Ernesto Bertarelli chose the lakeside clubhouse of the Societe Nautique de
Geneve, the first club of which he, as a small boy, became a member, as the
venue for announcing the make-up of his challenge for the America's Cup.
It was three months since it was announced that he had secured the services
of Russell Coutts and several of Team New Zealand's core crew, and as much
for that reason as any other, there were few surprises.
Coutts will skipper Le Defi Suisse Coupe de l'America and those members of
his original crew, Brad Butterworth, Murray Jones, Simon Daubney, Warwick
Fleury and Dean Phipps will occupy the identical key positions on the boat
that they did for Team New Zealand, as tactician, strategist, headsail and
mainsail trimmers and bowman respectively.
Coutts has made no surprising choices for the rest of the crew which he has
so far selected; they are all well tried and tested in the international
arena. 'There have been 47 participations in the America's Cup by the
various members of this team,' he said, adding that between them they had
26 victories in the Cup, that there were five Olympians and 67 world
championship titles. That was after he had declared that this was a
special challenge for him because it had enabled him to sit down with a
clean sheet of paper. He hasn't yet made a controversial choice — a
contrast to his defection from Team New Zealand.
British-based Australian, Andrew Cape, who was the navigator of
OneAustralia challenge in San Diego, is selected for his expertise with
marine electronics and their associated software. Cape has been recently
competing in a Mini-Transat boat of his own design.
Sail trimmers are generally acknowledged to provide the difference between
good and excellent from sails and Richard Bouzaid, the son of double One
Ton Cup winner, Chris, a Kiwi sailmaker, joins to bolster that department,
as does Marco Constant, the itinerant South African who has raced in
everything from the Whitbread to 6-Metres in the past fifteen years. He
was a member of John Kolius' Abracadabra crew which competed for the Aloha
syndicate in Auckland.
There are still no Swiss in the crew, but selection trials aboard the
recently acquired Swiss Challenger, be hAPpy, should provide an opportunity
for the invited local sailors to form part of the grinding crew. In the
meantime, two Dutchmen, Jan Neergaard and Pieter von Nieuwenhuyzen from
AmericaOne, plus Italian, Francesco Rapetti, have the muscle.
In addition, among the acknowledged super-stars there is the Canadian
bowman, Curtis Blewett, who made a name for himself in the last Whitbread
on the winning EF Language and was on AmericaOne, plus his colleague from
both those campaigns, pitman Josh Belsky, who help to complete the
When Bertarelli, who is guaranteeing the entire funding of the Swiss
challenge, announced that it was officially from the Societe Nautique de
Geneve, he failed to answer the question of the Club's eligibility.
Neither he nor any one of his henchmen was prepared to comment on how or
where the Club held its annual regatta, let alone whether or not, to
conform to the terms of the Deed of Gift, it is on the sea or an arm of the
sea. Allusions were made to the Heart of America Challenge from the
Chicago YC in 1986/7, but that was cleared by the New York Supreme Court as
being situated on an arm of the sea.
It was confirmed by both Bertarelli and his executive director, Michel
Bonnefous, that the total budget has been set at US$55 million. 'That is
what the successful teams spent last time,' said Bonnefous. Bertarelli,
however did add that this figure included the salaries and signing-on fees
of the crew, from which Coutts alone is reputed to have cost $8 million.
Bertarelli did admit that the challenge would seek commercial sponsors but
denied that his own pharmaceutical company, Ares Serono, would be involved.
While the syndicate has purchased be hAPpy, and plans to convert it to a
conventional keel and rudder configuration before beginning Swiss crew
trials on October 15th, there are no plans to purchase further IACC boats.
be hAPpy will be moved later to the Mediterranean for further crew
assessment, while it is the intention of the core crew to take part in the
Swedish Match Grand Prix Match Racing circuit in 2001. Coutts said he will
make his return to this circuit this year, beginning with the Bermuda Gold
Cup in late October.
The syndicate has acquired the dock space in New Zealand previously rented
by both the French and Japanese teams and has nominated Kiwi boatbuilder,
Tim 'The Rat' Gurr, as the Operations Manager. Gurr will also be keeping a
consultant's eye on the building of the two new IACC boats that are planned
to be constructed by Decision SA, the company which built be hAPpy and the
maxi-yachts which Pierre Fehlmann sailed in the Whitbread. The new boats
will be ready for the beginning of the 2001/2 season in Auckland.
The design team consists of Rolf Vrolijk, who was responsible for the
Spanish boat, Bravo Espana, for 2000, and a host of successful offshore
racers, together with Manolo Ruiz de Elvira, while Dirk Kramers, who has
been involved constantly with America's Cup challenges since Courageous and
Independence in 1977, is the Chief Engineer. Mike Schreiber (USA) will be
the sail designer and his pedigree goes back through Stars & Stripes in
1988 & 1992, OneAustralia in 1995 and America True last time.