Oracle - one race from victory

After day three of Louis Vuitton Cup semi final repechage in Auckland

Sunday December 22nd 2002, Author: Louis Vuitton Media Centre, Location: Australasia
After the racing today Oracle BMW Racing's Chris Dickson and OneWorld's Peter Gilmour gave their accounts of today's events...

Q - Chris, how close did the rigs come in the dial up of the first meeting?

Chris - I didn’t look up to see the rigs and and it wasn’t until afterwards that Ian Burns told me that they became very very close and that he was looking up and got a real shock.

Q – Although the speeds seem to be close and your boats comfortable most of the time but when you take the helm on the start what are you relaying back to the crew that then isn’t required later when you’ve handed back to Peter Holmberg?

Chris – The first beat is everyday always a little bit different. The conditions are different, the breeze is different. It lets me get my head around the wind pressure, what’s working, what’s not working with the boat, the way we’re sailing it and setting up the sails, the technical side of it. It gives me a good grasp of it for the rest of the race.

Q – Chris, are you confident enough to hand back to Peter after that.

Chris – I am confident enough to have Peter driving all the time, he is doing a fantastic job for us, he’s a fantastic helmsman.

Q – Peter, OneWorld came into the start on starboard and hit the line with a penalty and had to return because of a premature start. What went wrong?

Peter – Not a lot went wrong. We probably really hung up a bit too long in the luffing situation and it was pretty obvious from 30 or 40 seconds before we got the penalty that it was going to be tight. There was a reasonable chance with us in that situation that the wind would have gone and that could occur. I think then being OCS at the start was just a fundamental error we made that we shouldn’t have, that didn’t help our day either. I guess looking forward from here, or looking back on the 3 races we’ve had, they’ve been 3 reasonably interesting encounters and Oracle have done a pretty good job, just getting the lead and then defending their position quite nicely. We’ve had a couple of restarts in the early races where it got to the top mark and it could have gone for anybody and they’ve defended it nicely. I think they are a very challenging team to race against. It’s a little frustrating because you haven’t seen the best of us yet on the racecourse and I certainly hope the best is yet to come.

Q – Peter, how do you mean we haven’t seen the best of you, do you mean simply a win? In hingsight looking on the previous 3 races, are there moments there when you think you could have won it or do you think they’ve just been able to do what they had to do to stay ahead?

Peter – It seems pretty obvious that there isn’t any tremendous difference in the performance of the boats and they do have slightly different characteristics. There have been opportunities in past races, and simply decisions have had to be made, the bear away set gybe set at a particular mark and then go in a particular direction. It’s gone well for them and thus far they have worked that aspect of it extremely well. We really as a team feel a sense of frustration and this hasn’t really changed a great deal from the first day of this regatta. We still simply have to win 5 races to go through into the next round. I don’t think that thought has changed from everybody within our team.

Q – Peter, you had the chance to talk with James after the race how was his reaction after that start. Are you considering changing James for the start tomorrow?

Peter – James often gets up here and suggests how old I am and I’ve very much wanted to tease him and rib him about how young he is, but he is a superb talent and I have complete faith and trust in him and an individual. Obviously mistakes get made in this game and they get made by anybody at any level. I think James is a talent for today and tomorrow and he’s got my complete commitment.

Q – The pressure is not getting to him too much? The pressure is on all of you?

Peter – I don’t think there’s any more pressure on him than any other day. James is extremely mature for his young years and under fire and heat he excels time and time again. If the bow of that boat had been one metre in a different position you would all be saying was a superb job he’s managed to do starting. Its simply one of those situations that occurs and that’s life. We have a great team camaraderie, we’ve all sailed the boat together, we’ve sailed to win and if we have a loss we lose together. He typifies that and he was obviously annoyed about it and got over it very quickly after the finish and we’re thinking about tomorrow.

Q – Chris, how important is it for you to wrap this up tomorrow and gain perhaps a few extra days?

Chris – We would certainly like to go through as soon as we can. To win this repechage we had to win 4 races at the beginning of it and we still have to win one race, so our task hasn’t changed and our task is to focus on winning that one race. We will be trying our best to do that tomorrow.

Q – Are you having fun Chris?

Chris – No, I’m not having fun. It’s hard work out there. Peter and the OneWorld team are doing a very good job they are always right there, theya re quite capable of coming back and we’ve seen time and time again and we know that we can’t put a foot wrong. It’s tough racing and this week we have had very shifty conditions this week which complicates it further and we’ve got to keep working hard and doing what we’re doing. We’ve got a great crew and crew work and we have the ability to match tack for tack for tack which tactically makes it a lot easier for me. The last run today being able to match gybe for gybe for gybe it took all the tactial options out of it and it was a crew work race to the finish. So we know we have a fantastic crew and a good boat and we know we have to win another race.

Q – Chris – there’s some discussion about this teardrop shaped thing at the back of your boat where the cameras are. What is it and what does it do?

Chris – No. We have a number of pieces of equipment on the boat and we don’t comment on what any of them are.

