Chatting with Coutts

Q and A session on the Alinghi base

Tuesday January 21st 2003, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: Australasia
Team Alinghi Co-Executive Directors Russell Coutts and Michel Bonnefous spoke at a press conference on the base about winning the Louis Vuitton Cup and qualifying to challenge for the 31st America's Cup.

Michel Bonnefous : This is an historic moment for our team, our country, and the America's Cup because it is the first time a land-locked country has taken part in this challenge. We're very proud of this. There was a tremendous number of people and boats out on the water, there was a lot of emotion and cheering when we came into the Viaduct Basin and it was the welcome we were hoping for. It was a great moment. People have followed this event back home and in various cities in Switzerland, bars were kept open for people to watch our team. One of the keys of Alinghi's success is the quality of people and the strong team spirit. The quality of relationships in the team makes us strong today. We have won the Louis Vuitton Cup and we are very happy, but our goal is to try to win the America's Cup and we have to concentrate on this objective. We will make some changes to the boat, the team will have a well-deserved rest and then we will go back on the water for training.

Russell Coutts : The atmosphere when we went into the Viaduct Harbor was quite special, with all those people there cheering to welcome both teams after a great Final. It was a wonderful finale to the competition, beyond our expectations, but we were hoping for it. We were a very happy team. Our policy is that it is important to celebrate our victories and we certainly enjoyed the celebration last night. It provides closure for that part of the competition. But now we have to re-focus and move and start planning for the America's Cup match. We have to look at various aspects of the campaign, instigate some changes to the boat and the crew practice. We're looking forward to the forthcoming match. We were always hoping it would happen, and now that it has, we are delighted to be in the America's Cup Final.

Q: Will the changes you make to the boat include the underwater appendage, the bustle?

Russell Coutts : We are still considering things. We can now focus on racing against Team New Zealand and their characteristics. It's no secret that they have a formidable boat. We have to look at how we can place Alinghi to be competitive against their boat.

Q: Have you been pushed hard in this match and been forced to reveal more or less than you wanted?

Russell Coutts : I knew we would be pushed hard. We knew Oracle BMW Racing would be a hard opponent particularly in the Finals, especially after the changes that they made, I knew they would be a much better boat. We have a tremendous respect for their team. We learned a lot of lessons and we've taken some things out of that match to improve our performance for the future.

Q: After their modifications, was it good value to sail against Oracle BMW Racing and were they a competitive boat?

Russell Coutts : They motored their boat for light conditions, and we had light wind for almost the whole series, so that was a smart move on their part. We have two boats on the Alinghi syndicate. The boats that we are using now are 75 and 64 and there's a lot of value in testing on 75 because we know precisely what the characteristics of that yacht are in each range on conditions. Then we can judge the performance of any changes we make to 64 next to 75. We know with certainty what the effects of those changes are. We get better direction with our own boats.

Q: Do you have any trepidation about going into the next round?

Russell Coutts : This is going to be a fantastic race. For everyone watching it, it's got all the intrigue and two very good teams up against each other, and that's what sport is all about. There will be a lot of home support for Team New Zealand, and that's going to be fantastic, but there will be support for Team Alinghi as well from all of our supporters.

Q: Will things be done differently with the America's Cup if it goes to Europe?

Russell Coutts : I think there has been a lot of talk with representatives from the other challengers to suggest ways to make the event even better. It's already a magnificent event in New Zealand and we want to keep the momentum going for the event. Of course, before anything happens, we still have to win the America's Cup.

Q: What is your driving ambition?

Russell Coutts : The America's Cup race. I was put in a new environment with a new group of people. I still have excellent memories of working with people over the past 15, 20 years in some cases. But a change is good. We have 14 nationalities on Alinghi, we are working out every morning, sailing every day together and being a part of a new and diverse group people is very stimulating. We are also pushing new limits in terms of the technical aspects of yacht design and increasing innovations.

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