Whitbread Press Conference Dec. 23, 1997
Skipper Paul Cayard Meets the Press After Winning Leg 3
Summary of the the race:
The leg was completely different from the first two legs in that the weather systems seemed to keep coming from the west faster than they were leaving to the east. That's what kept the fleet so compressed all the time. It was kind of a rich got poorer situation rather the richer got richer as in the first two legs. So, as you would get a little bit of a lead out front, typically you'd run out of wind or certainly not have as much wind as the guys behind were bringing up.
And even though the fleet was spread out north and south by 180 miles in the middle of the Australian Bight, we were always within about 40 miles of each other in terms of distance to the finish. We all kind of got compressed and shoveled down the funnel, which is called Bass Strait, between Tasmania and Australia, at about roughly the same time.
We got a nice gradient breeze up the east coast of Australia, which pushed us all up there. Swedish Match was about 4 miles ahead of us 24 hours before the finish and we were 4 miles ahead of a group, which was Chessie Racing, Merit Cup, Innovation Kvaerner and Silk Cut.
On the last day, we simply managed to sail forward in that gap we were in up to Swedish Match and, in fact, passed them to leeward on a hard spinnaker reach. We just were faster and maybe sailing the boat a little bit better, and worked right through to leeward of them and out in front.
We had a little scare as soon as we got ahead of them, about a half-mile out, and spinnaker blew up. That was a bit of a scramble and they caught up to us by the time we got a new one up. They were just right behind us by a couple boat lengths and we managed to hold on to the lead, then we stretched it back out to about a mile and a half at the finish.
The other group actually compressed up to us again that night, so at the finish I think there were six boats within 12 minutes. It was quite a scene in Sydney Harbor. It was dark and lot of lights anyway with the city and the lights on the buoys in the harbor, and then you had all these boats semi out of control going around, and we were going pretty quickly ourselves we were going about 14 knots in the harbor there was a good breeze. So, it was a scene. And a nice finish at the Opera House, all lit up.
All in all, it was a good race to win. It would be a tough one to be six minutes behind in, because for such a short period in time you paid a heavy penalty in points. You know, the whole Whitbread will probably be won by somebody who has about 700 points. The difference between first and seventh on this leg was 70 points, and that was worth about 10 minutes of time.
The scoring system is definitely playing a role in this whole thing. In the first leg, we won by almost 20 hours, which in the old system would have almost locked up the race for us. So, people were happy about the points. And now we all finish within 12 minutes and people are saying well maybe it's a bit harsh for getting that severe of a penalty for only being 12 minutes behind.
Responses to questions from journalists:
Q. What was the mental and emotional state of yourself and your crew when the race was still up for grabs after 2,000 miles? Were you getting any sleep at all during the last 24 hours?
A. Forty-eight hours before the finish we changed into a different watch system, which some of the teams use. Chris Dickson used it in the last Whitbread. Rather than have a two-watch system, which is what we do normally, we went to a three-watch system. The watches are on-watch, standby and off-watch. Standby is virtually also on-watch. The reason why you do that is to have more people on deck. We can have 8 people on deck, including the standby people, as opposed to six max with the other system. So, basically, the crew is on for eight hours and off for four, rather than [on or off] 50 percent of the time.
We switched to that [system] a couple days before, realizing this was going to be a tight one right down to the wire, and in the last 24 hours, basically no one slept. Even if you went down below you couldn't really sleep; it was pretty rough. And everybody was pretty excited about now close the race was.
For me, psychologically, it was very similar to a lot of other races I've done with Steve Erickson, Josh Belsky, Kimo Worthington, and guys like that, on other boats. Especially with Stevie we've won 6 world championships together. We have ground people down like that many times and so, basically, only Stevie and I steered the boat the last day. He has sailed with me so much he knows exactly my mentality, my strategy, and we felt really comfortable and at home just doing what we were doing.
