Seahorse: Can you bring us up to date on where you are now?
Bruno Dubois: We were a late entry and we know we have a mountain to climb, but it is going well and we have a clear view of our route to the summit. We found a sponsor in late November last year – the Accor Group and its Orient Express and ALL.COM brands – and we signed with them on 24 December.
We immediately ordered an AC40 from McConaghy China with delivery set for July; after a mammoth push by the shore and technical teams she was in the water in August and ready for the first America’s Cup preliminary regatta in Vilanova i La Geltrù.
Given our timeframe, it was very important to focus on what was important and avoid any distractions. It meant we had to make some quick and smart decisions... the team made two moves which I am particularly proud of. The first is the AC75 design package we were able to buy from Team New Zealand; the second was acquiring a complete boatyard from the Ocean Race. All of the containers, tools, pretty much everything we need.
Even before announcing our campaign we had been able to lineup many of the right people for the key roles. Then over the summer we got them fully onboard and were very quickly in a position to announce our America’s Cup squad, plus our Women’s America’s Cup and Youth America’s Cup squads. Both of these are also fully-funded under our inclusive ‘One Team’ programme.
At the same time, of course, we have been flat-out building our AC75 and establishing our base in Barcelona; somehow we got this up and running just in time to receive the AC40 in August! In December we will have the larger main building ready for the arrival of the AC75 so we will be fully operational over the winter.
SH: How were you progressing before the boats arrived, what kept you focused while you could see other teams out on the water?
BD: An absolute key part of our project is the simulator that we have been using and training hard on, which was developed and since refined by Benjamin Muyl and his design team.
We have now brought this simulator to a very high level with a fullscale cockpit and a full 3D sailing system. We can do everything we want now and that is what the sailors have been using since the beginning of 2023. Honestly, it has been invaluable. We continue to sail the simulator in parallel to the AC40 and later the AC75.
Another vital component in the programme is that we have been taking part in SailGP for two years with our Cup squad. This has given us the opportunity to sail regularly against the best sailors in the world on high performance foiling yachts. And in SailGP we are competing at a very, very high level. We did pretty well in Season 3 and won a couple of events, I think because we use our own method of working and do not try to copy anyone else. Our objective now is to spend as much time as we can on the water on the AC40 working on communication and boat handling.
SH: How would you describe your dual role as co-team principal and sailing team manager?
BD: I was once compared with being a football manager, dealing with all the outside stuff and letting the players just kick the ball. I am lucky this time as I have Stephan Kandler with me as co-team principal and CEO, so can be a bit closer to the sailors and the technical team while he is more on the commercial side.
I think the manager of a sailing team has to provide the vision, provide the tools, deal with all the peripheral stuff and let the sailors get on and sail. But they also have to wake up and dream, and that is why we have a guy like Franck Cammas with us with whom I have worked in the past in the Volvo and also the America’s Cup.
As head of performance Franck is the link between the sailing team and the design team. And he’s always asking questions... You know, with Franck, that if you don’t reply properly to his questions he is going to come back with more questions to make sure he’s got what he wants.
He is a master at pushing you out of your comfort zone. And when you are outside your comfort zone that’s when you perform. This is when you really try to get to the bottom of things, and that’s what Franck wants — he doesn’t want a sales pitch he wants performance. That’s why I love working with him; and the sailors are happy and the design team is really happy having him with us.
Also, having Thierry Douillard as head coach adds another wise and experienced head to the management team, all of which benefits and boosts the racing squads.
We have a unique package here and a tightknit team. Of course it is always a work in progress and we know we have a long road ahead of us... but all the lights are green!
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