Niklas Zennström is a sailing media hero. We could not exist without the product he helped to develop, Skype which allows sailing media and millions of others around the world to communicate directly by text, audio or video with each other, and for a very low cost or free. Hell, we had a 30 minute chat by video with a long time sailing key contact by Skype video yesterday - amazing technology - all as clear as a bell, and with TV quality images - and almost for free.
Anyway, another of our heroes, Stuart Alexander, yachting correspondent for the English daily, The Independent caught up with the skipper of Rán after he had helmed the TP52 on the second day of the Audi MedCup circuit. He is the only owner-driver on the circuit - hopefully he will encourage other owners to reclaim the handlebars and put a new dimension on this event. Stuart Alexander writes:
Niklas Zennström spent last winter with two central tasks. One was putting all the finishing touches to the selling of the company in which he was a co-founder, Skype, to Microsoft for £5.2bn. The other was keeping day to day tabs on the design, build, launch and commissioning of his new racing yacht, like the others named Rán, the Norse goddess of storms, who specialised in sinking ships and collecting the bodies of drowned sailors.
Zennström is less murderous, but he has stepped into an area of sailing that took just a few hours to make him re-assess the nature of the task ahead of him. The Audi MedCup is full of predators.
'We had been feeling well-prepared,' as he waited for the wind to settle today. 'But, on the first race day we made a lot of stupid mistakes. It showed us how competitive this fleet is, how intensive and tough the competition is. People are attacking you the whole time.'
He is the only owner-driver among a pack of professionals but no quarter will be given and none expected. 'The goal is to improve throughout the series, and we know that the others will not be standing still,' he said, 'the learning curve is very apparent.'
Because he is Swedish, the boat carries the flag of Sweden, but there is a very British feel to the team. Zennström lives in London, the boat was built in Lymington and the crew started pre-Audi training in the Spring Series at Warsash on the Hamble River, where he is also a prominent member of the Royal Southern Yacht Club on the opposite shore.
'This is great sailing and I want to sail the boat, which is something I could not do is, say, the America’s Cup, where I would be sitting on the dock just watching and signing the cheques. This is THE professional circuit and that is what we have signed up for.'
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