Post race wrap up

Dean Barker, Tom Schnackenberg, Bertrand Pace, Brad Butterworth and Grant Simmer look back at Race 4

Friday February 28th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
Following Team New Zealand's disasterous dismasting earlier and Alinghi going 4-0 up in the America's Cup, a post-race press conference took place between Dean Barker, Tom Schnackenberg and Bertrand Pace of Team New Zealand and Brad Butterworth and Grant Simmer of Alinghi.

Q – Tom, we are sad for the team but do you know what broke on board?

Tom – Yes, it was the tip cup, which connects the rigging from the second panel to the third panel. It broke right at the top, where the two rods go in from below, which is the weakest point of the tip cup. It just broke right there. So it was a material failure in the tip cup. One thing leads to the other and down came the rig.

Q – Your mast appeared to bend quite a lot during the race. There was a lot of backwind in the main also. Is that normal?

Tom – It was very very windy and the balance of trim between the mainsail and the headsail is just something that is negotiated between the mainsail trimmer, the headsail trimmers and of course the helmsman. The boat was going along ok at the time and I think the guys were pretty happy.

Q – Dean, your boat is damaged, can you repair it overnight? Will you sail at full throttle tomorrow?

Dean – Obviously there’s a lot of work to do tonight to have the boat ready to sail tomorrow. But we’re fortunate to have two boats that are pretty similar so we can change things across pretty quickly. It’ll be a pretty late night for everyone and I’m sure there will still be bits and pieces going back on in the morning but we will be ready to race tomorrow.

Q – Dean, this is the second major breakdown in four races. Did you train enough in those rough conditions prior to the America’s Cup?

Dean – We certainly didn’t expect to be racing in 28-29 knots during the Cup and it’s always hard with new boats knowing how hard to push them. We’ve always felt that if we had any serious failures it would hurt our campaign not having a massive budget to be able to repair things. We’ve only had two masts with this campaign. It is tough, you’re always worried about what happens if something does break. To answer your question, we pushed the boats as hard as we felt we could up until the start of this and it’s obviously something due to fatigue that caused this fitting to break.

Q – Bertrand, you were tactician. Why were you so late in the starting box?

Bertrand – I think we made the call for the jib quite late as we were not sure which jib to use. We put the jib up at probably six minutes.

Q – Brad, I know you don’t like to win in a race like that. You were leading with a great start, you were looking good, you must be frustrated not to win against a bona fide competitor.

Brad - Nobody likes to win the races through breakage but up until that stage we were having a pretty good race and we were enjoying every minute of it. It was bad luck.

Q – Were the conditions really bad at times?

Brad – It was a bit lumpy. At the start of the second beat I think we had 25 knots on our gear, when we were out on port tack and there were some big waves coming through, but nothing we hadn’t seen before.

Q – Will you give Team New Zealand an extra day if they need some time to repair?

Brad – I don’t know. Nothing’s been said.

Q – Tom, do you need more time to repair the boat?

Tom – No. The rig can come straight out of 81 and go in and the damage to the boat is minimal, just superficial damage caused by the rig itself beating up on the after part of the boat. So a lot of little things but we don’t have a problem coming out tomorrow to race.

Q – Grant, you must be pleased with the speed and reliability of your boat. Your boat was the first new-generation boat to be launched in the year 2000. Did you expect the boat to be so competitive?

Grant – The boat’s done 32 races and obviously we’ve done a lot more in-house. So the boat’s proven reliable and we don’t really see a weakness in its performance. In fact the guys came in today and said they were very happy with the speed of the boat, particularly upwind. So we feel good about that and I have to say they were sailing very well. Normally we come in with criticism but today they were hitting the shifts pretty nicely.

Q – Dean, I know it’s always easy to speak with the benefit of hindsight but looking at your preparation now, do you think you guys had done enough?

Dean – We looked at the programme right from the start, we used the last campaign as a blueprint to work from and make modifications from there. I wouldn’t really imagine doing anything terribly different over again. It’s just we haven’t had a super breezy summer all in all, it’s really only in the last few weeks that we’ve had a lot of strong winds. It’s always hard to put your finger on exactly why something does break. Quite often 25 knots isn’t actually when things seem the most loaded. The boats do see a lot of load in a lot less breeze. So I don’t think we’d change anything. We’re obviously pretty disappointed with the things that we’ve broken up to now but we’ve got to be focusing on tomorrow.

Q – I guess though that Alinghi stayed together on two occasions where you didn’t.

Dean – That’s credit to them for having the boats that are strong enough. Maybe they are hardened from the Louis Vuitton series. Obviously the fitting that we broke today was probably a bit different from their one, the boom that we broke was a different concept. It’s not easy to sit up here and say this is exactly how things have been but we believe in every person on the team to do their job well and we just have to take this on the chin again and move on.

Q – Dean, we saw a lot of water being pumped out. Did you have a lot of water on board the boat today?

Dean – After the rig broke, because we were towing downwind trying to keep the tip of the rig under control we had a lot of water washing in at the back of the boat.

