Iain Murray CEO of ACRM, talks to Valencia Sailing
Iain Murray was appointed CEO, about a month ago, of newly-formed America's Cup Race Management, the body set up by BMW Oracle in charge of everything related to the actual racing in the 34th America's Cup. Murray had his first, at least public, meeting with the potential teams, both challengers and defenders, on Friday in Paris. Valencia Sailing caught up with him in order to know more about his past, the meeting in Paris and the main issues he will face in the near future.
Valencia Sailing: Let's start briefly talking about your background and your involvement in the America's Cup in the past.
Iain Murray: In 1983 I was originally the skipper of Advance, the challenge from Sydney, and then of the trial horse for Australia II. In 1987 I was the skipper of Kookaburra, one of chief designers as well as CEO of the syndicate. In 1992 I held the same positions and in 1995 I was a sailor on the boat and co-designer of One Australia.
Valencia Sailing: On September 17th you were appointed CEO of America's Cup Race Management and in the official press release you made a statement that I always wanted to ask you what you meant. You said you were "impressed by the commitment BMW ORACLE Racing, Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison have made to fix this thing". What was broken in the America's Cup that needed to be fixed?
Iain Murray: Well, it has always been broken because the Trustee of the America's Cup had a conflict being the Defender and the Trustee at the same time. We worked very hard in 1992 and 1995 to create a separate Trustee that would work independently of the Defender of the America's Cup and we were very close to having an agreement signed back then. It didn't happen and Team New Zealand won the Cup. Now, fifteen years later I actually see Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts having the desire to have an independent body running the event and I think it is something that has been necessary for a long time.
Valencia Sailing: Would you then argue that in the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia, Dyer Jones was not independent?
Iain Murray: I'm not saying he wasn't independent. Dyer Jones is a very good guy and there is nothing wrong with Dyer Jones. At the end of the day after 2007 the America's Cup ended back in a Deed-of-Gift challenge. It happened in 1988 and then back in 2007 and both of them were very undesirable results for the America's Cup in my opinion. I wasn't in Valencia in 2007 and I don't know what happened but between 2007 and 2010 it wasn't good for the America's Cup. I feel that some great things came out of it, such as the technology and the boats, but the Deed-of-Gift challenge and the court case caused substantial damage to the America's Cup.
Valencia Sailing: Does that mean that with the establishment of ACRM (America's Cup Race Management) and ACEA (America's Cup Event Authority) the possibility of another Deed-of-Gift challenge has been eliminated?
Iain Murray: If you sign up for this challenge and you sign up to the protocol
that has been produced by the Challenger of Record and the Defender or the Trustee of the America's Cup, Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts, you can't go back to a Deed-of-Gift challenge, it's in the terms of reference of the entry.
Iain Murray, newly-appointed Regatta Director for the 34th America’s Cup and CEO of America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM). Photo copyright www.americascup.com
Valencia Sailing: What are ACRM's role and responsibilities in this America's Cup?
Iain Murray: We are responsible basically for everything that is related to racing. We set up the venues, we work with ISAF to provide the jury, we place the race control in conjunction with the challengers and the race committee, we basically run all the logistics for the America's Cup. Prior to that we will run the World Series which will be somewhere between 13 and 16 events over a couple of years before the America's Cup and as you understand, it's a lot of races and a lot logistics with two different classes of boats.
Valencia Sailing: Your first, at least public, meeting with the potential teams of this Cup took place on Friday in Paris. What did you discuss with them?
Iain Murray: It was a first briefing that provided potential competitors with the knowledge that we have at this particular time. The aim was to bring them up to speed with who we are, to introduce ourselves, ACRM and ACEA, the people they are going to be dealing with the backgrounds of those people and what those two organizations' plans are for the future. So, we took them through who we are, what we are going to do, how our corporate structure works, who's responsible for what. We took them through some highlights of key dates to do with the protocol, the entry process, the AC45's and the World Series based on what we know at this time. We took them through how to get hold of an AC45, how boats will be delivered and what are thoughts are regarding juries, umpiring, bits and pieces.
Then, the event side took them through their view of the events, what they will vie to achieve in television and media and how they can possibly work with the competitors to have a better and healthy America's Cup.
Valencia Sailing: The World Series will start next year. How many events do you plan to have in 2011?
Iain Murray: We are planning to have five events.
