I was convinced to go ahead.
The key management of AmericaOne includes Laurent Esquier who ran the Il Moro operation in 1992, Designer Bruce Nelson who won the Cup 1987 and designed the fastest US boat in 1995, John Kostecki who will be tactician, Doug Smith, our business manager, and Craig Fuller, former Chief of staff for George Bush and currently Co-Chairman of Burson and Marsteller, who will lead the corporate fundraising program.
We have notable support already in corporate form from Science Applications International Corp(SAIC) and Silicon Graphics Inc.(SGI). Both of the companies have people, experience and equipment that has helped to win America’s Cups in the past ten years. On a personal level we have John McCaw and Jim Clark. And last but not at all least we have St. Francis Yacht Club behind us which is home to John Kostecki and myself. The members are very enthusiastic about this new adventure and the opportunity to put St. Francis back into the top echelon of International sailing.
One of my prime motivators for challenging from St. Francis is to bring the Cup to San Francisco. San Francisco Bay is the best venue in the world to showcase sailing. 500,000 people see the bay each day without even trying. Many International Companies have world headquarters in SF. SF is one of the biggest convention cities in the world, and has 50 million tourists a year. I believe San Francisco is the environment in which sailing could best derive its commercial value. This is important for the America’s Cup that costs about $200M to stage. I think there could be some nice trickle down effects to the rest of sailing if we could make the America’s Cup earn it’s keep.
For me; the fact that the Cup has left the US, the fact that the next Cup is in 2000 and is Pacific Rim, the fact that the San Francisco area is dominant in the technological word, the fact that this game has become more and more technological all add to my feeling that this challenge is born in the right place at the right time with the right people.