It was party time this early evening at the Victory Challenge base in Valencia. The Swedish America’s Cup challenger officially presented and christened their brand new yacht. From now on, in addition to her sailnumber SWE-96, she will be called Järv (Swedish for wolverine). According to the team, she is one of the least known predators which is remarkably strong for its size and often described as cunning, presumably the qualities of the yacht designed by Mani Frers and helmed by Magnus Holmberg.
There isn’t really anything new to talk about, as far as the boat is concerned, because SWE-96 had already been presented to the media two weeks ago and she has been sailing since then, together with SWE-73. The only difference this time around was the party and christening itself. It was completely different from what we have seen so far. Gone were the talks, champaign bottles broken on the bow and launches. This time the yacht came from the sea, towed with all the sailing crew onboard who afterwards were presented one by one.
The biggest difference of all is probably due to the fact that Red Bull is the one of the team’s main sponsors. There was a distinguishly younger mood with DJs playing loud techno music, thousands of cans of the energizing drink and above all the extremely spectacular Red Bull acrobatic planes diving and circling dangerously a few meters off the sea level and our heads.
Hard core sailing fans might find all this a distraction and consider it superfluous but it is unavoidable. Why should the America’s Cup be different from all other top professional sports? It is exactly sponsors that pay the budget necessary to design, build and race these spectacular sailing battleships. After all it was a very spectacular show and I wonder why the Swedes didn’t invite all Valencians to go to Port America’s Cup public spaces and watch the acrobatics.
This is not Pearl Harbor but Port America’s Cup where the famous Red Bull acrobatic planes gave a different spin to the presentation. Valencia, 22 February 2007. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis Valencia Sailing
Getting down to more serious business, we had an interesting chat with Mani Frers, designer of Järv (SWE-96):
Valencia Sailing: You must have answered this question many times. Are you satisfied with the first sailing tests of the new boat?
Mani Frers: Certainly, we are very satisfied with the first results. Since we didn’t have much margin for errors, we see now that the boat, the mast and sails are performing very well.
Valencia Sailing: Victory Challenge has only built one new boat. Was this a reason to choose a radical design, a make-or-break bet?
Mani Frers: No, we didn’t opt for a radical design. In that direction you lose much more than you gain. Conditions in Valencia are very well known to everybody and we went to the maximum allowed by the rules. Being radical in the America’s Cup is almost impossible.
Valencia Sailing: Why?
Mani Frers: Because the rules are very tight. As I said, conditions are well known in Valencia, dimensions are very big. Obviously within these parameters there can be differences but they are not extreme. We took some risks but when you only have one boat and late, with little time to retouch things, they are calculated ones, in the hull, the mast, the sails and appendages. It’s a risk because you have little time and you don’t know whether you will reach your objectives. We still haven’t got to the level we wanted to but I believe we have all the possibilities to do it.