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America's Cup - Tech Tuesday - Philippe Presti on being a super-coach

by Oracle Team USA on 23 Jan 2017
Coach Philippe Presti with skipper Jimmy Spithill - they have been working together since 2004 and Luna Rossa - Oracle Team USA Sam Greenfield/Oracle Team USA http://www.oracleteamusa.com
Oracle Team USA USA skipper Jimmy Spithill and coach Philippe Presti have a relationship that dates back to when both were competing on the match racing circuit in the early 2000s.

During the Valencia America’s Cup from 2004-2007, both were with Luna Rossa for that campaign and a bond was forged that endures to this day.

Presti – an Olympian and world class match racer in his own right – is the sailing team coach, but certainly his role is much deeper than that. He is responsible for guiding the team’s on the water activities, and helping the performance group – sailors, designers, builders – arrive at breakthroughs to improve performance.

“My role is to ask questions,” Presti says. “If I’m answering questions, something is wrong! I make sure everyone is trying to solve the problem.

“It’s like breaking a code. These guys are inventing new ways of sailing. Last year we couldn’t foil-gybe and today we’re doing foiling tacks. They’re creating the future of sailing.

“He’s really our eyes off the boat,” says skipper Jimmy Spithill. “He gives us feedback right away, whether it’s a practice race or a line-up, he tells us what he’s seen and it’s difficult on the boat to get that picture.

“I think he’s so good because of how he comes across. The guys really listen to him.”

Presti gathers all of the data off the boat, including video and physiological data from the sailors, and organizes it for the debrief sessions. He says the goal is to find improvements as small as one meter at a time.

“We want to improve. We want to find the extra meter that could make the difference at the end,” he says. “The goal is just to find that meter. It could be a technical change, it could be how we manage the boat... We find a solution and we try it and the next day we try to nail that one and then we try to find another meter.



“This game is so interesting because it’s unpredictable. Someone comes with another solution – better or worse – but it’s so motivating because every day you discover something new.”

The big breakthroughs, he says, often come during race periods, whether at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series or in training against another team.

“That’s the beauty of sport,” says Presti. “If you just practice by yourself you will have your limit and eventually you will challenge your limit a little bit, but when you face adversity, and the best adversity is the opposition, they will push you harder. There is nothing better than competition.”

He says the challenges presented by foiling at speeds approaching 50mph are something he never thought he’d need to deal with as a sailor.

“These boats are something different. The speed they produce is very stimulating and exciting because you face other problems you never imagined. All of a sudden you are taking off and there’s another dimension. Sometimes I wonder where we will end up!”

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