Q – What about the speed? Before the mast broke, we had two good legs there. How do you assess the speed between your boat and Alinghi?

Dean – I don’t think there’s a huge difference in speed. We just haven’t seen a huge difference in any condition, upwind or downwind. They’re sailing well, no question, they’re reliable, consistent, but I don’t think there’s any major differences in speed.

Q – Tom, I think you said you only have two rigs and the only backup rig is the rig off 81. Is that correct? And can I just ask Alinghi how many rigs they have?

Tom – We have other rigs but the rigs on 81 and 82 are the two best rigs in terms of performance, weight and so on. While we could put a rig in, it’s heavier than the other rigs, it’s a nice strong rig but there would be a performance drop with that rig.

Q – How many masts does Alinghi have?

Grant – We bought a second hand mast first up when we were in the Med and we built four new masts since then. We have two racing masts now.

Q – All built by Hall Spars?

Grant – Yes.

Q – Dean, we heard Adam Beashel warning that there was a set of big waves coming in just before the mast broke. Can you just run through what happened from that moment on?

Dean – It was no different from the rest of that beat actually. There was a lot of breeze and still some fairly big waves and we’d hit a couple of big ones, I think starboard was slightly worse. We’d hit a couple of big ones probably a minute or so before the mast broke but you just have to try and unload it a bit as the boat hits the wave. The speed obviously drops a touch and then you trim back up. We weren’t doing anything differently, it wasn’t like we were thrashing the boat, the fitting just let go.

Q – Dean, going into an all-or-nothing encounter, is there going to be an issue with confidence there, given what happened today and in Race One, in terms of the boat?

Dean – We’re running out of things to break. We have a huge amount of confidence in our gear going into this regatta. Who knows why things have broken but we’re just going to go out there like we have in every other race. We haven’t broken this much gear in this short a period of time. We have a lot of confidence that we can go out there and race. It won’t change anything for tomorrow.

Q – Dean, I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the mainsail choice you made today? It seemed a little bit different from those you used in Races Two and Three?

Dean – the main we had on today was more for top-end conditions. There’s not a huge difference between the two sails we use. The one we had today was more suited for more breeze and big waves.

Q – Tom, we saw today that the boat seemed to be taking on more water again. What appears to be the problem here with taking on the water? Would that have contributed to the problems you had later by loading up the boat?

Tom – No. The amount of water on board as we were sailing upwind was controllable. It came on but it could also come out. The little skirts helped. As you lean the boat over more water comes in but the bailers take it out, so the amount that stayed on board wasn’t extreme and we weren’t losing the battle. A fair bit came on board during the jib hoist downwind, the hatch was open, the headsail was going up, we were diving through a combination of the waves that were around us plus the wake off Alinghi, so that would have added a wee bit to the total weight but I don’t think it would have contributed to the problems we saw.

Q – Bertrand, could you talk to us about the start? Did you want the right-hand side, did it go the way you expected?

Bertrand – We wanted to start to leeward of them but we were happy also to start to windward with a good separation. Off the line we were about 90 metres from Alinghi so the separation was good.

Q – Brad, I guess tomorrow there’s a 50-50 chance that you may be taking the America’s Cup from New Zealand. Have you and Russell talked about what that might feel like and where you are emotionally with that notion?

Brad – Not really, no. We take each race as it comes. We haven’t thought too much about the final result, I’ve always found it’s been bad luck to think like that. So, not really. We’ve still got a race to win. I think the weather forecast is quite different, so it’ll be a tough race I think.

Q – Tom, before this all started all the talk was about how clever New Zealand had been to produce a boat with a hula, and they’d really out-thought the rest of the world; then after the first race you stunned me, at least, by saying you had to think again about all the engineering assumptions you had made. Is it the engineering that has let you down, or has the hula not delivered what New Zealand expected it to?

Tom – I think you’re seeing two boats that are pretty evenly matched, there are probably some things in our package that are better than the equivalent on Alinghi and there are obviously other things that are better on Alinghi than with us, and the net result is that the boats are both quite competitive. Certainly we haven’t seen Alinghi sailing away from us around the race course, so the overall design of the boat is competitive. But we have broken first our boom and more recently our mast and so there have been areas where we have let ourselves down, and it’s certainly not something we’re happy about.

Q – Brad, congratulations on victory 14 in an America’s Cup final. How do you feel about it?

Brad –The record is certainly pretty exciting. Simon Daubney, Murray Jones and Warwick Fleury and Dean Phipps have the same record, so it’s pretty nice - and it’s good to have Coutts being one back!

Q – Tom, Dean mentioned, regarding your preparations this time, that you used the last campaign as a blueprint. Can you compare the number of hours you spent on the water this time in training with your preparations for 2000?

Tom – It would have to be a little more this time as we sailed more in the winter time but it’s pretty much similar. I couldn’t give you a more specific answer than that.

Q – Would that apply with the new boats as well?

Tom – We launched the new boats perhaps a few weeks later than we did last campaign but not very much later. We aimed at similar launch dates and we weren’t far off so they were pretty similar to last time.

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