Gavin Brady talks to Valencia Sailing about Mascalzone Latino, the America's Cup and Beau Geste
Valencia Sailing talked to Gavin Brady on Tuesday morning, while waiting, in vain, in the Mascalzone Latino base for the breeze to pick up. The kiwi sailor will be the Challenger of Record's skipper and helmsman in the Louis Vuitton regattas in Auckland next month and is currently with the rest of the crew in Valencia, training with the Italian team's ITA-90. Unfortunately, the combination of no breeze and huge swell with waves of over 2 meters grounded not only the Italian yacht but also Azzurra and ALL4One. If Harold Bennett hadn't fired the gun on Sunday, 5 minutes before the time limit, we would certainly be right now in a long period of delays in the 33rd America's Cup as the weather this week is awful.
Valencia Sailing: You will be the skipper and helmsman of Mascalzone Latino AUDI Team in the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland next month. Is this a one-off agreement or the start of a longer term involvement with the Italian team?
Gavin Brady: Right now we are focused on the Louis Trophy in Auckland and the reason we are here in Valencia is to get ready for that regatta and as this happened we were in the middle of the America's Cup and Larry with Vicenzo agreed to work together. A lot has happened in the last 48 hours but right now the team is focused with AUDI to go down to Auckland and put a new team. Auckland is a very difficult place to race this time of the year and for us it will be like doing our first marathon and doing it in the hills. It's probably the most difficult place in the world to take a new team. Obviously, all crew has already sailed Cup boats but we are a new team and it takes time to reach the level we want.
When we get to Auckland we will be lucky if we even get two hours of sailing before the races because with only two boats you hardly get any time to practice. They allocate the boats and we get approximately a couple of hours a day but if it's too windy or without enough wind we lose the practice day. So, the reason we came to Valencia is just in case we don't get any time to prepare ourselves in Auckland. There are some things progressing towards the America's Cup but right now we entirely focused on Auckland.
Valencia Sailing: Will Mascalzone Latino take part in all the Louis Vuitton events this year?
Gavin Brady: We have committed to do the first two events. The other two events are a very long way away and for the moment our focus is on Auckland and La Maddalena. One of the advantages of the Louis Vuitton series, compared to the Acts of the 32nd America's Cup, is that logistically it's a lot easier. To do the Louis Vuitton regattas in Dubai or Hong Kong is some plane tickets, some accommodation and putting the crew together. It's very simple, so keeping flexibility right now is key. The intention is to sail those events but they are a long way away and, as I said before, a lot can happen this week in the America's Cup. We need to keep that in the back of our minds.
Valencia Sailing: One of the key points that will be decided is the new America's Cup yacht. What would you like to see if it was up to you?
Gavin Brady: I've done a lot of match racing in one design boats, I've done the match race circuit, I've been involved with the Volvo races and the America's Cup and I actually enjoy the development of a new boat, something different. The sports of sailing is progressing quite quickly at the moment with IRC. The IRC allowed people to really start experimenting while IMS was very confining. While the America's Cup have been out of action for 2-3 years, people have been out sailing boats like the one I put together, Beau Geste.
I think it needs to be a fast boat downwind because fast boats downwind create passing opportunities and exciting racing. I think the boats have to be borderline out of control, so that you see the world's best sailors controlling their boats. In the history of the America's Cup maybe just two boats have lost control. I like to see a boat that is more dynamic, faster and more exciting. A lot of people think that this doesn't produce good match racing but it's actually quite the opposite. If you took two SM40's and two Melges 32 without any doubt in my mind the most fun for the sailors and the media will be the Melges 32, because of the action.
Mascalzone Latino's ITA-90 sitting on her cradle as the bad weather won't allow any sailing. Valencia, 16 February 2010. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Valencia Sailing: What about the two giant multhulls that raced in the 33rd America's Cup two days ago. Would you envision a smaller version of them, 70-80 feet, becoming the next America's Cup class? Would you be in favor of that?
Gavin Brady: When I think about match racing in the America's Cup in multihulls it's very difficult for me right now to comprehend where the gains are and how it would be. It will be like learning to sail again. I don't know whether it's a good or bad thing because to be honest I haven't had any experience in match racing these boats. In fact nobody has because there is only two match races that have been done in these giant yachts. Some people might say it was quite interesting other might argue it was boring because once you've seen the spectacle of the speed there isn't much more.
Valencia Sailing: That's also true but they allow you to have a more than decent race with only 4-5 knots of wind which wouldn't be the case with the current ACC boats.
Gavin Brady: Yes, for sure. I think that Version 5 is done and dusted. I don't think anybody disagrees it's time to bring a new rule or even a modified Version 6. There's a lot of things you can do with those boats and I know one thing for sure. Right now, the people in control of the future have a very open mind. So whatever they come up with, it will be spectacular, even if it's monohulls. You should be able to sail with 4-5 knots of wind. If there is wind on the water you should sail.
I'm a big believer that the postponement flag should be taken off the committee boats, put into a glass cage and broken only in case of an emergency. You know, when Captain Cook sailed around the world he didn't have the opportunity to postpone races because it was too windy or too light. I believe that if a race is scheduled at 12 o'clock it should always start at 12 o'clock and if you want to consider yourself among the best sailors of the world you should be able to sail under all conditions.
Valencia Sailing: Whatever the new rule is are you in favor of having only one boat per team?
