[Source: Emirates Team New Zealand] After my blog on spying on the competition, people have been asking how teams manage to keep secrets when the opposition can approach to within 200 metres because cameras are more than capable of getting in close at that range.
That’s true. In Valencia, at the 2007 LVC finals against Luna Rossa, we shot their notice board each morning from our roof top, at a range of 350 metres, to read little titbits of information.
Misinformation is a great counter-measure, other than not putting a notice board where people can photograph it.
Muddy the water enough and it’s hard to pick fact from fiction and, as people are inclined to believe what they want to believe, teams do have some scope to cover their tracks.
For example, in the 2000 America’s Cup, we (at Prada) had a boom that was way ahead of its time and only half the weight of all our competitors’ booms, thanks to Gio Belgrano (now with Emirates Team New Zealand).
We knew we were on to a winner and did not want Paul Cayard and his boys next door to find out about it.
So whenever the boom was moved, four people did the job even though two could have easily lifted it. The opposition never caught on.
In 2003, again with Prada, we had a series of races with our 1992 boat against NZL39, the boat Chris Dickson had sailed in 1995.
On paper the new boat should have been all over the old design, and would have been had both masts been equal. But we were developing, with Southern Spars, a mast that was much stiffer than the others.
That performance increase shocked even us as the old boat was simply faster than the newer one. To take attention away from the mast, we leaked that the boat was not legal – it didn’t measure.
We had moved outside the measurement rules to make it faster, and therefore competitive with the newer boats. A reasonable and plausible story. They swallowed it hook, line and sinker because they wanted to believe it.
Last year when we were finalizing our foiling on our scaled down 72 boats Oracle was sniffing around and being a general pain in the backside.
We definitely did not want them to know that we had figured out how to “fly” at that point, but we needed to test so we had to sail.
The boat with the flying (foiling) package appeared to break down, slowly being towed home. The other boat, with lots of interest from the shadowing chase boat, started sailing in the other direction, to draw the Oracle flies away.
Once separated, the boat with the foils could do their thing, without the spies knowing. The mistake Oracle made was not checking who was going with which boat … had they done that they might have seen through the smoke screen.
In the old days, Team New Zealand was the king of misinformation. I am still learning the lengths they would go to muddy the water. As for nowadays …. well it is still the America’s Cup.