Valencia Sailing: Is it correct the first event will take place in June or July here in Europe?
Iain Murray: Yes, that's correct.
Valencia Sailing: The AC45's will be used in next year's events. What is the schedule you have for the yachts? Is the first one going to be ready by Christmas?
Iain Murray: I'm not sure it's going to be ready by Christmas but it will surely be ready for sea trials in the first week of January. Whether it has test sails prior to Christmas, I'm not pressing on that issue, the main issue is to conduct sea trials in the first week of January. Then we hand over the first boat over to syndicates to trial on a rotational basis, from the 15th of January until we deliver the next four boats, around the beginning of March.
Valencia Sailing: Who will get the first boat? Is it going to be BMW Oracle?
Iain Murray: My understanding is that the Defender and the Challenger of Record will get the first two boats and then boats 3, 4, 5 and 6 will go to the other teams that entered the event, according to their order of entry in the event.
Valencia Sailing: How will the entered teams get the new boats? Are they going to have to buy them?
Iain Murray: Yes, that's correct.
Valencia Sailing: What about the teams that want two AC45's? Can they have two yachts?
Iain Murray: Yes, they can but all the teams that want only one boat will get it before anyone else gets two boats.
Valencia Sailing: Were there any potential defending teams in the meeting and what was in general the feedback you received from all the participants?
Iain Murray: Yes, there was a potential defending team. Regarding the feedback, there were some questions about the protocol but the general feedback was positive. They all understand the vision of Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts and accept it. It presents some challenges to some of them to put things together because of the tight schedule. Everyone would like to be involved but it's up to whether they can manage it.
Valencia Sailing: Surely 24 potential teams is an impressive but extremely unlikely number. Is there a number you will be realistically happy with?
Iain Murray: Anything above 8 competitors will be fantastic. If we have 8 competitors that will be good, if we have 9 that will be better, if we have 12 that will be unbelievable.
Valencia Sailing: What was the geographical spread of the participants? Were they mainly Europeans?
Iain Murray: I can say there was Asian representation, Pacific representation and a lot of European representation. You know, this wasn't a competitors meeting, it was a briefing to interested parties and a lot of people turned up to see what we were going to talk about.
Valencia Sailing: Was there any representative of Alinghi or anyone on behalf of them?
Iain Murray: Not that I know of.
Valencia Sailing: Why didn't you make public the identity of the participants in the meeting?
Iain Murray: That was really the choice of the participants. They were not ready to declare. There was a lot of people that were looking at whether they wanted a partner or who their sponsors might be, so making the list public would be premature. It wasn't a competitors meeting, it was a briefing.
Valencia Sailing: What is the next step now after that meeting?
Iain Murray: We have a very tight time schedule to deliver the AC45's. There is no set number we have to deliver but we work on the basis that we will have to deliver as many as we possibly can for the first event. We are also working very hard on the logistics approach as these boats will move around. We are working on boat supplies, on the wingsails, on how to operate in the different venues, how to transport them, how to pack them, how we will moor them. There are a lot of things we are working on. We have a number of people spread all over the world working on all those issues. Once we know the regatta venues we will start looking at them in order to study them, understand the specifics and plan accordingly.
Valencia Sailing: Will the wingsails be logistically a bigger problem than if the yachts had conventional rigging and soft sails?
Iain Murray: Sure, particularly since we have the responsibility of moving the boats. The wings are quite fragile and need to be handled by very professional people to ensure they are not damaged in transport. We will adapt to it. It's nice to have the AC45's to start with because the AC72's present far bigger a challenge. Nevertheless, we have some very good and smart people working on all of that and I'm sure we'll come up with the right answers. We are looking at several ways of dealing with it and we'll get on top of that. Once we understand the boats it's not going to be a frightening issue for us.
Valencia Sailing: Will you also be in charge of running the Youth America's Cup Championship?
Iain Murray: Yes, we are in charge of running all the sailing side. We still have to work out what that is, when it's going to be. Part of our duties is to run the Youth Championship and we intend to do that. We will work with the syndicates so that it's neither a huge cost nor a huge distraction for them. It's not going to be a Series but a Championship. We are also looking at what we'll do with the AC45's once the AC72's are on track. They will be very good boats and everybody is going to learn a lot with them but will happen with them afterwards is another issue.