American Andrew Campbell is the newest recruit to join Oracle Team USA and he is making his debut with the team during its training camp in Sydney Australia this week.
A four-time All-American, Campbell was a standout sailor at the collegiate level, leading his Georgetown University sailing team to three single-handed national championships, among other titles. Incredibly, on a list dominated by football and basketball players, Campbell has been named among Georgetown’s all-time Top 10 Athletes by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Following up his college sailing with Olympic campaigns in the Laser and Star class, Campbell sailed for the United States in the Laser in the 2008 Olympic Games in China.
And it’s from a relationship formed in the Laser that he comes to Oracle Team USA
'I’ve been racing a lot against (Oracle Team USA tactician and sailing team manager) Tom Slingsby over the last 12 years,' Campbell says. 'We went to the youth worlds in 2002 and competed against each other in the Laser and we’ve either been racing each other or at least racing in events on the same circuit as each other for a long time. Tom is my main connection here.'
Campbell also knows American sailor Rome Kirby - both of their fathers worked with the America3 campaigns in San Diego in the 1990s.
But now it’s Campbell’s turn to take on the sailing’s pinnacle event. This will be his first America’s Cup campaign and he joins a team that just completed one of the greatest comebacks in all of sport.
'I’m trying to come in this week with as open a mind as possible,' he says. 'This group of guys have been together through some serious obstacles and they fought through it to win the top prize in our sport. So I’m going to have to fit in to a squad that’s already running at high gear. I’ll do my best to see what kind of role they need me to play and I’ll fit my sailing style and team skills in as best I can.'
With his background in US college sailing, Campbell knows about working in big teams, something he missed during his Olympic days, although he says he will draw on both types of experiences going forward.
'My strongest suit that I’m going to bring to this group is the focus and tactical background you get from an Olympic campaign,' he says. 'But I also think I have a unique experience having gone through the US collegiate atmosphere. The team building aspects that go on there are very important. You learn a lot about team dynamics and achieving goals with a large group, so I’m excited to get back into that environment.
'The Olympic program is very much an individual effort and can be very character building as you’re really on your own. Before the Olympics I was in Georgetown University in a team of about 40 people, and we were all figuring our way forward. The dynamics of putting players in certain roles and finding places for people to succeed is something I really enjoyed when I was in college and I think I fit in really well in those kind of group situations.'
Campbell says he was following Oracle Team USA throughout the Cup finals last September and emailing Slingsby and Kirby with some words of ‘encouragement’ when things weren’t looking good early in the series.
'We were giving them a bit of grief but promised to come up to San Francisco if they ever got it together and made a comeback. And sure enough, when they won that 18th race to tie the series, I realized I’d have to race up the coast from San Diego, sleep on a coach and cheer them on for the last race.
'It was a pretty spectacular thing to watch and I was just itching the whole time to sink my teeth into it. Now I’m so excited for the opportunity to join them in a sailing role rather than just a cheerleading role. It’s going to be great.'
Campbell’s America’s Cup journey started on Friday when Oracle Team USA started training in Sydney. Sail-World.com:
In a previous interview, the Challenger of Record's CEO, Iain Murray of Team Australia (Hamilton Island Yacht Club) said that they were expecting to see a nationality clause in the Protocol for the 35th America's Cup of just 25% of the sailing crew. The CoR had been seeking a minimum of 50% nationality requirement, however the Defender Oracle Team USA had pushed back on this.
By definition a 25% limit would mean that the crew size for the AC62 would be eight sailors, and that means that just two would be US Nationals for Oracle Team USA. While this is double what the team had in the 34th America's Cup, it is a requirement that will disappoint many.
The last four America's Cups have been won by a crew that had just one National of the Challenging/Defending club aboard. Team New Zealand was the last winner of the America's Cup with a substantially National crew back in 2000.