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Paul Cayard Q & A
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Aboard EF Language Paul Cayard, skipper of EF Language, discusses Leg 1 during a news conference.

Q. What are your impressions of Leg 1 and the race so far?

A. We were pleasantly surprised and happy to do as well as we did on first leg. After the start, what we saw was a cluster of boats that seemed to be fairly even in speed and that the wind conditions and weather patterns were dictating most of the speed differences.

Some cards were played early on that took some people out of play. Chris Dickson [skipper of Toshiba] played the coast of Spain really hard and got stuck in a hole over there, while most of the fleet went to the west. The boat that went hardest west was Innovation Kvaerner, established the very early lead and approached the first way point off Brazil about 70 miles ahead.

Another big piece of the whole thing was not having the Doldrums. That normally would have been the other part of the accordion and let the boats behind catch up to the front three. We went ripping through there at about 12 knots.

We got ahead of the pack just before Trinidad mostly by chance. All three of us fell into a squally pattern, and we worked really hard tacking the boat all night through the squalls, playing even just 10-degree shifts — I'm not sure that's the norm for ocean racing — and we managed to get a 10-mile lead out of that.

Then we used that lead to leverage south as much as we could, with [navigator] Mark Rudiger calling the shots there, and suggesting that the boat nearest to the low-pressure system would get the most benefit. So, we invested heavily in the south. Over a three- to four-day period, we were racking up 10 to 20 miles a sked [a status report distributed every six hours] and got that out to about 110 miles.

All in all, it was a nice confidence builder for us and sort of a solidification of the crew, which came together rather late. Everybody who is on the boat is someone I've known for quite some time. It was just that we hadn't been together that much before the start of the Whitbread. So, the first leg, apart from the extra points we got for winning the leg, amalgamated the team and gave us a certain amount of confidence.

Looking forward, we know that Leg 2 will be quite different. The fleet won't get as spread out as it did this time. And the conditions will be physically much tougher. I would expect the Smiths and the Daltons and the Dicksons, who have all this Whitbread experience, to show their strengths. It will be another big test for us to see if the new kids on the block can hang in there in those conditions.

Q. Can you talk about the physical limits and dangers you encountered and the day-to-day existence on the boat?

A. If you were reading my daily reports, you know that I called it "when the fire department came in for practice." At first it's exhilarating and kind of fun, and that lasts for three or four hours. The boat is traveling really fast. But after a while it really beats you up, just getting pounded by the spray. It's like having a high-pressure hose in your face, in your eyes, and on your chest. Quite often the crew is getting blown off the deck and the only thing that fetches them up is the safety harness, and that's a big lurching movement against the chest.

Any maneuvering or sail changing you do is quite cumbersome, because you've got to tether the person really well. We had to hoist the bowman out over the water to reef the mainsail so the sail wouldn't delaminate. One of the problems with 3DL sails we use is that they're much more fragile and can't take the flapping that a taffeta sail can, so we really have to button them up. Doing it over the water is not easy.

So, what you learn is that the skipper is managing the loss of physical strength and even mental drive that naturally occurs, and must find creative ways to restimulate the crew. And also managing the requests you put on them is important: Is it worth changing the sail now? Or is it better just to alter course five degrees in order to avoid a sail change, which could get screwed up, could cause damage. You can get into a situation where the whole thing snowballs.

I could really see the mental and physical strength of the crew ebb and flow as those days went on. I guess I was fortunate to have that experience on the first leg to get a little insight as to what that'll be like when the water temperature is 35 degrees rather than 65 degrees, and we'll be wearing twice as many clothes and be that much less agile.

Q. This is a terrific mental challenge. Did you do anything to prepare yourself for the challenge and what was the biggest mental hurdle the first leg?

A. No, I didn't do anything specific to prepare. We had many proposals from people who wanted to take us on team building exercises or give us stress coaching. I never was completely sold on what these people had to offer. Not that I don't have anything to learn, because we always learn. But, frankly, I've been in some pretty stressful competitive situations over the past 30 years and with the limited time I had available to dedicate to preparing for this [race], I didn't want to take the whole team away for three days to do a seminar.

The mental toughness part . . . it might have been circumstantial because we were always near the front . . . I would say we had limited mental stress in that first leg.

I'm sure it will be much more mentally tough to be back where Chris Dickson is and keep the team motivated and beat America's Challenge for seventh place, which is probably not too exciting for Chris Dickson. But nevertheless, it's a point that has to be won. So, we didn't really have that situation.

I guess the nearest thing we had was when we were in third . . . just being patient, staying close and not doing anything radical and not taking any flyers . . . waiting for an opportunity, which eventually presented itself 23 days into the race. So, I would say we had limited mental stress in that first leg.

