Mastermind


James Boyd spoke to Alinghi Director and General Manager, Michel Bonnefous about what makes the Swiss team tick
Landlocked Switzerland is not the first country you would think of to excel at yachting. True there has been Pierre Fehlmann, the Bourgnon brothers and Bernard Stamm, but otherwise Swiss sailing is not a huge sport. What Switzerland does have are outstanding businessmen, who enjoy sports and one such person is the bespectacled, jovial Michel Bonnefous, General Manager of Alinghi and the man who runs the show alongside Russell Coutts. A sailing enthusiast Bonnefous grew up with Ernesto Bertarelli in the same district in Geneva and the two have been lifelong friends. Professionally Bonnefous describes himself as an entrepreneur ("if that is not too pretentious...") and while the head of Alinghi, he still has businesses in Switzerland in the dairy, law, finance and financial advising and film industries. Aside from being a close friend of Bertarelli's it was largely because of his business and management skills that Bonnefous was chosen for his role. He and Russell Coutts were the embryonic Alinghi team's first employees and if Alinghi's success in the Cup from a sailing and technical standpoint is attributable to Coutts, then their success in achieving their objective, the unquestionable slickness of their operation and the fact that their budget was substantially less than a few other challengers on Halsey St, are down to Bonnefous. In the America's Cup, as perhaps in business, it is said you can live or die by the first five decisions that you make. Bertarelli may not have reached five by the time he handed over to Coutts and Bonnefous. "Quickly Ernesto delegated the management, so we have been in charge since day one with Russell," Bonnefous takes up the story. "We have had a few phases of work, mainly we decided to be a kind of matrix organisation, where I was in charge of the

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