America’s Cup World Series is currently underway. Bruno Peyron arrived in Cascaïs yesterday after following the preparation of the Energy Team AC45 from a distance for ten days, then the first races of series last weekend.
On the eve of some more battles tomorrow out on the water in Cascais, he offers us his first impressions from the outside of what has been happening over the past three weeks and comments on the state of play. An opportunity to look at the progress made by the French challenger in various fields.
Bruno, how do you feel about the first two days of racing between Energy Team and your rivals in Cascais?
Bruno Peyron : 'We’ve got a solid team, which works well together and they’ve made very quick progress. The first results are encouraging and we are well aware of the gulf that exists between us and the top teams, which is only normal. As for our preparation, the team has done a remarkable job in a very short space of time. Clearly they have been working hard. I can see what they have already achieved on the boat. Loïck has brought together a great group of people, who have a good outlook and are very positive, ready to go on the attack and that is clear to everyone. You can really feel that. As soon as they were out on the water this weekend, we could se how well they came together.
From the very first day they had that touch about them finishing in a very symbolic second place in the first race of the day. It’s more symbolic than anything else, but it’s not by chance they achieved this either... After that it got a little more difficult for them with their food poisoning, which, although not wanting to look for excuses, prevented them from giving it their all. As Loïck stressed, they had never sailed in such light airs before on these boats. On the following day, they were much more aggressive, which we saw when they took off so quickly on the start line in the second race. It was an excellent start.
After that, there were some good things and some things that were not quite as good, with some little mistakes. That’s what racing is. Then, they got back up there with China Team and overtook them before losing out again at the finish, as Loïck explained yesterday. That would have given us an additional point and one less for the Chinese, which would have meant we would have ended up in fifth place in the overall rankings, which is what we’re aiming for in this first World Series event'.
After the races, did the team look back at the day?
BP : Yes, of course. They have a debriefing each evening, where they are very critical. They try to analyse what happened by looking at the film of the race, the way they sailed, what was good and the mistakes they made. It’s all very constructive, while remaining critical, with the goal of making progress all the time'.
Two great races, a closely fought contest in the middle of the table... What room is there for improvement?
BP : 'We’re still within our targets, but we’ve only had two days of racing... It’s at the end of the week that they will add up the points. Given the contest we are in, it is normal that our ambitions remain modest. Firstly, we’re getting to grips with the boat, then trying to find the best team selection we can. As for what we’re aiming for, it always has to be as high as possible in the rankings as far as the newcomers are concerned. We want to be the team that makes the fastest progress with the goal of ending the week as close as possible to the top teams. I can’t see how we can hope to do any better than that for the moment. Unless we pull it off again, as we have shown we can be a threat to the top three. So the potential is there, but we have to use it and show what we can do. That is going to take time... For the time being, let’s not forget that our goal is not Cascais. We are aiming to be in the best of shape for the America's Cup in San Francisco in two years from now'.
How much time is it going to take to get up there with the top teams?
BP : 'We can hope to be up there with them halfway through the season, so time is on our side. It’s all very new for us and they’ve been doing it for six months more than us. The lead that we French may have had on paper is no longer the case today. They got ahead and we’re a little bit behind in our preparation. But they have had six months more in terms of having the means to do this, which has enabled them to race on all sorts of boat, Extreme 40, D35,... and to continue to train all the time. You can see them everywhere.
They are a major force. So looking at it reasonably, we could not hope to be a threat for the leading group until after San Diego. You must not forget we’re still trying out our crew with people changing position to allow us to make the best selection. Loïck is going to be doing the Fastnet and Yann Guichard will be replacing him, but he will only have trained for four days, so will have to remain cautious. We can’t put too much pressure on the team to get a good result on Sunday.'
What sort of training are you planning after Cascais and before Plymouth (from 10th to 18th September)?
BP : That’s the big problem. We can’t get any training in after Sunday on these boats as they are going to be loaded onto a cargo ship. So there’s no training possible between Cascais and Plymouth. We wanted to do some training in Quiberon, but that’s not going to be possible. We will however be organising a training session at the end of September – early October at the National Training School on 25-foot catamarans.'
How far have you got with potential partners?
BP : 'We’re already pleased to have found one major partner that is prestigious and solid (Corum), and are now on a realistic schedule. Our team is up and running and we’re the only French team, who can say that we’re going to be there right the way through the AC45 circuit until the end of 2012. That means we can focus on the major partner for the AC72 in order to complete the funding within the next three months.
This is a realistic schedule, if you look at the type of talks that we have been having over the past few months with various groups that we’ve been in contact with. We’ve postponed the start of the build of our big boat from September until January, so everything has been planned and is in place.'
How do you feel about there being more than one French challenger and the fact that you haven’t managed to get together amongst yourselves?
BP : First of all, as for getting together, I should say that we were the first and the only ones to try to bring that about, but it just wasn’t possible for a number of reasons. Now we’re down to two French teams, as the third seems to have vanished and it’s not being discussed any more. I don’t know if there is any possibility for them to announce a late entry with two French challengers already in place... You have to understand that we too wanted to take advantage of this late entry possibility, but we were told that this procedure was only suitable for countries that hadn’t yet announced a team. We decided to enter the AC45 Circuit to guarantee to our partners that we would be there in 2013 in San Francisco.
A late entry procedure exists, but it is left to the discretion of the Golden Globe Yacht Club, so it does not guarantee that a challenge will be accepted and be able to take part in 2013. So we need to focus on the teams making progress, building boats and not on those, who do not really exist. There are only really two French challengers competing with both of us present in Cascais. As for anything else, we need to remain objective. We’re the only one of the two French teams present in Cascais with a major partner that is able to ensure that the project continues. Since the start, we have been doing what we said we would and we’ve been telling everyone what we’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to announce that another major partner has come aboard.'
A lot of people are wondering if there is room for two French challengers. How do you feel about that?
BP : I really think there is room for one, for the better of the two in terms of marketing, performance, image and therefore potential. But there may well be room for two French challengers. The America's Cup has revolutionised the economic model and the amounts that teams are looking for, which makes it possible for major French businesses. These budgets are in fact the same as those required by the two major French ocean racing teams taking part in the next Volvo Ocean Race or the Jules Verne Trophy. It seems to me that the return on the investment for such an internationally important event as the America's Cup (third biggest sporting event in the world) would not be the worst choice they could make'
America's Cup World Series website