This series did not end the way we had planned. The score told the story of an unbelievably tough regatta; the most competitive series of match racing ever staged in the America’s Cup. Our comeback from 3-1 and the broken mast, were answered by Prada’s comeback from facing a double match point. Each team bore its heart and soul several times throughout the twelve-day ordeal. But in the ninth and final race, Prada had the upper hand. We are very disappointed. We don’t accept defeat easily…in fact we take it on the chin. It is personal and the sting won’t be forgotten soon with the AmericaOne Team.
However, there is a lot to be proud of and much of this has been pointed out by people like you in the past few days. AmericaOne was the best team in the USA and came very close to beating the best that the world had to offer. It is a fact that Prada spent twice the money and time that we did toward the same goal. So how did we get so close? People, organization, determination, and passion. We had the best group that I have ever worked with in a Cup and it was an honor to have them commit to our campaign. No one came to work at AmericaOne for the money. They came out of respect for the group we had assembled and the belief in those people and their determination. This is the most satisfying compliment I have ever had and I want to once again thank every member of AmericaOne for their effort and commitment.
Also, we would never have gotten where we were without our corporate partners, many of whom are world leaders in their industry. What and honor to have the support and confidence of Ford Motor Company, Global Integrity, Hewlett-Packard, Intessa, SAIC, Telcordia Technologies, United Technologies, Visteon, Network Solutions, Lycos and Charles Schwab! Most of these companies had a very direct involvement in the technical program of AmericaOne and truly made a difference in our boat speed at the end of the day. AmericaOne was the only US team to gather over $20M of corporate support.
Our private donors are also very near and dear to us. Many come from the St. Francis Yacht Club, where I grew up in the junior program in the 70’s. Thanks to the leadership of Larry and Jan Finch, Fritz and Lucy Jewett and Tom and Alexa Seip, the Founders’ Club generated $8M. Much of this money came early and allowed us to make commitments to key people in 1996 and begin technical work that requires long lead time. The “seed” money concept of a start-up company was the model we used and it too was a critical piece of our puzzle.
What went right? Too much to list but I want to mention a few highlights:
* Bruce Nelson and his technical team did an awesome job of coordinating the efforts of 40 plus people, many of them representatives of our sponsors, and produced two excellent boats in USA 49 and USA 61. Prada was designed by the man who designed the Kiwi boat in 1995, so they had a strong starting point and an open checkbook for the past three years. We were basically equal to their performance…that was a big wall we scaled technically!
* The corporate sponsors made a selection from a field of six candidates in the USA and chose AmericaOne. We delivered on our prediction that we would be the best team from America. This is important to me because talk was cheap in 1997 but the proof is in the results.
* AmericaOne also set the standard for corporate fulfillment in the sport of sailing. It was an important goal of mine that we provide a valuable commercial experience for our corporate partners and I believe we have succeeded in this.
* I know that our private donors, who made the trip down to New Zealand, really enjoyed the America’s Cup experience and I am happy they could see first hand how the team operates. We had all our private supporters with us in name on the inside of the boat, another personal touch that I am proud of.
* Bob Billingham and his staff set up outstanding operational facilities both in Long Beach, CA and Auckland, NZ and did it very cost effectively.
* Everyone on the team, from the crew to the shore team, from accounting to food and housing approached their jobs as a competition with the individuals who held similar jobs on other teams.
* Time and again, after mistakes were made, we looked ourselves in the mirror honestly, made adjustments and came out the next day hitting on all cylinders. This is a critical trait for any successful team; and AmericaOne has it!
What went wrong? We did not win.
* Time was probably our biggest enemy. Construction of USA 61 was delayed when a sponsor withdrew. Our team operated for just over one year. Our competition operated for three years and was sailing their race boats for six months.
* A bit too much on the key peoples plates. Trying to stay lean at the outset meant a management structure that was small and probably overloaded.
Where do we go from here?
I have been overwhelmed by the e-mails and faxes of encouragement during the past 48 hours. Even though life for us these days is disappointing it seems that there is a large amount of respect for what we have achieved and an equally large amount of support for the continuation of AmericaOne. This is helping us recover.
I believe that after the appropriate digestive period, AmericaOne may challenge for the Cup again. We don’t give up easily and what we have built should be added to, not left to flounder. The assets we have are top quality and completely unencumbered. We have run a program that is flush…no debt. We have a very experienced team that should stay together. We must start very soon as all this talent can quickly disperse. I would like to think of the next few months as a well-deserved break between chapters rather than the end of a book.
I believe that we always handled ourselves professionally with class and dignity. These are traits, which are larger than any one of these events and are very important to me. It has been an honor and pleasure to represent all of you, our corporate partners, the St. Francis Yacht Club, and America. I thank you for this opportunity.