It’s said that age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill. If so, Alinghi has a leg up in its afterguard whose average age is 48 years. The group of eight sailors that covers the roles of helmsman, tactician, navigator, strategist and traveller operator is grounded in experience.
Syndicate founder Ernesto Bertarelli may be the youngest member of the group at 44 years old, but his accomplishments speak volumes for his ability. Besides guiding Alinghi to victory in consecutive America’s Cup matches, Bertarelli is the reigning three-time champion of the Challenge Julius Baer, a circuit for D35 multihulls, and has also won world championships in the 12-Metre and Farr 40 classes.
Two of the group’s members, tactician and team skipper Brad Butterworth and strategist Murray Jones, are among the five Kiwis in the team who have won every America’s Cup Match since 1995. Their other achievements are too lengthy to mention.
Helmsman Ed Baird, who steered SUI100 to victory in the 32nd America’s Cup Match, is a recipient of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and a three-time match racing world champion. He’s also a well-respected coach.
Navigator Juan Vila is a two-time Cup winner with Alinghi and is a multiple round-the-world race champion. Kiwi Peter Evans has two Cup victories to his credit in addition to the Olympics.
For the 33rd America’s Cup, the group has been bolstered by the addition of two highly acclaimed multihull sailors, Frenchmen Alain Gautier and Loïck Peyron. Gautier has won the single handed round-the-world race and Peyron has made 43 crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, 18 of them single handed, as well as two circumnavigations.
It’ll take every bit of the group’s vast experience to be successful in the 33rd Cup, but it’s a challenge they relish, especially the newcomers, who have never been exposed to such resources in their many years of racing.
“For me it is really fascinating to see such a big family with a lot of ways of doing things,” says Peyron. “It’s really professional, for sure. And there are a lot of people, that's the main difference between this and other projects I've done.”
Adds Gautier: “The calibre of the sailors and design team makes it a privilege to be part of Alinghi.”
For the contemplative group, testing and refining a new type of craft has been a rewarding experience. Many of the sailors have spent endless hours two-boat testing America’s Cup Class sloops to the point of growing weary of the process; endless days of straight line tests lasting 10 minutes each makes for a repetitive process.
The introduction of the 90-foot catamaran has re-energized their minds and given them new goals to attain.
“I’ve learnt more about the design and theory of yachts in the last three years than I have in probably the last 10,” says Jones, who created the innovative cross-shroud rigs aboard America’s Cup Class sloops. “It’s been really interesting and the great thing about sailing these boats is that you get instant gratification. You get instant feedback as to whether there has been a gain in performance or not. You can just basically feel it and see it in the performance of the boat immediately, even with a one-boat sailing programme.”
At the end of the day age is nothing more than a number, but in this case it’s a number that illustrates depth of experience and wiliness second to none.