Q – Peter – Has OneWorld raised this question with the jury to see if it constitutes outside assistance or anything like that. What are your thought on it?

Peter – I actually haven’t been that involved with the question to the jury, all I know is that it is a radar for tracking the speed and performance of the other yacht, and I understand that’s what they use it for. They don’t have to use a laser range finder at all. So whether you’re ahead or behind of them it tracks the other yacht. I guess our question is, what other information comes through the same system.

Q – What information would you think could be coming in that would violate the rules of the regatta?

Peter – I think the whole receipt of the information onboard yacht, the rules are quite strict on that and as I understand radar can both send and receive information. So our question is are you allowed to receive information onboard the yacht on the performance of the other yacht. I think that is the thrust of the question.

Q – Do you have any comment Chris?

Chris – I am not actually sure what Peter’s talking about. We are fully aware of the rules and the rules are very clear on outside assistance. So without discussing any particular issue because I am not sure what the issue is, we are fully within in the rules in every way.

Q – Chris, we noticed that after the finish a huge bunch of bananas was on board. How do you stand on superstition?

Chris – I am very superstitious they were actually on the chase boat and did not come onboard the boat until after the finish of the race. So no banana’s onboard during racing.

Q – Peter, I don’t need to remind you that one more loss and your gone, what do you say to the guys at a time like this? When you have worked for years and strived for this.

Peter – The team is fairly focused. From the beginning of these races a few days ago the focus and the emphasis hasn’t changed whatsoever at all. I think the important thing is to keep things as normal as possible. Just go out there another day and just do it as best as we can. I think not to focus on the outcome at all, just focus on what’s at hand each minute and as you go through the day focus on what you need to work on. So the primary thrust of the team is to stay focused with the job at hand and work on it from there. A series like this, in this situation, you have to focus on each race and deal with it as best you can. I sincerely believe that you haven’t seen the best from us yet. We would like to be able to showcase and show that to you.

Q – Peter – You must be frustrated we haven’t seen your best. Is this the sum total of the Reeves thing catching up with you? Or is simply decisions on the water? Let’s talk about race one when you led for the first 3 or 4 tacks and you decided to go left to right and the decision how far you went right proved to be key.

Peter – If you look closely at that first race, clearly Oracle in a leeward position about 350 metre, obviously got more wind in that particular position than us and just sailed out from underneath us a little bit faster and with the increase in pressure. At the same time the breeze went right a little bit as well and its just one of the vagaries of the racing out there. We could have easily have come across and tacked on them and sent them out the other way and the result at that particular point in time would clearly be different. I think watching the race you get very much a birds eye view of what’s going on, and can hear the audio off both the boats, you can quite often make a call that’s more intuitive than we can off the boats. But we just have what we have and work with that onboard. I think in the second race it was equally as close up the first beat and we got into a situation where we lifted up quite a bit on the righthand side and the breeze dropped down to 12 knots for us and stayed about 15-16 for Oracle, but that’s just life out there and there are plenty of opportunities where its changed and gone back the other way. I think the reflection of somehow trying to connect all this together with the Reeves-gate business is just baloney and there you have it. A disaffected employee is turfed out a year and a half ago and it means nothing to us, on the contrary it is a major motivating factor in the team.

Q – So the frustration is what’s happening on the water?

Peter – To be honest with you, we can sail better than we have been. We can look for the wind shifts better and not get into these small puffs. I don’t think there is any secret in the fact that we point a little higher, probably go a little bit slower than Oracle in a lot of these sort of situations. There’s a little niche difference in that performance speed but when you look at the time it took to get to the top mark, we are right there in a very similar time and at the end of the day you have to look after and manage those resources as best you can and there’s still some edge to be seen.

Q – Chris, what can you get from being on the handlebars that you couldn’t get from standing behind him, when Peter’s come out like a topgun from the start box? What precisely are you getting?

Chris – A person on the wheel on these boats can sense and see a lot that no one else can. You can follow the instruments and you can see telltales on the jib, you have the wheel in your hand, you know how the boats loading and unloading, you get a better comprehension about what’s going on under the water, what’s going on with the sail setup and you can get the whole picture.

Q – Will we see you on the first beat tomorrow Peter Gilmour?

Peter – The little bugger won’t let me have a go!!

Q – The last round of the regatta just before you raced Prada and Stars & Stripes, both launched protests against you claiming as we later found out improprieties in the design process. OneWorld howled and said that was a distraction and why don’t we just settle this on the water. Now it appears that there are two levels of protest from OneWorld. One that there are possible design improprieties with Oracle and the other about the use on the back. How do you as a sportsman, balance out your outrage having those sorts of charges raised at the last hour against you, raise yourself now?

Peter – I think there’s an enormous subtlety and a difference as to how those issues are managed. For instance our question has gone in front of the jury, that question, just seeking clarification with respect to the use of this radar thing. As best I understand it, also Gary Wright is dealing with Doug Smith and Tom Ehman trying to deal with other issues about them receiving America One design information, and is giving them every opportunity to explain themselves. I think there is an enormous difference between the way those issues have been managed from what you describe from Stars and Stripes and Prada.

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