Friday, June 04, 2010

Marcelino Botín talks to Valencia Sailing

Marcelino Botín, the Spanish head designer of Emirates Team New Zealand, talked to Valencia Sailing about his ideas on the future America's Cup yacht but also the TP52's and, of course, the brand new Volvo Ocean Race campaign the kiwis will run for the Spanish footwear group Camper. Botín and Emirates Team NZ are strong advocates of the monohull option for the 34th America's Cup.

Now that I have interviewed three of the 19 designers present in the meeting in Valencia two weeks ago, I'm convinced that, at least, the conception of the new yacht rule is indeed an open, democratic consultative process. If it's indeed true, as Paul Cayard stated in his interview yesterday, that we will "end up with a monohull", then it will be a clear sign the Defender really gave up one of its major prerogatives. Even the fact we can freely have interviews regarding that meeting and people openly give details (even if limited) about what was discussed, this is without the slightest doubt a tremendous improvement over the past.

Valencia Sailing: Let's first start with the Designers Meeting in Valencia two weeks ago. Did you attend it on behalf of Emirates Team New Zealand or as an independent designer?
Marcelino Botín: Well, the invitation sent by Ian Burns was personally to me but he obviously knows I work for Team NZ, so I would say that I was in that meeting as a representative of Team NZ.

Valencia Sailing: Did you have a conversation with Grant Dalton or other members of the team prior to the meeting in Valencia?
Marcelino Botín: Grant knew I was going to attend the meeting in Valencia but we didn't have any conversation prior to that. As you understand, we know pretty well what we want and I don't think there was any issue in particular to talk about. They, obviously, knew I was going on their behalf.

Valencia Sailing: Can you tell us what you and the rest of Emirates Team NZ want?
Marcelino Botín: First of all, what we want is a monohull yacht. We don't want the America's Cup to be raced on multihulls, for a very simple reason. The America's Cup is a match race and at least in its current format, we believe it isn't suitable for multihulls. It could be different if you envision some other format of match racing but in our opinion, and in particular mine, the biggest attraction of the America's Cup it the match racing itself and the close and tight races it offers. Even before the start of the race you have close action and all those aspects would be lost with a multihull. Take for example the 2nd race of the 33rd America's Cup last February in Valencia. It would have been completely different had the two boats been monohulls.

Valencia Sailing: Do you think that what we saw in Valencia last February is representative of a potential match race on multihulls? At the end of the day there was an enormous difference between the two yachts because there was no rule at all. If we had more a stringent rule of, let's say, 70ft multihulls would we still have that great difference?
Marcelino Botín: Well, you can always have a match race, regardless of the type of boat, but it will never be the same with what you have with monohulls. Again, let's consider the first beat of the 2nd race last February, in particular the approach to the weather mark. Alinghi crossed ahead of BMW Oracle and then tacked to windward. BMW Oracle went on, passed to leeward of Alinghi and overtook them. That would have never happened with monohulls. So, if you are watching that race and you see such a thing, you are wondering whether it truly is match racing.

For me, multihulls create an initial big impression, making you think how marvelous and awesome they are but then the interest quickly drops. You have an initial peak and then it subsides once they start racing. On the other hand, with a monohull the initial impression might not be so big but the race itself is much more aggressive, much more spectacular. The interest is maintained throughout the race. For that reason, we have always advocated that the America's Cup should be raced on monohulls.

Valencia Sailing: I suppose you made it clear in the meeting that Emirates Team NZ and Marcelino Botín want a monohull.
Marcelino Botín: Absolutely.

The modified Emirates Team NZ TP52 yacht sails in the Cascais regatta. Video copyright AUDI Medcup

Valencia Sailing: Since you have such a clear position I won't ask you about the trimaran concepts BMW Oracle presented in the meeting. What are your thoughts on the monohull concept they presented?
Marcelino Botín: I liked it, it seemed very good to me. In fact they were 3 different proposals, basically based on the AC33, the yacht Alinghi had proposed for the 33rd America's Cup. We, obviously, have a different opinion on each of the 3 options but they all appeared attractive. The first option was for a yacht with a canting keel, the second one for a yacht with a lifting keel and the third one was for a slightly smaller yacht.

Given the current tough financial situation we think it would be difficult to have a large number of teams that take part in this Cup. Therefore, we would opt for a simple solution that doesn't increment the costs of a campaign, already expensive by itself. For that reason, the simplest yacht possible, even a smaller one, would be acceptable for us if it is different, if it can provide close racing and attract more teams.

Valencia Sailing: Don't you think that with a smaller yacht you would run the risk of turning the Cup into just another circuit?
Marcelino Botín: Well, I'm not talking about 50-foot yachts!! The current ACC yachts are 24-25 meters long, so I'm referring to that size or maybe slightly smaller, 22-23 meters. As I said, it has to be a simple boat and as result, I would rule out the canting keel. It appears attractive but when you thoroughly examine it, it loses its advantages. For example having an engine on during the race is something unappealing to me and while it add some speed to the yachts it won't make races much more spectacular.

Valencia Sailing: One of the fundamental aspects of the new yachts, at least for Russell Coutts and BMW Oracle, will be the ability to race in winds from 5 to 35 knots. Is that feasible with the smaller yachts you mention?
Marcelino Botín: I think there is a misunderstanding there. In Valencia, we didn't have races in 5 knots of wind not because the yachts couldn't sail but because it would have been a tremendously unstable and fluky race course and the race committee would have been unable to set a fair course. Will that change? I don't think so because it's from 7-8 knots and above that you have stabler and fairer conditions. Can you sail with 35 knots of wind? I think it's too much but the TP52's race very well with 30 knots of wind without any problems.

