Mike Sanderson talks to Valencia Sailing
After the end of a long day of training with Desafío, we talked to Mike Sanderson, Team Origin Director, about the British challenger and the America’s Cup in general.
Valencia Sailing: How was the day? It must be a nice feeling sailing an AC yacht after more than a year.
Mike Sanderson: We are very pleased, it is the first day we sail all together the America’s Cup boat, tacks and gybes, things went well. It is an amazing feeling to have all the guys together here. It was an excellent day, cool and fun. We had a team meeting this morning about sailing again, which is so positive. It was great to be able to talk about it and then go out and do it.
Valencia Sailing: Do you have the entire sailing team here in Valencia?
Mike Sanderson: No, this isn’t the entire team. There are a few guys involved in the team that are not here. We committed to this regatta and the one in Auckland, which I think is fantastic because it is now us and Alinghi doing both of those. We are doing both because I think it’s fantastic to get some momentum back to the America’s Cup. We are going to have 4 Version 5 boats out here for the rest of the week and it is even just amazing to have the buzz back in Valencia, you know, doors being open, travelifts running and ribs going in. It is fantastic and we are very keen to be part of something as soon as it fires up. We have always been keen to be back on the water and this is the first opportunity really, after a long time.
Valencia Sailing: Who should we then blame for the current situation? BMW Oracle or Alinghi?
Mike Sanderson: I’m sure there is a lot of things people would have done differently if they knew how messy this would have turned out, from both sides. I think that’s all there is to say. On reflection, both of the teams involved in the legal action wouldn’t have done it the way they have done it, had they had the time again. It is positive what’s going on at the moment, it’s very positive that Team New Zealand dropped their lawsuit and now Alinghi is coming to the regatta in Auckland. We are starting to get some good momentum. It’s going to be tough for BMW Oracle to say that what is being discussed isn’t fair if 12-13 teams are sorting out that themselves.
Valencia Sailing: What about the meeting in Geneva last week? Was it useful?
Mike Sanderson: What was good about it was the fact it was nice and general, it wasn’t about the specifics. We talked about the big picture which is exciting, not the details. It was good talking about the concept and it would have been a mistake if they had gotten into the details. At this early stage it is great to have a general meeting.
Valencia Sailing: Obviously an important factor in the big picture is the new class. We are going through a financial crisis, probably as bad as the one in 1929. Does it make any sense to have a new class while you have all these yachts available right here, right now?
Mike Sanderson: The fact of the matter, let’s not kid ourselves, is that everyone has a long way to catch up, if you are a new team, with the amount of R&D the big teams, like Alinghi, have on these version 5 boats. So, for everyone wanting to participate in the 33rd Cup, if they manage a new rule well, it would be much cheaper than trying to catch up in version 5. Alinghi’s boats had a speed edge in the last Cup and I think this was pretty widely considered. It’s tens of years in this rule and you will not catch up overnight. If you go to a new rule, everybody is going to have a shot. However, that needs to be well managed. If they give us a new rule a year before we can build boats because of the legal dispute then it will get expensive. If it’s well managed and we don’t bring the new rule until we have certainty we can build new boats, it will not be more expensive. The aim is to make it cheaper, I don’t understand where the claim it’s more expensive comes from.
Valencia Sailing: Another measure to lower costs is to allow one boat per team. Up to what point should then the Defender participate in the Challenger Selection Series?
Mike Sanderson: The fact of the matter is that the 12 teams that challenged under the 33rd Protocol always knew the Defender would be racing in the Challenger Series. It’s hard to grizzle about it now. Yes, I might not always agree on pretty much all the protocol issues, but Alinghi have now agreed to discuss everything. In that statement they covered the protocol, the event regulations, the commercial regulations and the rule. They are saying that if things need to be changed and everybody agrees then they will change them. I’m not sure what more can anyone ask for now.
Valencia Sailing: If Alinghi wins the legal dispute would you be in favour of banning BMW Oracle from the next Cup?
Mike Sanderson: That’s not up to me and I wouldn’t like to comment on that. The America’s Cup is going to need all the good teams and it’s really up to BMW Oracle. They now have a fantastic opportunity for them to be proven that what is being discussed is fair. They have been asking for something that is fair and if we can prove it’s fair why couldn’t we get on with it and all participate.
Valencia Sailing: Would you rather be in the middle of the Pacific on a VOR70 than in Valencia on an ACC version 5?
Mike Sanderson: I made a decision 18 months ago that I was committed to Team Origin for the next America’s Cup and brought all these fantastic people that believe a lot in the team. I’m now 100% committed to Team Origin and I’m dying to have an event we can participate in.
Valencia Sailing: Last but not least, will Ericsson 4 win this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race?
Mike Sanderson: Well, Puma hanged on well during the first 2/3 of the leg and even the guys on Ericsson 4 were commenting how close it was. Still, it was an amazing display Ericsson put on when the breeze came in; it was impressive. It just shows how hard these guys have been training, how hard they made themselves go out under tough conditions. For sure people are going to win legs, often, like they did last time with us on ABN AMRO but overall, Ericsson 4 is going to be hard to win.