Brad Butterworth talks to Valencia Sailing
We continue our series of interviews from the America's Cup with Alinghi's skipper Brad Butterworth. The kiwi sailing legend talked to us about the court case in New York as well as the current state of affairs at the defender's camp.
Valencia Sailing tries to keep an impartial stance on the subject of the litigation at the New York Supreme Court. One of the two parties (either Alinghi or BMW Oracle) is right while the other is wrong. One will lose and the other will win the court case in New York, unless of course they reach a settlement before October 22. For that reason our interviews will not be controversial. We will be critical with everybody but not stubbornly so.
Valencia Sailing: Many times, both Alinghi and ACM have stated that the 32nd AC was probably the best ever. I totally agree on that. Why do you then radically change a model/formula that provided such excellent results the first time it was applied? Couldn’t the second time have been even better after rectifying the very few errors?
Brad Butterworth: I don't see it this way. Changing the boats is one thing. If it weren't for that I'm pretty convinced it wouldn't be much different from the last time, if at all. We are just changing the boats, making them bigger and better. That is the only thing that has radically changed.
Valencia Sailing: BMW Oracle has repeatedly pointed to your refusal to use a formal mediator and was joined by Mascalzone Latino last weekend. Why do you refuse to mediate with BMW Oracle?
Brad Butterworth: Well, we have been talking to Larry Ellison. That's as good as a mediation you can get, isn't it?
Valencia Sailing: Yes, but they say they provided a list of 10 possible mediators that were all turned down and when they asked you to provide some names you didn't reply.
Brad Butterworth: The principals of the two teams are speaking. The main point of argument is whether the Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV) is a viable yacht club to challenge for the America's Cup. That's their argument and the reason they went to court.
Brad Butterworth puts an Alinghi cap on the America's Cup trophy. BMW Oracle claim the they have done it both literally and metaphorically. Valencia, 3 July 2007. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Valencia Sailing: So, if I understand well, your stance is to go to court and not try to get to an agreement or negotiated deal before that.
Brad Butterworth: No, we obviously changed some of the things the challengers asked. We also modified the protocol 14 times, much more than what we did last time. There have been things that have changed but at the end of day Oracle has to wake up and smell the coffee. Let's get on with the sport rather than trying to be the challenger of record. They should be just another competitor.
Valencia Sailing: Let's touch another controversial issue of the protocol, Alinghi's participation in the Challenger Selection Series (CSS). Doesn't this allow you to influence its results, beating stronger teams and allowing weaker ones to advance? If you reach the semifinals and beat your opponent who's then going be the finalist?
Brad Butterworth: Thanks for considering we can beat everyone so easily. The second part of the question is a right one. What is the fairest way of involving the defender and the challengers in the game. We are still trying to come up with this and we haven't really finalized it. We have been talking to the 5 challengers in order to find the best way to do this. Does the defender have 2-boat testing while the challengers don't? That's nonsense. You put them all together and at the end the best challenger will have to beat the defender anyways. I really can't understand their argument from a sports side.
Valencia Sailing: Let's talk about the new class rule being developed. How is the process advancing? Will it be ready by the end of the month, just three weeks from now? Are the meetings with the challengers real consultations or simple dictations by Alinghi?
Brad Butterworth: Tom Schnackenberg is running the process with all the teams. Whether it comes out at the end of the month or run the regatta in 2009 is what we want but obviously there is a court case. As you see, everything is starting to slow down and this is pretty disappointing. From Alinghi's side, we would love to design and build the new boat and get next year and sail it. If things are going to wind up in court over sports related matters then there might be delays for all of us. So, I'm not sure whether it will be ready, everything is slowing down.
Valencia Sailing: While your lawyers are busy in New York what is the rest of the team doing? Are you back in full force here in Valencia?
Brad Butterworth: There is a few people working but basically we are shut down. Our crew are out sailing in various projects and races and we can't have a lot going on until we have some certainty with the court case. There is a lot of people waiting, including us.
Valencia Sailing: Assuming a positive outcome for you in the court case will you keep the structure of having two helmsmen or is Ed Baird going to be the team's only helmsman?
Brad Butterworth: We would like to have two helmsmen but as I told you we are on standby. Ed Baird is our primary guy and of course he did an excellent job last time and I'm sure he will do it next time.
Valencia Sailing: Since teams will only have one new boat under the protocol, sailing crews will be reduced. Have you taken any decisions?
Brad Butterworth: Not yet, although we try to keep as many guys as we can. It's been a very good team, a very good sailing team and we will have to keep it that way. We are obviously looking at people from other teams from last time or outside the America's Cup that proved to be very good.
Valencia Sailing: What about the sailing skills necessary for the new boats? Are they going to have a steep learning curve?
Brad Butterworth: A lot of the guys have a lot of skills on these boats, such the maxis Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats. There are a number sailing on those. The sailors that also did the last Volvo Ocean Race will have a good idea how these boats perform. All our guys have spent time these other boats. There will obviously be a learning process but this is part of any new boat.
Valencia Sailing: You have repeatedly stated the new boats will be "spectacular". Will the general public that was visiting Port America's Cup by droves notice any difference between the older 80ft boats and the new 90ft ones?
Brad Butterworth: The boats are a little bit bigger but their rigs and sail area are a lot bigger. They will see the boats are different, more modern.
Valencia Sailing: Surely, but given the short development time, 18 months, and the complete novelty of the class don't you fear we might see enormous differences between the boats? Are we going to have deltas of 4 minutes rather than 1 second in the last race of the America's Cup match?
Brad Butterworth: First of all, the 1 second was more a reflection of wind speed in the last 5 minutes of the race rather than boat design. There might be some differences but I think there will be some very good boats and racing will hopefully be close. With my crystal ball I'm looking and thinking it's going to be better and bigger but time will tell.
Valencia Sailing: Honestly, do you think any challenger will design and build a boat able to match yours, given the time advantage you have?
Brad Butterworth: I don't see any advantage of time because the rule hasn't been written yet. We have to design the boat, build it and sail it and everybody will do it under the same rule in the same period of time. There is no real difference and other teams can do it and will be able to do it. There are big teams like Oracle that have mast builders, boat builders, whole teams organized and sitting here in Valencia. They are ready to go, I'm sure the English are ready to go, the New Zealanders are ready to go. It's similar to last time.
Valencia Sailing: Surely, but the rumor in Valencia is that you started designing the new boat back in February. You then start with a 9-month design advantage.
Brad Butterworth: This is crap. C, R, A, P!
Valencia Sailing: Assuming there are no delays, will you start building the boat in 2007 or 2008?
Brad Butterworth: We will build the boat in 2008. Nobody is able to do that before unless they have already started building. It's impossible since the rule hasn't even been published.
Valencia Sailing: Will you keep Décision as your boatyard?
Brad Butterworth: For the last years Décision has been a part of our team and have done a great job for us in the last two Cups, anything we asked them for. All their boats were great and we are going to continue with them.
Valencia Sailing: Last but certainly not least. How do you view Mascalzone Latino's move to file an amicus brief at the New Yrok court last week?
Brad Butterworth: I'm not reading too much into it as we see them as Oracle really. Obviously, they have been involved with Oracle from the beginning. I can't differentiate between the two. Other than the argument whether the Spanish club can legally challenge, the rest of it we know we can decide it on the sport.