Other than the starts which, of course, are similar to other races that was the most familiar time for me in the whole Whitbread so far. Just being that close to Swedish Match for 24 hours and slowly grinding them down. It just all worked perfectly. I'm sure we could have finished second and not made it, but we did, and think that's a good sign.
Q. Was it that discipline that got you ahead of Swedish Match?
A. There were several factors as to why we passed Swedish Match. One was the intensity of the whole team. Like I was saying, just the [mental] drive that's exuded by myself and Steve knows it and Josh has it just [have the confidence] that we are going to pass this guy and we are going to pump the main harder on every wave and we are going to stay up longer and we are going to change the sails faster
. . .just everybody on the boat understanding that it's going to take that much more and nobody is going to do it any better than us and believing that in your own mind.
I think that for all the disadvantages we have being Whitbread novices, that [drive] is an advantage that we do have. We are a group of people very used to racing very close races, and I think that came to play there. Certainly, there were other factors. Maybe our spinnaker was a little nicer, or maybe our boat is a little narrower. It's hard to say what all the different variables are. But the bottom line is that we got the job done in similar fashion to many other close races that we've been in.
Q. Regarding the point system, do you think the weightings per leg are fair? If you had been six minutes behind and lost 50 points, would you be happy right now?
A. I'm sure I wouldn't be [happy]. Like I said, it was a tough race to be 10 minutes behind in. You paid heavily for that. To say whether or not it's fair, that's a tough call, because, basically, you enter a race under certain known parameters, and the point system is one of them. It's been that way for a long time. We could have another close one going to Auckland or coming into Baltimore, or even right into the finish in the Solent. That's likely to decide the whole regatta there; it's a very short leg.
It is the way it is. I think it is probably a good system. Maybe we shifted gears earlier than some people, realizing that every minute is that important. It's part of the strategy, understanding the points.
Q. With a 35-point lead, are your tactics going to change at all now?
A. We're a third of the way done with the race. I'm not sure if we're a third of the way done with the points. Thirty-five points is just the difference between first and fourth [on one leg]. It's too early to change your strategy. We have to keep trying to win races.
We've always been less apt to in a corner anyway; that's just not my style . I'd rather be stressed for 10 days but win by a foot than go try to bang a corner and try to win by a day. We'll be the same.
Another bit of experience, hopefully, that I can bring to the table is that fact that I've been in many America's Cups and world championships. It's early days still and we have to stay focused. We did have the big win, but all the other teams were out partying all night that night and even into the day yesterday. Our team was all back down on the boat at eight in the morning and we got our mast out first and we got all our sails off the boat first.
This thing is a nine-month race. I didn't realize that in the beginning, but we've quickly realized that. At Cape Town, our boat was out of the water before the second guy even finished. There's a whole element of professionalism. I think the event is going through a change, both on the water and on the land. Hopefully, we're doing as well on the land as we are on the water, because I think they're both really important.
Back to the points: There are different co-efficients for different legs. I don't really like that that much. Here [in the Whitbread] it's not a very big deal. I think the lowest value one is 10 and the highest valued one is 13, so it's a 30 percent difference.
But for me, it's like the old deal with the Admiral's Cup. Why does the Fastnet count four times as much as Christchurch Bay race. To me, winning a Christchurch Bay race is just as hard as winning the Fastnet. [In the Whitbread] winning the shortest leg is going to be just as hard as winning the first leg, even though it was 30 days. It's just different one is 30 days and one is 3 days. But it's just as hard to beat the other people.
Sometimes for the three-day race you have to stay up for three days straight. Well, maybe that's harder than racing for 30 days and getting to sleep every day for eight hours. I have a hard time understanding why you would race one race harder than the other. So, I'm not a big fan [of the different co-efficients]. I think it would be simpler for the public if every point in every leg was a place.
