[Source: Victory Challenge] Victory Challenge have now carried out three and a half weeks of winter training in Dubai. This totals 19 days of sailing, three days of maintenance and three days off.
“It has not been difficult to motivate the sailing team since there has been so much racing,” says Magnus Holmberg, skipper and helmsman.
It is Sunday at Victory Challenge’s temporary base in Dubai but also a working day for everybody in the team. It is the third day for maintenance of boat and equipment. According to Magnus Holmberg, skipper and helmsman, the experience has still far exceeded his high expectations: “The sailing has been superb, and we have had really excellent racing with the two boats. As they are very similar in speed the competition is very fierce.”
Örn (SWE 63) and Orm (SWE 73) have coped well under the strain.
“There is a frightful amount of wear on the boats when they are raced this much. We have of course been a bit nervous but we have some extremely good boat-builders who have patched them up every time something has broken. Luckily nothing serious has happened.
Video: Victory Challenge in Dubai (Note: We think Victory Challenge is the America’s Cup team that produces the best multimedia content, by far. Obviously, part of it is pure PR but it there is always interesting footage).
Magnus Holmberg said last Friday: “We have been able to sail whenever we want, and give it our all. We have had 8 -15 knots every day, sea breeze and a variety of sea conditions. The only thing we have been missing is a day with a slightly stronger breeze, up to 20 knots. But I am sure we will get days with really strong winds too.”
The strong wind came during the week. Although the team took out the boats every day, training had to be interrupted one of the days due to too strong winds.
The hard training – combined with the fact that some of the sailors went to Valencia for short periods to finish off SWE-96 – has taken its toll on the sailing team. Even Magnus Holmberg has had injuries.
“There have been some minor injuries, some have taken ill, which is natural enough when pushed this hard. We used temporary sailors, who did a terrific job”.
The wind conditions are the reason Victory Challenge – just like Alinghi, the America’s Cup Defender – has sited its winter training in the United Arab Emirates. They are more or less like the winds expected in Valencia when the Louis Vuitton Cup starts on 16 April and the eleven challengers compete for the place to meet Alinghi in the America’s Cup Match.
“Sailing conditions in Valencia are very poor at this time of the year. We therefore decided to have our winter training here; we felt we needed to have as many sailing days as possible since the Louis Vuitton Cup starts soon.”
While the two-boat training during September to December in Valencia with Örn (SWE 63) and Orm (SWE 73) was more focused on tests and development for building the new boat SWE 96, the training in Dubai is regular sailing training, from starts, to manoeuvrings to tactics, and tough situations which may arise in match racing duels during the Louis Vuitton Cup.
“The sailing is completely different from when you carry out tests and mainly sail straight ahead,” says Magnus Holmberg. This is also a way of testing the crew. “Therefore winter training in Dubai is also an important part of the process of identifying who will be sailing when it is time for the Louis Vuitton Cup,” says Magnus Holmberg.
There will be a more complex team selection process now than for the pre-regattas within the 32nd America’s Cup in which Victory Challenge participated during 2005 and 2006.
At that time the team consisted of around 20 people. Everybody was needed in at least one race as the boat had a crew of 17, and strains and injuries are common. Now, after extensive supplementary recruitment carried out for the two-boat training, the team has grown to 39 people of 11 different nationalities.
“Through the training we are doing at the moment, it becomes more and more clear who should be selected for the onboard team in the Louis Vuitton Cup”, says Magnus Holmberg.