AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:
About The Challenge
Daily Report - January 1, 2000-
Standing on the deck of USA 49, glass of bubbly in hand, getting rained on and watching the Auckland fireworks displays - that's how many members of the AmericaOne Team ushered in the dawn of the new millennium. I am happy to report that nobody at AmericaOne suffered any serious afflictions of the infamous "Y2K" bug, except possibly a solitary team member who was overheard claiming that his beer went instantly warm and flat at the critical moment of celebration. Otherwise, we all had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It wasn't overly enjoyable, though - we still have a job to do down here, and a full New Years' Day of sailing was ahead of us. More on that later
The evening started with a very large portion of the team, kids included, dining at a local restaurant for a bit of holiday cheer. The food and company were both excellent, and the spot seems to have been a popular New Years' locale for athletes, because also sharing the restaurant were several members of the West Indies National Cricket team. Like most Americans, I don't know very much about cricket, though there are apparently some amazing fellows involved with it. I say this because I read recently in the paper that a player had managed to bowl three maidens over before lunch, which has to be considered a significant achievement by almost any standard. In any case, it was fun to have dinner with professionals from the highest level of two sports.
From the restaurant and elsewhere, most members of the team managed to converge at our base for the final bit of merriment, and some did a bit of celebrating next door at the Swiss compound, where a party was just getting started. Auckland was an absolute madhouse, but all of us, mindful of the task ahead, managed to turn in earlier than one might expect from the year 2000 festivities. I am consistently impressed by the professionalism of this team. Here we are, in New Zealand, right on the leading edge of the new millennium, and we have an entire team of athletes showing up to work early the next morning ready to find the last bit of speed that will hopefully propel us into the finals.
In my job with the syndicate, I get to see this kind of professionalism all the time. It is most evident when I'm actually on the sailboat. This is actually quite rare, because, while I consider myself to be a reasonably good sailor, I am simply not at these guys' level when it comes to the mechanics of pushing a sailboat around a racecourse. Those who are themselves club-level sailors will appreciate what I am talking about. On most boats at the club level a gybe usually involves a conversation like this: "OK, we're going to gybe. Does everybody know what they're doing? Right. No, use this winch instead." With an America's Cup crew (or at least this one), the helmsman usually just turns the boat and says "gybing" and it seems to just happen automatically. In a race, the helmsman can change his mind about how he is going to maneuver and expect to find that the crew is already prepared for just about anything he can throw at them. It is for this reason that, on those occasions when I am going sailing, I always imagine that the conversation as I step on board will go something like this:
ME (enthusiastically): So, John, I'm on the boat today! What position do you want me to be in?
JOHN KOSTECKI (seriously): Prone.
In any case, I usually only go on board to fiddle with the instruments or otherwise affect the part of this program where I really can contribute, two-boat testing analysis. It is just as well, because I have plenty to do in that capacity. My boss, Chris Todter, and I are responsible for writing and maintaining all of the software that we use to collect the data, for managing the tests, and for analyzing the results. At the end of each testing day there is a performance meeting where I am again amazed at the level at which these guys operate. They seem to have an almost photographic memory for sailing maneuvers. With amazing regularity, while I am looking over a confusing test result, Paul, John or Gavin will speak up and say something like, "That must have been the test last Tuesday where we were on port and to leeward in a 12-knot north-easterly breeze with lumpy seas, and we had a little too much headstay tension. Check it." And they always seem to be right. Paul has, on at least one occasion, identified the obscure cause of peculiarity in data that was taken years ago. Really.
Most of the time, though, they want results immediately. We have to know, 10 seconds after a test is completed, who won (and by how much), what the wind was doing, how the first part of the test compared to the last part, how the boatspeeds compared to the targets, and a host of other factors which they somehow manage to process and convert into information they can use in the real-world, day-to-day task of working toward our goal of winning the America's Cup. That's what it takes to win this event, though individuals with a diverse set of skills and a common goal.
And so it is that we find ourselves out on the Hauraki Gulf on the first day of the millennium, working hard to find any bit of speed we can. I have confidence in the boat, confidence in the sailors, and confidence in the team. Still, it will be a tough round, and the support of the sailors back home is important. I hope you will wish us luck.
In the meantime, all of us at AmericaOne would like to wish a very happy New Year to all of you!
Bill Cook _/)_
AmericaOne is one of the leading challengers for America's Cup 2000. The team is currently competing in Auckland, New Zealand for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge New Zealand for the America's Cup in February 2000. AmericaOne has built two boats based on 4 years of technology development and innovation. The top level technology partners are Hewlett-Packard Company, Telcordia Technologies/SAIC, Ford Motor Company/Visteon and United Technologies Corp. AmericaOne represents San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club. To learn more about AmericaOne visit: www.americaone.org.
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