Q. Is your family there with you? Will you spend Christmas together?
A. Yes, the family came. But now we have a little problem. They're like my good luck charms. The two stopovers they came to we got in first and the one they didn't come to we came in fifth. So, now, we have a huge tactical problem with the team. The new line item in the budget is whether to fly Cayard's family to every stopover to make sure he gets in quick.
Q. There was quite a bit of discussion over the best route to take, north versus south. Did that turn out to be much of a factor in your winning by five minutes?
A. The north-south didn't turn out to be very much of a factor because what ended up happening was the fleet kept compressing through the middle part of the race, from Cape Leeuwin into Bass Strait. It's like we all got jammed down a funnel at the same rate. So, whether you were on the right side of the funnel or the left side of the funnel north or south we all got pushed into Bass Strait at about the same time.
Through all that, Swedish Match was first by a couple miles, we were next, and Kvaerner and Toshiba and Chessie were just two miles behind us as we exited Bass Strait. That night, the wind totally shut down and there were a few cards to be played with the night breeze. There was just a little boat speed shuffling on the last day.
We ground down Swedish Match with a different level of intensity. We were quite at ease with grinding a guy down inch by inch over the last 24 hours and that's really what made the difference as to what their exact finishing position would be.
Q.John Kostecki did real well. How much was he factor in pushing Chessie Racing into the top three? And would you have been happy if he had been sailing seven minutes faster?
A. As you know, I have a lot of respect for John's sailing ability and that's why he's on AmericaOne. Yeah, I think he had a big effect on their outcome. I talked with Jerry Kirby, who you know from America³, and he said it was a night-and-day difference in the changes that they've made to their team since Fremantle.
Mike Toppa, who was an America³ sailor also, was on the boat for the leg, so they made a nice upgrade of their talents. And that boat is very fast. It's actually one of my worries. I think Chessie might be the fastest boat. If they're getting their act together, this could change it's look a little bit. They could become a factor in the next few legs.
John did do a good job. But, no, I wouldn't have been as happy if he did seven minutes better. I think it's fine that he stayed seven minutes back. I want him to do well, but, you know, [he's] got to respect the pecking order. [chuckling] He can't do better than the boss.
Q. Leg 2 was a difficult and you let on that you had to learn a few lessons in terms of timing and shifting gears. How much, if at all, did you benefit from these lessons in Leg 3?
A. Just a little bit. It was a completely different leg. But one time in particular we did do something pretty good, which was that last day. We were out of the range of the spinnaker that we had up by a little bit. It was a little too windy and a little too tight for this big masthead runner we had up. We had another sail that might have been a little bit better, but we didn't change. We just hung on to what we had.
The problem in ocean racing is that the wind blows 25 knots for 30 minutes and then the next thing you know it's blowing 20 knots. So, you're in and out of the range of sails, and if you try to change every time a change takes about 20 minutes just because it's more difficult and you have less hands available to do it so if you try to change every time you get a shift like you do on a small boat, you end up out of phase the whole time. You do a lot of wheel spinning and you end up breaking a lot of stuff.
So, you learn to just hang in sometimes out of the range of sails, and we did that a lot on the last day when we were grinding down Swedish Match. And it worked for us. We just sat on the rail, hiked a little harder, concentrated on trimming the boat a little better with the sail we had, and I think that was something very good. But really, the lessons from the second leg as far as the crew's fatigue and the cold and the extra gear and all that that's going to have to, hopefully, come good for me on Leg 5 when we're going to be down there in those extreme conditions for two weeks [when rounding the southern tip of South America].
Q. Last spring you said that you would be able to incorporate some things from the Whitbread program into the AmericaOne Challenge, including team building in a racing environment. Could elaborate on that?
A. The specifics of it are that about five of the guys who will sail with me on AmericaOne are on this boat: Steve Erickson, Josh Belsky, Kimo Worthington, Mark Rudiger and Curtis Blewett from the bow. On board we have a nucleus of people who are gaining quite good experience in working together in, admittedly, a different environment, but it's a racing environment.
