by Bob Fisher
Photographers and Media at the Casina Pompeiana, Villa Comunale all trying to photograph ACWS skippers - America’s Cup WS, Naples Media Conference April 16, 2013
Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Naples, Italy for the America's Cup World Series.
Bob is a multihuller from way back, having won the 1967 Little America's Cup, with Peter Schneidau on Lady Helmsman, and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.
Day 1: Tuesday in Naples
‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth’ is standard advice, but perhaps it should have the rider, 'but make sure it has some teeth’.
Today’s media 'conference', for want of a better word, was a shining example of a gift horse in need. It was held in a building with bare walls and more echoes than enough – and the behavior of the 'media' not actually involved was appalling – they talked loudly (with undoubted increase in volume because of the acoustics of the room) and the photographers, who had earlier had uninterrupted access, were among the worst. Interviewing a skipper was a painful operation.
Nevertheless, It was possible to talk with an upbeat Emirates Team New Zealand skipper, Dean Barker, who won the local coastal race last weekend. As he was fully aware, Naples has taken to this event like nowhere else and this was fully evident in this one-off event that was organized quite separately from the America’s Cup World Series. Dean looks on this final regatta in the ACWS as: 'A good opportunity for racing before San Francisco [and the three-team Louis Vuitton Cup series that lasts two months] and this is the same type of racecourse as that in San Francisco.'
'With the AC-72, we have had lots of testing,' he explained, 'but you need to get into the smaller AC-45s to sharpen your racing skills. And there will be ample opportunity here for that with eight other top skippers aiming for the podium, even if some of the acknowledged 'greats' like Jimmy Spithill, Russell Coutts and Loick Peyron are missing.
Chris Draper, in Luna Rossa – Piranha made an impressive showing here last time and has a teammate in Francesco Bruni with Luna Rossa – Swordfish. In addition, double Olympic gold medallist in the Tornado class, Roman Hagara, is steering the Artemis boat, while the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, Ben Ainslie, is steering his own boat – JP Morgan BAR – and has shown form already in the AC-45s.
Barker wasn’t allowed to speak solely about this regatta, most journalists wanted to find out more about the progress of the AC-72s, and that is hardly surprising as that is what the America’s Cup is all about.
'Getting an AC-72 round the course in heavy conditions is going to be difficult,' he admitted, 'but we have had some good practice with Luna Rossa in Auckland, and I presume that they have also benefited.' What he didn’t add was that it will have been more useful than the short amount of trailing Oracle had with Artemis (from which Artemis learned the awful truth).
Ainslie, who laughingly declared: 'Navigation has never been my strong point,' when questioned on missing a mark in the coastal race, believes, 'hopefully, we will be in the top end of the fleet come next Sunday.' He observed: 'The conditions here are lighter than San Francisco, and we are going to have to learn how to use the gennakers and Code Zero sails.' The importance will be finding out how to sail deep and fast with these 'extras'.
Bearing away into a gybe at the first mark was also critical, according to Ainslie. 'This is where races are won and lost,' he said, adding that keeping within the course boundaries was also of primary importance because: 'you can’t bank on it always being a square course.' Ben too was looking to the AC-72 and his role in Oracle and beyond. While the money for this AC is guaranteed, when he goes it with a British team next time round with sponsorship from J.P.Morgan, he didn’t see all of the cash coming from the one source: 'We will need some element of private money.'
Much of what the skippers wanted to talk about was the future, but for Mitch Booth, back to skipper China Team, it was with mixed emotion. Mitch was undoubtedly the best technical commentator that has been used on the ACTV, but he has been sidelined from that, as he explained: 'Because I don’t speak American!'
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