It took about three months. That’s how long Rome Kirby, a trimmer with Oracle Team USA, says it took him to realize what his team had achieved with its comeback win over Emirates Team New Zealand in September.
'It’s only just started to sink in the last couple of months,' he said from Australia where the team is in the midst of its first post-Cup training session. 'After the America’s Cup ended there was so much going on, it didn’t really set in until just after Christmas when I finally had some time to slow down and hang out and process it. What we did in San Francisco was really pretty cool. It was a huge comeback and it’s not something I expect to see again.'
Now Kirby and the rest of the sailing team are reconvening for the first time since the win as the sailing crew trains in Sydney.
'We all get along so well. We have a great relationship,' Kirby says. 'Getting back together, it’s almost like we never left. The jokes, the camaraderie, it’s like we haven’t been apart at all.'
According to Kirby, the goal of the Sydney camp is to get back into competition mode, raise the intensity and run some new sailors through their paces.
'It feels good to get back in the boat and get back to work,' Kirby says. 'We’re working in some new guys. Andrew Campbell is here and he and I have sailed together a bit in the past. We did the Melges 24 World Championships together and he’s a great sailor, a really good addition to the team.
'It’s a case of getting everyone sailing together and trying new positions. (Tom) Slingsby has been driving the boat, Kyle (Langford) has been doing wing and I’ve been in the middle. Everyone has been getting stuck in. It’s been good to get some laps in around a race course and get the intensity up a bit and get your head back into competition mode.'
For Kirby, the prospect of a second America’s Cup campaign with Oracle Team USA is very appealing. The first time was a bit of a blur he says. Now that he has over two years of AC experience under his belt, he thinks the second time around will be easier.
'I feel way more comfortable. Just having gone through what we went through in the last two years, it was a pretty intense growing experience,' he says. 'We faced some major obstacles. In the first few months on the job we flipped the AC72 and then there was the uncertainty of the situation before the Cup started.
'Mentally, I think having done the Volvo Ocean Race really helped me. It was a big deal for me to be able to take things on one day at a time. But I think for this time around, a lot of us who were rookies last time are coming back as veterans now, and I think we’ll be more mentally prepared than we were. I think we were pretty raw last time.'
Or course it helps when the mentors on your first Cup campaign are people like Russell Coutts, Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie. When asked what he learned from them, Kirby says the thing that stands out is remarkably simple.
'I think a lot of their success just comes down to hard work. Jimmy, Ben, Russell, and the other guys, they have one thing in common and it’s just hard work. Everyone at that level has talent but those guys work so hard.
'With Jimmy, for example, I remember those press conferences day after day, and he never quit on the team and he never backed down. I think that gave all of us some serious confidence. Jimmy was taking so much heat, each and every day, and he just had so much confidence in us and it was just contagious. It spread throughout the team and lifted us up when we needed it.'
In the short term, Kirby and his crew mates are focused on the Sydney training session. But he also has his eye on the future. 'What we’re doing now is laying the foundation for when racing starts in the AC World Series and then eventually the America’s Cup. It’s already the beginning.'