Believe me, it's very intense and it's of value to us, just as it was of value to us two days ago for Steve Erickson and I to have won 6 world championships together and know how to pass a guy inch by inch over 24 hours. That was a value that we brought to the Whitbread. Well, there's going to be some value out of this Whitbread that we're going to be able to bring back to any sailing we do the America's Cup, Admiral's Cup, anything.
Then, this guy Robert Hook, who is the sail designer for EF, is also the sail designer for AmericaOne. So, all the work we're doing with cloths and shapes and a lot of these gennikers, mains and jibs
. . .there's some residual value there.
And Roger Badham is our meteorologist here. You know, meteorologist are a little bit like palm readers, fortune tellers you have to try to understand what they're saying even if they're not saying the words. It's a tricky business to understand what a meteorologist is really trying to tell you. Roger was my meteorologist with Il Moro, also. I've worked several campaigns with Roger, and my ability to understand what he's really saying about the weather and what the weather is going to do is getting better. Of course that's an advantage.
And there's got to be some exposure value to the fact that we're doing as well as we are and there's quite a large awareness of the Whitbread as far as sail boat races go. [It's getting] the most TV time of any yachting event. The British press is following it quite well and the Internet site is the largest sporting site ever.
So, being a participant in this prime-time event in our sport is where any lead athlete should be if he's trying to create value for a corporate sponsor. And certainly the people we're talking to about supporting AmericaOne corporately are aware of the fact that I'm doing the Whitbread and are aware of the fact that it's got a public awareness. And that's of value to sponsors.
That's been one of Dennis Conner's aces in his pocket over the years he is the most well-known name in yachting and that allows him a better chance to get corporate sponsorship. So, I think I'm doing what I can to increase the awareness of Paul Cayard and the team and, luckily, we're doing as well as we are. I think all those things are benefits. The decision of AmericaOne of 16 months ago is looking like it was a good one.
Q. You mentioned that you think Chessie is the fastest boat in the fleet. What is it about the boat the appeals to you?
A. It's just a good all-round boat, and it might be exceptional reaching and running. That's what it looks like to me. You get these impressions in bits and bites out here because you don't always see the same boats at the same times.
We've been close to Chessie a little bit upwind leaving Fremantle and I would say they were just hanging tough. Swedish Match looked to be the fastest boat in the fleet and Merit was definitely the slowest boat upwind. We've seen that before, we saw that in the Fastnet Race. Merit is very extreme boat; it's very narrow; and it just doesn't go upwind at all. It goes downwind in light air very fast. I think it's too extreme. I would never pick a boat like that because I don't want to be excluded from winning any race. If there was a long, heavy upwind leg, these guys would be 50 miles behind.
Chessie is good all-round boat. I saw two days ago, when we did this heavy, broad reaching -- we had masthead kites on, but it was fairly breezy, 25 knots and the boats were really pressed. It looked to me like Chessie was going quite quickly. It could have been the sail they had a nice special sail for that but my sense is that it's a very good boat and if it's well guided, it's going to be dangerous. Q. Do you think it's narrower than your boat?
A. I think it's quite similar to ours, but it has a different keel. It has the "L" keel, and we have the "T" keel. There are only two boats in the fleet that have the "L" keel Swedish Match and Chessie and they both look like pretty good boats. So, maybe there's going to prove to be something in that "L" keel program.
Cayard's concluding comment:
I think this is a great event. I really hope we can generate some interest in this event in the United States because I think the United States should be represented in a more American way. We have a few boats in this race from the United States, but some of them are not sailed by Americans.
I think next time it would be good to get rolling early and get a few good programs out of the United States. It's a great story; it's a very compelling race.
Q. Would you be willing to lead that entry?
A. I would love to do the race again. If I don't do it again, it'll just be for family reasons. It's very time consuming and I have two young kids that I really want to spend some good time with over these years, when they're between seven and 15 years old. I don't know how many more times I can commit myself to working seven days a week. So, we'll see.
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