Q. What trade-offs did you make in terms of the food and heat on board?

A. There are philosophical differences between a lot of things in the Whitbread, including what you do when you first hit the dock. So far, the three competitors that arrived have spent the better part of their first day drunk at the bar. We arrived, had a cheeseburger, got our boat hauled out, got our rig down, and got right into leg number two. That's just an example.

Some of the same competitors don't take a heater or they really skimp on the food or they don't let the crew wear boots or they don't bring many clothes. To me, when you're out there, a little bit of comfort goes a long way in motivating the crew. If they can put on dry clothes under their foul weather gear, rather than putting on wet clothes, at the start of a watch in which you're going to ask them to grind the main and pump the main, and work the boat really hard — which is what we do — I think you're going to get a lot more productivity out of them than if they are hungry and cold and miserable. So, we invested a little bit in extra weight [more food and a heater] not to make people comfortable, but to make them productive.

I think we still have a lot of room to improve. Personally, I lost nine kilos [20 lbs.] on the leg. I weigh less than I did when I was junior in high school. We were eating two hot meals a day, plus breakfast. I think we're going to change that program a bit for the next leg. We can't afford to go on losing 10 percent of our body weight. I think we're going to have to bring more food.

It's scary. At Southampton, we had about 1,000 lbs. of food. You're worried that you're just sinking the boat and are going to go slow. But the bottom line is, we need food. Food is speed, because if we're feeling good and strong, we can work the boat.

Q. How many Whitbread first-timers are on your boat?

A. Just off the top of my head, I'd say seven or eight.

Q. What events led up to Mark Rudiger getting on the boat?

A. Mark Rudiger got on the crew in June and he was going to sail a few legs with us. I knew he was quite an experienced navigator and more of a racing navigator that Nick White. Nick White was there to be specialized as a weatherman.

With my lack of experience, where we were hurting was not having good offshore racing strategy. Mark had that, so I wanted Mark to sail the first couple legs with us to teach us that. It was part of the plan.

Then when Nick quit, I really had to lean on Mark to be the navigator for the whole race, which he now is committed to do. He had a tough week before we left, because he had to scramble. Most of these navigators prepare for the Whitbread for two years. Mark Rudiger had exactly five days to get ready, and he did a great job.

Q. You have a lot of sailors from the San Francisco area. How important is that to you when you're racing offshore.

A. One thing that can't be underestimated is building a loyal and unified team, which is easier to do with people who you know well. Guys such as Steve Erickson, who has sailed with me for 15 years, know exactly how I want to push the boat, how I want to sail the boat. They know the things that are important to me and I don't have to spend a lot of time barking my requests to them because they know already. That just makes my job easier. That's the near-term advantage.

The long-term advantage is in continuing to build that relationship through these different experiences with those people who I expect to continue on with in the future, whether it's the America's Cup or other events.

Q. On this leg, how much of your previous experience — buoy racing, match racing — were you able to use, and if it was a lot, did it surprise you?

A. Running the boat and being the skipper is quite similar; it's a managerial job — motivating people and instructing people, and pushing them to do their best, and maintaining a certain amount of discipline on the boat. Focus and drive . . . all those parts of my job are exactly the same.

The particulars of the conditions being extreme or the types of sails that we use or sailing the boat with only five people at a time . . . those are different. I'm learning as fast as I can. I mean, it's not that I've never done any offshore sailing. It's just that I haven't been out there for 30 days at a time.

I found a lot of my skills and personal traits applicable, and I think we all had our eyes open, and we were quite focused. We picked up on the things we weren't as familiar with, being Whitbread first-timers. That's what we need to do, because, obviously, we're going to have a steeper learning curve than everyone else.

Q. What percentage of the time did you drive and who else was able to step up as a good helmsman?

A. Steve Erickson was a very good helmsman; Magnus Olsson, the Swedish guy who's done three Whitbreads, was also quite good. And there were times when almost anybody in the crew drove. And there were times when condition were tough, typically when it was light and sloppy, or if we were right on the wind in the night time, it's very hard to feel exactly whether you're in the groove or not. Those were times when either myself or Steve would steer to give us a little extra. Those are areas where you can gain or lose a lot.

In the beginning, for about the first two weeks, I didn't steer very much because Mark Rudiger and I were still preparing for the race. In the second part of the leg, I was able to get my head out of the nav station a little more and spent quite a bit more time during the last 10 days driving the boat.

Q. Do you consider the Whitbread a separate event or training for the America's Cup?

A. With respect to what I just said, it's all training. The fact that I've been racing Star boats with Stevie since 1983 — that also served as training for the 2000 America's Cup. Every competitive experience has some value to it. The Whitbread obviously fits in there.

As far as the particulars of the type of sailing, the Whitbread is very different from the America's Cup. We're applying our skills in a different way, but the working relationships, the bonds we have, and the skills and talents we have in sailing every single day through this period is certainly not hurting us as far as being sharp and ready to tackle the next project, which will be the America's Cup for 2000.

