The 33rd America’s Cup match is right around the corner and Valencia Sailing had the opportunity to briefly catch up with Russell Coutts, CEO of BMW Oracle. Here is what the legendary kiwi sailor told us.
Valencia Sailing: We have a mere 3 weeks left until the starting gun is fired for the 1st race of the 33rd AC. Do you feel confident?
Russell Coutts: We are ready to race on February 8th. We remain committed to trying to get any rules questions resolved prior to the start of racing so that the winner on the water is the undisputed winner of the America’s Cup.
Valencia Sailing: You launched BOR 90 on Saturday but you stepped a conventional mast and not the hard wing. What is the reason?
Russell Coutts: We are using the conventional rig for our structural load testing prior to the commencement of sailing.
Valencia Sailing: When do you expect to sail her for the first time in Valencia?
Russell Coutts: We plan to sail Tuesday.
Valencia Sailing: Have you made a decision on the crew that will race the Cup?
Russell Coutts: James Spithill is the Skipper and helmsman. Come race day, he will put the best crew on board for the job.
Valencia Sailing: As far as tactics are concerned do you think James Spithill’s exceptional match racing skills will make a difference in prestart or is it going to be a long drag race?
Russell Coutts: Jimmy has done an amazing job with this boat. Unlike traditional Cup programs, we haven’t had two-boat testing so it will be really interesting once we line-up against the competition. I have no doubt Jimmy’s match racing skills will come into play. There is incredible anticipation for that first race. That’s part of the excitement. Neither team knows what’s going to happen. But I think this race will be more about boatspeed than match racing skill. The fastest boat will almost certainly win.
Valencia Sailing: What do you make of Alinghi 5, now that you have seen her sailing 2 days in Valencia? In the following days, when you also train with BOR90 will you try to get close to her and potentially try to assess any differences in performance?
Russell Coutts: Alinghi has some great people on both the design and sailing teams. From what we know, it seems they are well suited to light air conditions. We will assess what we can but our focus is on getting our own boat and team race-ready and to put our best package on the start line on the 8th of February.
Valencia Sailing: Tom Ehman, in the press conference in Zurich, stated that one of your team’s proposals was to postpone the regatta for a month or so and hold it in March. Why?
Russell Coutts: Alinghi has taken a big risk in building its sails in the USA and GGYC has flagged up the issue of CIC for over a year. Constructed in country (CIC) is the DNA of the America’s Cup. It is fundamental to the Deed of Gift – ‘competition between foreign countries’. We have no wish to DSQ Alinghi. If they need more time to build legal sails, we would offer it. It would also make for a better AC33, moving it from a direct clash with the Winter Olympics.
Valencia Sailing: Do you have any explanation to why Alinghi left the negotiation table in Singapore, despite the fact your team had signed an agreement drafted by them?
Russell Coutts: Their representatives telephoned back to Alinghi. They were not given permission to sign the Singapore Agreement.
Valencia Sailing: Ernesto Bertarelli said on Friday that “if Russell Coutts wants to win the America’s Cup in the NY Courts all he has to do is call me and I’ll send it to him”. Have you called him?
Russell Coutts: This is pure nonsense. It is ridiculous. We want to win on the water and win under fair rules. We’ve got to sort these rules our before we get going February 8th. We’re not going to allow them to break the rules. Ernesto is allergic to fair rules despite the New York Court telling 13 times out of 14, ‘No. Stop. You are wrong.” The latest and arguably Ernesto Bertarelli’s most blatant attempt to circumvent the rules is his view on sails. He claimed that “Should the American justice system outlaw their use (of sails), it would be like asking Roger Federer to defend his title without using his tennis racket.” However, Federer doesn’t play Wimbledon with an illegal racket. Why should Ernesto be allowed to compete in the America’s Cup with illegal sails?
Valencia Sailing: I always wanted to ask you this question but I don’t know whether you’ll answer. Is there any truth to the rumor Larry Ellison pays you 10 million dollars a year and offered you a 50-million dollar bonus if you win the 33rd AC?
Russell Coutts: No. There is no truth to those rumours. We prefer not to discuss personal salaries but I can confirm your estimates are completely wrong. What I can definitely confirm is that the overall budget at BMW ORACLE Racing is not dissimilar to other top teams’ budgets for the 2007 Cup.