McLaughlin's background is long and varied. His last full time America's Cup experience was in 1987 with the New York Yacht Club's Challenge America II. Between now and then he has worked for North Sails Connecticut, where he has specialised in consulting on competition projects, someone who can not only advise a team on what sails they need and how to use them but to look past the sails and help in the management, teamwork and technology to bring his customers up to their top potential. His job will be to manage the Areva Challenge sailing team across the board, from the sports planning to the coordination with the Design Team and the Shore Team. McLaughlin has built a solid reputation for his human qualities and his capability in group motivation.
“Areva Challenge is in the perfect position to improve quickly and become a real surprise in the America's Cup competition," says McLaughlin: "I am joining the team because first of all I believe in Mr Kandler's approach to the 32nd running of the Cup: From a multi-national team, small in numbers, but deep in talent. Unlike some of the big teams, this structure is more flexible, allowing rapid learning and creative solutions as we approach the Louis Vuitton competition (without losing all the fun of sailing!).
"My task will be to help the individual talent continue to get to the top of the game. For sure the technical team will produce a complete package with the speed to win, but the Cup will be won on the race course, so next spring it will come down to who wants to win, and which crews are truly prepared.
"Areva Challenge has the framework to improve quickly, the technical team to produce the speed, and the most important ingredient, the sailing talent to win. I see my job as one of the chefs in the kitchen to help put all these ingredients together in a timely way for an America's Cup feast!”
General Manager Dawn Riley gave her view: "We are looking forward to having Tom's mature and experienced point of view helping to manage the Sailing Team and coordinate the human sailors side with the design program. We are coming up to a phase where we need to have all departments working at 1000% if we are going to optimise our sailing team, our new boat and then go on to win a lot of races in 2007."
Fabrice Levet comes from the French National Sailing School (which is linked to the Ministry of Sports & Youth). He has extensive experience in match racing as a sailor, but also as a coach. He has won several titles, including two World Champion titles with Bertrand Pacé. Fabrice has been part of the last three French America’s Cup syndicates, as a sailor or as a manager. He will be a true coach for the Sailing Team, and he will particularly work on the tactics, communication, crew work and generally putting a polish on the Areva Challenge when it is out on the race course.
Fabrice Levet : “First, I’m very proud and honoured with the trust placed in me by the management and the Areva Challenge team. My role will be to organise the training on the water, to coordinate the planning with the technical requirements, to listen to all the crew and particularly to the afterguard, in order to progress towards the standard required to reach the semi finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007.
"I know most of the members in the team: the sum of all the talents there makes this challenge realistic. Of course, the eight months coming up we will have work hard, but also show a solidarity and team spirit which are essential for the confidence development within the team. For sure, a key moment will be the arrival of OUR boat in November, and the training with her. Her optimisation and improvement will then be our daily duty. It is our job to sharpen this weapon, and to train with it against other competitors as soon as possible.”
Together Tom and Fabrice will be assessing, supporting and improving the Areva Challenge Sailing Team. Initially this will take place when Areva Challenge starts full sailing operations again in September with Sebastien Col as helmsman, Thierry Peponnet as tactician, Tanguy Cariou as strategist, Nicolas Charbonnier as the wind watcher and Jean François Cuzon as navigator.
Since being moved to the helm, Sebastien Col has been out on the match racing circuit and doing very very well with two straight Grade 1 wins (International French Match Racing Regatta in Pornichet and the Danish Open). “He will be ready to take the helm of the ACC boat and with Thierry's support in the role of tactician, we hope to continue improving our performance”, adds Dawn Riley.
Stephane Kandler, Areva Challenge CEO, concludes: “We’re very happy to welcome those new team members who will bring us all their experience of the high level competition. They will allow us to optimize our performance in the final preparation time towards April 2007. More than their capabilities, we want personalities who corresponds to the spirit we have built since 2001, and thanks to the involvement of the all team in these choices, I’m sure that we will continue to improve faster to reach the level of the top teams”.