Gavin Brady: I think that trying to police new rules will create more problems. Take for example the teams that had one boat last time. One thing we've learned about carbon fiber is that you can do a heck of a lot modifications. If you look at USA-87, we made enormous modifications. Even if we could modify up to 49% of the boat, that was still a lot of modifications and the amount of man-hours spent and cost to make these modifications are extreme. It isn't much different to building a second boat.
You know, the industry and sport of sailing rely on technology and I think that inhibiting teams from innovating is counterproductive. I agreed when they came with the rule limiting the boats from five to two. Sure, you don't want the big teams to build five boats, that's crazy. I do think though that two boats is realistic. In addition, if we didn't have two boats, I wouldn't have been given my first opportunity on an America's Cup boat, because I was on AmericaOne. I started at the B boat and eventually moved to the race boat. Without that opportunity I wouldn't have made it to the 200 America's Cup. The same goes with the younger designers or boatbuilders. I don't think we should stop growth and there's a lot of growth coming from the second boat.
To be honest, any team short of money will have spares for the race boat. You have to have two of everything. You can't seriously go to the America's Cup with just one mast. So, if you are going to build two masts you might as well put the second one on the B boat. You are going to have a spare keel, a spare rudder, a spare fin, spare winches, so if you are really concerned about money you can always take parts from the second boat. The bottom line is that we are just talking about the hull and I don't think this is going to make the difference between an America's Cup team competing or not.
Valencia Sailing: One idea to reduce costs Russell Coutts mentioned in yesterday's press conference was imposing blackout periods where teams couldn't train. Do you agree with that?
Gavin Brady: You could have done that in Valencia last time pretty well but how would that have worked for Team NZ in Auckland when it's summertime there? As you know Team NZ practiced there during European wintertime. So, if you prohibit wintertime training in Valencia you could then favor Team New Zealand because they can afford to do two-boat training over there. It would be interesting to see how they write such a rule but it would be very difficult to impose blackout periods. Imagine your boat gets damaged or breaks and then it takes you about a month to repair. You then tell your sailing team to come back in a month to launch the boat and sail it. Well, what do you do if it's a blackout period?
Beau Geste sailing in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Porto Cervo, 12 September 2009. Photo copyright ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi
Valencia Sailing: Do you agree with the Defender racing the Challengers?
Gavin Brady: At the end of the day, if Alinghi raced in the Louis Vuitton Cup last time I think we would have learned more from them than they would have done from us. We didn't know until the 1st race that they were so fast. If you are a challenger and you get to the America's Cup then you are in the game. Whether you have raced the Defender or not that doesn't make much difference. As a challenging team I'm much more focused on the rest of the challengers rather than the defender. If you get to the America's Cup you know you are fast, you know you have a good team. But in order to get there you have to beat all other challengers and I think that a lot of teams get very focused on the defender.
Valencia Sailing: Let's now talk about Beau Geste.
Gavin Brady: Beau Geste has been an incredible experience. Karl and I chose to build a very specialized boat. I moved to Auckland and I was there from the design to the build, throughout the whole process. As a sailor, I learned so much during the build process that it will help me in the America's Cup or any other top race in the future. I believe it is essential to actually see and be part of one of those big maxi yachts being built. There is a lot of thing that you learn during build that will help you get advantages and the areas of the build that you can really explore and make big gains was a good experience. I feel now that going through that experience could be a requirement for an America's Cup skipper. If you are hands on during the build of the boat you realize how much potential there is and how much speed you can get before it even touches the water. I also think that Karl Kwok is one of the best owners in the sport. He's very involved but also gives you the freedom to go out and do what you think is right.
Valencia Sailing: Could Beau Geste be the new America's Cup boat?
Gavin Brady: Absolutely. Racing that boat is unbelievable and it sails with just 3 knots of wind. If we do a 5-mile leg downwind, we could sail it with just four people and be competitive. The reality is that it's amazing how you sail once you take the spinnaker pole off the boat and you put power winches on, how few people you need. The only issue you have with the big boats is the weight of the sails and getting those damn things down. In Beau Geste we have developed a very unique furling system and we can furl our biggest spinnaker in just 22 seconds and it's a spinnaker much bigger than an America's Cup spinnaker and go round the mark and still have it up the mast. We have been developing systems onboard Beau Geste that I think will change the way we will sail maxi boats in the future.
Valencia Sailing: Do grinders have a place in the future of America's Cup sailing?
Gavin Brady: We put the power winches onboard Beau Geste for different reasons. We are racing IRC, we are racing offshore and you are racing offshore you want to reduce weight, you want to get the crew off the boat. When you racing inshore you are not so much worried about the weight of the crew. The system we developed can also be implemented with grinders and you need for pedestals to do the things we do with power winches. Karl decided not to put the pedestal because we didn't want the extra cost of hotel rooms, flights and all the expenses related to all the people. We knew we were going to race Atlantic races, Transpac races and Bremuda races, so you don't need all those grinders onboard when you cross 3,000 miles across an ocean. The way we developed the systems on Beau Geste, like our furling system or the way we pull sails up and down, there is nothing that couldn't be done with pedestals.
I think the America's Cup will stay with the pedestals because it adds excitement to the sport of sailing and because grinders have a lot of power in match racing not just pulling the sails but the techniques and skills. they shouldn't be called grinders, they should be called second trimmers. On an America's Cup grinders do more trimming than trimmers themselves. If somebody is a good grounder, the trimmer should hardly ever talk to him. There is often an illusion that these big guys get on the boats and are told to move the handles. There is a lot of technique in grinding.
Beau Geste sailing in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Porto Cervo, 12 September 2009. Photo copyright ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi