Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jochen Schuemann talks to Valencia Sailing about ALL4One Challenge

He hardly needs any introduction, having won three gold and one silver Olympic medals as well as two consecutive America's Cups. Jochen Schuemann, Germany's best sailor ever, talked to Valencia Sailing about ALL4One Challenge, the newly-formed French-German team.

Valencia Sailing: Why was ALL4One created? What is the philosophy behind it?
Jochen Schuemann: The philosophy behind the new team is quite simple, it's to join the forces of France and Germany in a professional sailing team that has the ambition to develop a top-level sailing platform, taking part in a number of circuits, such as the Louis Vuitton Trophy, the AUDI Medcup, the RC44's and the World Match Racing Tour. All this activity, obviously, strengthens our competences and builds a new team that will ultimately compete in the next conventional multi-challenger America's Cup and I am sure that at some point there will be a new chance for all the professional teams to sail the America's Cup once again.

Valencia Sailing: You were the head figure of the short-lived German team in the 33rd America's Cup. Why did you see the need to merge with the French? Couldn't you just continue as a stand-alone purely German team?
Jochen Schuemann: No, at this moment I don't think it would be possible. In fact, most of the teams have stopped their activities because of the difficult legal situation in the America's Cup. Since it went to Court it came to a standstill and with the absence of an event all the teams that only had the intention of participating in the Cup can't continue. For that reason, I understand and respect the decision taken by the German Cup team funded by United Internet but as a sportsman, even if there is no leading event right now, you can't just stop sailing.

I think that a lot of teams will use the opportunities I just mentioned. Take for example Team New Zealand. They have been doing that consistently, for more than 10 years, sending their sailors to different boats on different circuits and then bringing together all their competences and skills in a very successful America's Cup team. This concept is very basic in sport, it's nothing new and we have always been talking and thinking about it but in Germany we never had the support to achieve it. After the end of Cup in Valencia we tried putting together a very good TP52 team, we had Platoon, which was a benchmark in terms of marketing and sponsorship with a private owner. Unfortunately, it stopped after a very successful first year. We started from scratch, we built a very good boat, we were third in the 2008 TP52 Worlds and I'm sure we could have been even better in 2009. The situation in France is very similar. They also stopped their activities and even if they took part in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series last February, I think that neither of us is strong enough to build on our own a platform that can deal with all the circuits, provide enough training for the sailors as well as media and public coverage for the sponsors.

Don't forget that France and Germany together are by far the biggest part of the European market and by joining our forces I hope we find the sufficient media and sponsor support to compete as the French-German team and be successful against other top teams such as Alinghi, Team New Zealand or Team Origin.

ALL4One Challenge trains for the Louis Vuitton Nice Trophy. Valencia, 15 October 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing

Valencia Sailing: Regarding Alinghi, you were also one of the head figures in the team and won two America's Cups with them. Will you copy the "Alinghi model" and try to implement it in ALL4One?
Jochen Schuemann: No, not really. I obviously learned a lot of good lessons with Alinghi and had a very successful time with them and I believe in their philosophy, how the team was born and how it grew to become the best sailing team in the world. A lot of that is of great value and it would be perfect to repeat it. Yet, there is a very important difference between us and them. It is very clear that Alinghi is not 100% commercially funded, it is basically Ernesto Bertarelli's private team with commercial funding. If there were a second Ernesto in Germany then it would be easy to approach him and go with him but we are not in that situation. We are looking for commercial partners and we want to become a very reliable partner for our potential sponsors. As a result, we need very strict planning, we need to be disciplined and precise in our timing and performance in order to find partners. I think we have a good chance at achieving that.

Valencia Sailing: What is your own, personal role in this new team? Will you sail on the boat?
Jochen Schuemann: Yes, I'm sailing on the boat but Sébastien Col will be the leading person onboard. My role will be as strategist and I will try to give the crew my input, my experience on the strategic picture but also watch the entire team, trying to develop it, getting the right mix of skills and characters to make it a successful one.

Valencia Sailing: In the short term, you have the Louis Vuitton Trophy in a few days. Will you take part in all the events of the Series?
Jochen Schuemann: Yes, that's the plan. Yet, we have to keep in mind that the Louis Vuitton Trophy is a newborn regatta, still under development and together with the World Sailing Team Association (WSTA) we want to see how it grows and develops. We want to be part of the WSTA because we think it's a good step in the future of professional sailing since it guarantees continuity. In the soccer league everybody knows how many teams there are and that all of them compete every weekend and this is what we have to achieve in sailing as well. We need more planning more reliability in the projects we run, otherwise it's impossible to deal with our media and sponsorship partners.

ALL4One Challenge trains for the Louis Vuitton Nice Trophy. Valencia, 15 October 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing

Valencia Sailing: You also mentioned the RC44 and TP52 circuits. In addition, K-Challenge has an RC44 boat. Will you actively take part in those two circuits as well?
Jochen Schuemann: Yes, that's the plan as well. According to a very old saying, competition is the best practice you can have. All aspects of a competition, the rules, the umpires, the race itself, all become a perfect practice for the team. Obviously, you will have to prepare for all those boats and races but joining and racing in those circuits is the ultimate proof of your skills and competitiveness. It also provides public exposure for your partners and sponsors because, honestly, nobody cares when you are just practicing. They all want to see you racing. As a result, you need the right amount of races so that your sponsors say, "OK, we are happy with the return on our investment, they even do better than expected, so I'll keep sponsoring them".

Valencia Sailing: If you count John Cutler as British, there isn't any New Zealander onboard FRA-93. Is this a coincidence or a result of a strategy to have a European team?
Jochen Schuemann: It's purely a coincidence. The intention has always been to build a group with a French-German base but we are an international team, open to all sailors and nationalities. Again, we have just started building the team and it's a coincidence we don't have any kiwis other than John Cutler, whom you can also count as British or even Spanish. We didn't look for any particular nationality, just for the best sailors, the best people that were available. We did it in a short time because ALL4One was really born just a few weeks before the first Louis Vuitton event. We focused on doing feasible things not on looking too far in the future.

Valencia Sailing: So, the crew will evolve in the future?
Jochen Schuemann: For the moment we are a very lean group, we only have sailors in the team, the 17 people that go onboard plus a few spare. We also have a couple of PR people because we, obviously, need to promote the team but we will certainly grow in the future. The moment we go to real America's Cup sailing we will have to have a design team, boatbuilders, shore crew, sailmakers, etc. In addition, when you run your own TP52 campaign you need at least one sailmaker and one boatbuilder.

Valencia Sailing: If I understand well, the team for the moment is privately funded, without any sponsors?
Jochen Schuemann: We have a few partners that have a long-term commitment with K-Challenge and from our side we bring Adidas, as we have always done since 2007. We are obviously working hard to raise our public awareness, we have just been born and you can't really expect companies sending us letters, saying "Hey, we want to give you some money". Nevertheless, I think we have a good chance in getting an interesting sponsorship in the next few months.

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At 2:52 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Great interview Mr. Pierre. Its good to read that these guys are pulling hard to keep going in the hopes the AC will get back to normal. Just wish they pulled GER-91 out of whatever shed its in and got it sailing again.

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you Jochen. Good luck to everyone at ALL4One Challenge. It's good to someone just getting on with it and not whingeing.

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good luck jochen. just take care of your companion.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Norberto said...

Super, Jochen, ihr werdet es schaffen! Herzlichen Glueckwunsch, ihr habt mehr Freunde draussen als ihr denkt! Aufieh gehts ......


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