Valencia Sailing: Was crew size addressed during the meeting?
Marcelino Botín: Yes and it would be a smaller rather than a bigger crew. The idea is to have a physically demanding and challenging yacht with lots of physical action visible. Depending on the final size of the yacht it will be between 12 and 14 crew members and I hope they keep the grinders because otherwise it would become push-button sailing.

Valencia Sailing: How does the consultation process proceed from here? Will you meet again? Will they ask for your opinion at a later stage?
Marcelino Botín: I honestly don't know and you should ask Ian Burns how he will proceed. All the designers in the meeting voiced their opinions and then filled in a questionnaire they gave us. I suppose that the Defender of the 34th America's Cup will now evaluate those answers and present their final decision but I really don't know any further details. I don't think they will have a substantial advantage over the rest of us and I don't think that after winning the 33rd America's Cup they started working like crazy on the design of a pre-conceived yacht. Regardless of the intermediate process, the rule will be made public by the end of September and from there we will all have the same chances in designing a competitive yacht.

Valencia Sailing: Is it going to be a box rule or a formula?
Marcelino Botín: I hope it's a loose box rule, that's our preference, with just the basic parameters set, like displacement, beam, mast height, that kind of things. Within that box we would like to have more liberty to develop our choices and for us that would be the best option.

Valencia Sailing: A TP80 or TP75?
Marcelino Botín: The TP52 class is also a box rule but much more restricted because everything is controlled. You can change the hull or the appendages but sail area is controlled, it's much tighter. Maybe in the America's Cup they can allow more liberty but I think these are details. By far, the most important decision is the type of boat. Once that fundamental decision is taken, the aspects you mention are minor details. As I said, in general lines, I would like to see a loose box rule for the 34th America's Cup.

Valencia Sailing: Now that you mention the "tight" TP52 rule, will anyone be able to design a yacht that will beat the one you designed for Team New Zealand?
Marcelino Botín: Emirates Team New Zealand is a very tight group of sailors that have been working together since many years. They are very good sailors and teamwork is excellent aboard the yacht, any yacht, whether it's in the TP52's, the Louis Vuitton regattas or the America's Cup. The TP52 yacht might be fast but, you know, she doesn't sail by herself, she doesn't go on autopilot. To win a race you need to have a good start, to have good tactics and not make any mistakes.

Valencia Sailing: A month ago the TP52's had their first race under the new rule and your team had another convincing victory. Are you satisfied with the performance of the modified yacht?
Marcelino Botín: Everybody is very happy with the new TP52 boats, in particular under the beautiful conditions Cascais had to offer, 15-20 knots each and every day. When you see them planing, reaching 20 knots of speed in a long downwind stretch of the coastal race, it's obvious everybody is satisfied with the modifications made. However, the improvement will also be noted in the other venues even with a much lighter breeze.

Estanislao Carpio, COO of Camper, speaking during the Camper VOR presentation. Palma de Mallorca, 12 April 2010. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

Valencia Sailing: Emirates Team New Zealand, together with Camper, makes a leap forward by entering the Volvo Ocean Race. How big will that challenge be for you?
Marcelino Botín: The truth is that we were really looking forward to that and we had been working hard on that. There were various ups and downs in the process because everything depended on how the America's Cup situation would turn out. Fortunately, Camper decided to enter the race and we are more than happy to be there. We love the Volvo Ocean Race yacht, the VO70 is a hell of a boat, it's a great experience designing it, sailing it...

Valencia Sailing: It has a canting keel though...
Marcelino Botín: Don't get me wrong. I don't like having an engine on during an entire America's Cup race. It's completely different in an offshore race where you turn the engine on when you have to tack. As I said, we are delighted to design another VO70 boat, especially because this time we have more time. Last time we were under pressure and didn't have the time to adequately prepare ourselves. I am sure we will be better prepared now.

Valencia Sailing: I imagine you are actively designing the Camper / Emirates Team NZ yacht right now. What is the schedule you have?
Marcelino Botín: We will start building the boat in approximately 2-3 months from now and the plan is to start sailing 6 months before the race start. Since the yacht will be built at Cookson Yachts in New Zealand, the first sail will most probably be there as well. We will try to ship her to Europe as late as possible because we want to take advantage of the southern hemisphere winter in order to have good sailing conditions. As you understand, it doesn't make sense to train for the Volvo Ocean Race in the Mediterranean during the European summer.

Valencia Sailing: You praised the kiwi crew but still they will start training 12 months from now. Don't you think you will be disadvantaged compared to Groupama or Puma that are already taking part in various offshore races?
Marcelino Botín: The crew that will take part in the VOR is not the same you see in the TP52's or the Louis Vuitton races.

Valencia Sailing: That's exactly my point. It will be a new crew and by the time you launch the new VO70, Groupama will have sailed for 12 months.
Marcelino Botín: That's correct, but it is fundamental to have a crew with a lot of experience and they will train with the new yacht. Don't forget that none of the new teams will be sailing their brand new yachts until 6 months before the race. You can train a lot of time but when the new boat comes it will be a completely different story. I don't claim they will start from scratch but they will not have any significant advantage.

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At 12:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very intererting interview.
Great job!

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that since Camper doesn´t get any tax discounts for sponsoring a foreing team, they will withdraw as a sponsors for TNZ.

Any news about that?

At 3:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems ludicrous to allow engine-driven keel canting. Why not allow the storage of human power for this purpose (in a hydraulic accumulator -- fit one of the grinder pedestals with a hydraulic pump)

It doesn't seem sensible to allow canting but deny power winches, and once they're permitted it's goodnight nurse for any pretence that it's a physical contest.


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