Q. Did you find that, as Grant Dalton said, in order to do well in this race, you need to have 50 percent fast boat and 50 percent fast crew?

A. The crew is instrumental to boat speed because they are the ones trimming and steering and doing the maneuvers either in a good way or a bad way. So, the 50-50 split is pretty close. But the one ingredient he's missing is the routing. I'd split it up more like 33 percent boat, 33 percent crew and 33 percent navigation. This race is extremely dependent on where you go and what you conditions you create for yourself.

At times we were running with 30 knots of wind and some of our competitors were beating upwind in 15 knots because they were on the wrong side of a low-pressure system. That's a huge ingredient. You can't get that much speed out of Bruce Farr [the boat's designer], and you can't even get that much of a speed difference out of the crew.

Q. How critical is navigation going to be on the next leg? Or do you think the next leg us going to be a lot more of "just gut it out?"

A. I think the next leg is going to be quite a bit of "gut it out" and trying to be smart about managing the risk element, because the weather, in some ways, is going to be more continuous. I wouldn't say consistent, because as the fronts go through, you go from 40 knots back down to 12 or 15 knots, and the wind will change in direction. But it's not as if we're going to go through the Doldrums or we're going to go around any islands.

We're all going to be out there in this weather that's moving from west to east and it's going to hit us all. A big part of how well each boat does will be how well they change sails as the wind speed and direction changes. That requires a lot of physical strength. Also important is the management of the boat and deciding when it's time to pull down the biggest spinnaker and put something smaller on so you don't break that big spinnaker and wipe out with the boat and cause a lot more damage.

It's going to be tricky, and some of the guys who didn't do so well on this leg are going to be looking to sooth their wounds and re-establish themselves as serious contenders. If not managed properly, that drive to get right on the top right away and solve all your problems immediately could be costly. So, it might be an opportunity for us to be cool, and sail more conservatively, and find out half way through the leg who's left. Because some people might blow up in the first half of this thing.

Q. Do you think you're fastest of the first three boats? Do you think there's more speed to be found in your boat?

A. Kvaerner is a good all-round boat, nothing exceptional. It goes about 97 percent in any condition. At times EF Language or Merit Cup — and they were different times and different conditions — would have a burst of speed. It looks to me as if we are a wider, stiffer boat that's better at the power reaching game. When we got into the lead, it was a fairly breezy, 24-hour period of 20-22 knots, and we were reaching with a jib top — big reachers and staysails up. We cruised through to leeward of them about 10 miles away.

It looks to me as if Merit is better in light-air running conditions. I think they're a bit narrower than we are. But, really, the only person who knows the answers to those questions for sure is Bruce Farr.

Q. How do you feel your sail program is compared to those two [Merit Cup and Innovation Kvaerner]?

A. I think we've done a nice job on the sail program. We purposely didn't bring any of our sails in the Fastnet Race and I think that was a smart move. I was asked the question about the mental game. We all have egos, and it hurts not to do well, and you get hammered by the press. But in hindsight, we were convinced at the time, and I still am convinced that was a smart move.

We saved those sails for this race. I think at times we had superior speed due to some of the particular sails we have. I think we may have an advantage in the sails right now. We're going to have keep pushing forward on sail development, because the winner of this race will have better sails thn we have now, that's for sure, and we want to stay on the front foot there.

Q. You were saying something about the delamination on the mainsail. What was happening there?

A. We didn't have delamination on the main. But if you don't properly reef the 3DL sails, they will delaminate.

Q. At one point, it seemed like the three top boats were in the same weather pattern, but you were going about a knot faster. Did you change the crew during that period to work the boat a little more?

A. Even though it seems we were in the same weather as everybody else, just being that 30 or 40 miles south was a gradient strength the closer you got to the center of the low. So, we were always in more breeze than the other two guys during the last 10 days of the race.

Q. Please comment on the point system. You got a 20-hour lead on the first leg. Do you think you got enough credit for that in the point system?

A. That's been a huge topic conversation, not so much for the 20 hours we have on Merit, but for the three or four days we're going to have on Toshiba and Swedish Match. People would be flat-out eliminated from this thing [if the scoring was still based on elapsed time].

But the big picture is that the point system is much better for the event, which, therefore, is much better for the sport. We can still be assured that we have a very competitive regatta and, hopefully, it will stay that way right to the end. Everybody still is going to be interested. There's potential for anyone to win this regatta, and that's great for the event. (See explanation of how the point system works.)

Paul Cayard and the other AmericaOne team members will be happy to answer your questions about the syndicate and their campaign for the 2000 America's Cup. Please e-mail your questions to AmericaOne Q&A <kshining@americaone.org>.

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