Monday, September 10, 2007

Desafío Español signs up Farr Yacht Design

Earlier this morning, a press conference took place in Valencia, in the base of Desafío Español, where the team's general manager, Agustín Zulueta, made a series of announcement in a public press conference, regarding his team.

Farr Design to be principal designer
Unlike the 32nd America's Cup, this edition will have a much shorter design cycle. Given the change of boats decided by the Defender all challengers have to start working on their new designs as soon as possible. For that reason, Zulueta stated they signed a contract last Thursday with Farr Yacht Design. The American yacht designer will work exclusively for Desafío Español in the 33rd America's Cup and according to Zulueta, they will provide approximately 60% of the team's total design resources.

A point of dispute in the negotiations between the two parties was the location of the design office. According to Zulueta, Desafío Español requested it be in Valencia while Farr Design apparently was not so keen on the idea. According to Zulueta, under the final agreement, Farr Design will guarantee the permanent presence of at least one of its staff here in Valencia. Zulueta defined the contract negotiations as "long and difficult" and hoped it would be a successful one.

For that reason, Zulueta stated that the team will most probably have a second principal designer, permanently located in Valencia throughout the 33rd America's Cup.

John Cutler will remain the technical director of Desafío Español, regardless of whether he is part of the sailing team. He will obviously have to be on board quite often, but it is not clear whether he will sail in competition.

Desafío Español's goal is to have its entire technical team (design, structure, mast, electronics) working round the clock by September 26th. Another formal presentation will be made around that date. Zulueta insisted on the fact that design will be much more important in this edition compared to the previous one. Accordingly, the team has increased its total design budget from 7.3 million euros (2005-2007) to 12.6 million euros (2007-2009).

New America's Cup Class
Next Saturday, September 15th, the first meeting will take place in Valencia, between the Defender and the 5 challengers, concerning the definition of the new yacht class. Surprisingly, when asked about the new yachts, Zulueta responded he "knew absolutely nothing about them, other than that they are 90 feet long". He also added that the team's technical office has carried out "absolutely no previous work on the new boats". So, it is safe to assume that the Challenger of Record will start with no advantage over the rest of the challengers given the fact they haven't been previously informed.

Zulueta made also an interesting remark on the training possibilities with the new boats. Under the current protocol, the only way for a team to sail against another yacht will be during official races organized by ACM (America's Cup Management). As a result, always according to him, ACM will officially organize "training" regattas in Valencia. Obviously, he added that "you can always train against your old boat".

Sailing crew
According to Zulueta, the team has slowly started getting back to work. As of today, there is a total of 28 people on payroll and by next Monday this number will be brought to 60.

No announcements were made regarding the sailing crew. According to Zulueta, 80% of it has already joined the team and before the end of the month, 95% of the crew will be in Valencia. An official announcement will be made during the first week of October. Still, the size of the crew will be reduced from 40 to 30.

He stated his aim was not to have a 100% Spanish crew although they tried to lure Spanish sailors from other America's Cup team. He didn't specify who will be in the crew but who will certainly not sail with Desafío Español. For sure, Jordi Calafat, Juan Vila, Pepe Ribes and Rafa Trujillo will not be wearing the green uniform.

Unlike the previous edition, in the 33rd America's Cup, the Spanish team starts its challenge having its coffers full in advance. A total of 60 million euros have been provided by Iberdrola, the Spanish utilities giant, and any additional funds that might come will not be added to the budget but rather deducted from Iberdola's contribution.

Iberdrola's control of the project became even more evident since in the press conference, Zulueta also presented the new financial and marketing director of the team. He was the financial control director of the utilities group in Valencia.

Official racing calendar
Undoubtedly, Zulueta's presentation of the official racing calendar of the 33rd America's Cup took us by surprise. We didn't expect it would be made public before ACM. In any case, according to Zulueta, the first pre-regatta counting towards the 33rd America's Cup will take place between the 31st of May and 13th of July 2008. The second one will take place in September in Europe, although he didn't provide more details.

As far as the schedule for 2009 is concerned, Zulueta stated that the Challenger Selection Series (CSS) and the America's Cup match will take place between the 1st of May and the 2nd of August 2009, obviously in Valencia.

Legal dispute in New York
Just one question was asked concerning the legal dispute in the New York Supreme Court, between GGYC and SNG. He said that his intention is to keep the team as far as possible from this issue. He stated that "we are not accused. Alinghi is accused for having accepted us. We presented Alinghi with exactly what they required from us. We presented everything. We don't want to be caught in a crossfire of media fights between one party and the other. We have nothing to add on that issue."

Audio file of the press conference
Listen to the entire press conference (in Spanish) by clicking on the green play button. You can pause or stop the interview with the control buttons, just like with any other music player. You can also move inside the sound file by clicking on the gray bar:

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