AmericaOne Report 11/27/99
PROTECTING YOUR ASSETS
By Peter D. Henig
To be sure, the America's Cup is a moneyed event. Challenger campaigns can run a cool $30 million, a simple mast $400,000 US, a boat itself, priceless, especially if it snaps in half at the wrong place and time.
For this reason, it seems that America's Cup syndicates spend half their time stretching their precious assets - boats, equipment and crew alike - only to spend the other half protecting them. Although each campaign has a certain measure of redundancy built into their arsenal of racing resources - some more than others - it's the stresses on those same assets which have already proven to be a distinguishing factor within the Louis Vuitton Cup Round Robin 2. Interestingly, however, the testing of those assets has also revealed a measure of sportsmanship.
When Japan's Nippon Challenge split its mast open like a banana right in the middle of a race in Round Robin 2 against AmericaOne, it was the American's which helped haul their 5,000 square foot spinnaker out of the water; sails (particularly America's Cup ones) are never cheap. When Young America's boat crumpled in two no less than three weeks ago, nearly every syndicate in the boat basin felt their pain; and rushed to the rescue by providing water pumps to keep their boat afloat. And when the Young Australia team of 19-year olds requested a new boat - or at least a new-used boat - to step up their scrappy campaign a notch, it was a conscious decision by AmericaOne to release their lease on oneAustralia so that it could be handed over early.
At face value, these examples speak to the true nature of sportsmanship - and co-opetition - that has burned deep inside the rich history of the Cup. Yet, on a larger level, it equally reveals the tricky nature of relying on highly specialized assets for which there are few replacements. Commenting on the decision to send oneAustralia over to the Young Australia syndicate, Bob Billingham, chief operating officer for the AmericaOne team says, "They represent the core of a team that could do pretty well in one or two Cups…and they've already done well with what they have…letting them have that boat is at the core of Paul's [Skipper Paul Cayard's] vision." That vision extends to not only protecting AmericaOne's own assets, but to also effectively leveraging all of the assets involved in the Cup. "That boat is good for those kids, it keeps another boat in the regatta, and it sets a precedent for how someone else could get started in a program," says Mr. Billingham.
That's not to say that this Cup is a full-on warm and fuzzy each day. Although emergencies on the water require the assistance of all hands, they're also an immediate reminder to duck and cover.
"The moment the competition becomes disabled, we take the spinnaker down and protect our assets," says Mr. Billingham. "It's the same with the lines, with the winches, with the crew." In fact, at a dinner hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Mr. Cayard drew the greatest applause from a crowd of supporters not for having beaten the Nippon Challenge syndicate in heavy air that day, but for announcing that as soon as he saw Nippon lose its mast, the first decision made was "to take everything down and protect the assets." (Would it that all CEOs were as mindful of their shareholders money.)
But protecting a campaign's assets walks a tightrope between risk and reward. Is a heavy air gybe worth it? How hard can a crew be pushed upwind? What are the limits of certain sails over others, particularly when each challenger is held to measuring in only 67 sails total? Rigs can be lost for any number of reasons - design, construction or crew error. None of which are ever cheap or easy. It is perhaps for that reason that, while AmericaOne maintains a solid, albeit somewhat shifty, number four spot in the challenger standings, Mr. Billiingham confirms that there's still plenty it can and will do to make USA 49 go faster. And that's even ahead of AmericaOne's testing and tweaking of its new boat, USA 61.
Ultimately, protecting one's assets actually becomes an exercise in effectively allocating resources when you're gunning for a chance at winning the Cup. Or as Mr. Billingham puts it, "It's really a competition of, who uses their resources most effectively and efficiently…Think how good we'll feel if we can beat a team like Prada [funded by one sponsor with $60 million] and spend half the money, making our sponsors look good too."
It's the business side of the Cup most people never see, yet according to Mr. Billingham, "it's every bit as great a feeling."
AmericaOne is dedicated to recapturing the America's Cup by applying U.S. technology in aerodynamics, computer equipment, hydrodynamics, naval architecture, sail design and structural engineering to America's Cup sailboat design. Operating since June 1, 1996, AmericaOne is the challenger on behalf of San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club. AmericaOne technology partners and top-level sponsors include Hewlett-Packard Company, Telcordia Technologies/SAIC, Ford Motor Company/Visteon and United Technologies Corp. To learn more about AmericaOne visit: www.americaone.org.
For further information on AmericaOne, please contact: Gina von Esmarch E-mail: email@example.com / Phone: + 64 9 359 9246/Fax: + 64 9 359 9262 # # #
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