AmericaOne Feature Report 12/17/99
Keeping AmericaOne Sailing
by Dana Paxton
If there was an America's Cup for shore crew, the AmericaOne shore crew would definitely deserve to win. This group of 11 boatbuilders, repairers, and crash boat drivers keeps the AmericaOne sailing team, well, sailing. Not a day goes by where there isn't something that needs repaired or maintained, whether it's on one of the two International America's Cup Class (IACC) yachts, USA 49 and USA 61 or one of the yachts' tenders.
The boatbuilding team is led by San Diegan Brad Fitzgerald, who is on his third America's Cup, and includes Marc Cosbey, Mark McTeigue, Ted Brown, Mike Eldred, Steve Fergusson, and Steve Campbell. Fitzgerald is a professional boat builder with 15 years of experience and has hired the best in the business to take care of these priceless AmericaOne IACC yachts.
The days for this team are long. Before the sailing team and office staff arrives for their own 12-hour days, it's the shore crew who has been working to make sure the boats and the compound are ready to go. "We check the underbody of the boat, check the air in the tires, and the foils to make sure they're the way we want them," says Fitzgerald. Once that process is complete the boat goes into the launching schedule where the boat is hooked up and readied to be put into the water. "We're on standby until the boat leaves the dock," says Fitzgerald. "Checking steering or any last minute item, like the deck hardware."
Fitzgerald accompanies USA 49 onto the racecourse onboard the team's tender, New Zealand Challenge, in case there's a breakdown before the start or if anything should happen to the boat during racing.
Take, for instance, the day in Round Robin 1 that USA 49's stern scoop was almost torn off by a misguided Stars & Stripes. That repair took the shore crew, plus a handful of capable sailing crew five entire days to complete in time for the next scheduled race. "In light of what happened," says Fitzgerald. "If we have another accident like that, I want to be able to stop the boat. I don't want the boat dragging around the course, sucking in water." There's a breakdown kit on the tender and the whole on-the-water care of USA 49 is coordinated by Fitzgerald and Don Anderson, who operates New Zealand Challenge.
Anderson has his own team of tender drivers consisting of Will Benedict, and Anne Nicoletti, and Christian Uecker. They double as maintenance, yard workers, and trouble shooters. In addition to New Zealand Challenge, AmericaOne has one 40-foot inflatable that escorts USA 49 wherever it goes, two smaller inflatables that function as weather boats, and two additional inflatables that assist the entire operation. Every boat requires maintenance on a daily basis, and if you've ever owned an outboard engine, then you know the constant TLC and magic needed to keep them running every day, on demand.
It's that extra edge provided by the shore team that gives AmericaOne an advantage. "We've hired the best professionals," says Fitzgerald. "All the others [on the sailing team] are there to win the Cup, so we can't afford to short-change the shore crew area."
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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