Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

Call of the catamaran?

Gavin Brady on the demise of the America's Cup Class and the latest on Beau Geste

Friday December 3rd 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Little known fact of the day: Leading match racer and America’s Cup skipper Gavin Brady was brought up on a multihull. When his father retired as a fisherman in New Zealand, so the Brady family were loaded on to the family trimaran and spent four years cruising around the Pacific. Once upon a time this may have been irrelevant. Now it goes on the CV.

“The fastest we got that thing going was 20 knots. My mum wasn’t too happy about the house doing 20 knots,” recalls Brady.

The US-based New Zealander was in Dubai last week skippering Mascalzone Latino Audi Team in the Louis Vuitton Trophy. However this was Brady’s last gig with Vincenzo Onorato’s team. The Italian shipping magnate and the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup committed to the LV events this year in Auckland, La Maddalena and Dubai with Brady as skipper along with a strong team including the likes of Flavio Flavini, Steve Hayles, Cameron Dunn and Morgan Larson. But that is as far as it goes for this squad. Now Onorato seems to be wiping the slate clean ready for the 34th America’s Cup, although his plans, particularly when it comes to personnel either on the sailing or design side, have yet to be revealed. It seems the Latin Rascals are not rushing into catamarans.

“Vincenzo is maybe like the Oracle guys - he is so busy trying to make it [the 34th America’s Cup] go in the right direction, there hasn’t been much communication with the sailing team,” says Brady. “Vincenzo has always been that way – he’s said to the sailors ‘you go out there and win and you’ll make my job easy. Get good results, look after Audi and things will work out’. That has been his motto right from day one when he was announced as the Challenger of Record. That has been good, but being a Challenger of Record can be a really big distraction. You try and take advantage of being the Challenger of Record and then all of a sudden you aren’t doing what you should be doing. So far being the Challenger of Record hasn’t had a negative effect on the sailing team.”

Brady’s professional career, as principally a match racing skipper, has coincided pretty with the America’s Cup Class that made its swan song in Dubai. While he missed out on racing the Cup in 1992 when the ACC class made its debut, he was signed up as Chris Dickson’s tactician on TAG Heuer in 1995, was back up helmsman for America True and then Prada in 2000 and 2003 respectively before joining BMW Oracle Racing for the 32nd America’s Cup where he held both helmsman and afterguard roles.

So is he sorry to see the ACC boats be pensioned off finally? “It is interesting because as you sail more high performance boats these boats do have a unique part in our sport, because for people who don’t know much about sailing they do create a lot of activity [ie in the crew]. Okay the boats are less than half the speed compared to the latest fastest boats, but people always talk about Fremantle being such a fantastic America’s Cup and that was in 12 metres with wire ropes, etc - I think it was the excitement and the action and I think that is what is cool about these boats: They kept that 1987-style excitement, crashing through waves and guys getting washed down from the bow, etc. That part of the game is going to go and that will be a bit of a shame. But we’ll see another side, which we’ve never seen before which will be very interesting.”

There is more: “These boats require all the skills that sailors have needed for hundreds of years. They are all about the balance between the jib and the mainsail and you can have all the computers in the world on board to tell you what you should be doing, but at the end of the day it is the guy holding the ropes and the guy on the wheel and these boats give you a lot of feel. In some respects it is old school-style sailing which is great for all us guys who’ve been doing this since we were kids sailing Optimists. A lot of these high powered boats that we sail now, TP52s etc, they don’t have a lot of feel any more and you are really going off instruments a lot more than ever before. But you see that in a lot of walks of life be it the airline industry or whatever. Technology is just going that way. I’m sure 747s had a lot of feel when they first came out. These days things are a bit different.”

Brady observes that the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai may not just have been the last time he sails an America’s Cup Class boat. It might be the last time he sails a boat with a spinnaker pole.

So would he like to be skipper of the Mascalzone Latino Audi Team AC72 wingsail cat? “I’d like to stay on with Vincenzo, but the look of the team could change. He is thinking about what his options are. I’ve had some good positive talks with him. He is in agreement that it is not like you have to go and hire a bunch of multihull experts. Good sailors are good sailors, whether you are sailing Version 5 boats or TP52s or whatever. Multihulls are different, but you are going to figure it out - look at Oracle, that wasn’t a specialist group of guys.

“And everyone is starting from scratch. These new big boats will be quite different. It will be like practicing in a V5 boat and the America’s Cup being in a TP52 or a Volvo 70. What the guys are doing now sailing A-Class cats or Extreme 40s they just going out there and they put them on edge and find out what you can do with these boats. But once you have got the wings involved that is a whole new game again.”

Brady points out that a side affect of the move to the two new breeds of wingsail catamaran will be a lot of redundant America’s Cup crew – the ACC boats required 17 but the AC72 will sail with 11 and in 2011 the AC45 will only have five crew.

By coincide Brady has recently had the change to reacquaint himself with life on three hulls sailing in San Diego aboard the Irens ORMA 60 trimaran once used in the Kevin Costner film Waterworld.

Fortunately the America’s Cup is by no means the only string to Brady’s bow. For years he has been skipper for Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok and was integral to the creation of Kwok's Farr 80 Beau Geste and her unique sailing program since. Kwok’s aim with this boat is to compete in all the classic offshore races, and embarked on his program last year with the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Beau Geste has spent this season in the USA. “It has been a fun project,” says Brady. “This year we were the only boat to ever do both Bermuda Races - Annapolis-Bermuda and then made it back in time for the start of the Newport-Bermuda. And then we sailed up to the Great Lakes, up round the top and through the locks and we did both Mac races. Then we sailed back to Baltimore. So we did all the big events, but got there a bit differently. We have got the right boat to do it and we always intended the boat for that purpose.”

In 2011 the plan is for Beau Geste to compete in the Transatlantic race from Newport to the UK and then end the season heading for the Caribbean with the ARC. Maybe we’ll see her in the Rolex Fastnet Race again, but then Kwok has already ticked that box.

“With Beau Geste we have sailed 55,000 miles on its own bottom in 18 months. It is kind of cool that boat. It has been fun because it is back to basics - it is what the Maxis used to do in the 1970s. We literally sail that boat everywhere. These days typically everything is shipped, etc. That boat is all about durability and longevity. It is built to go reaching and running offshore. We sail offshore with three people on deck and we can pump the main like Iain Percy does on his Star - we have got that ability with the main sheet.”

So will Brady be back in the 34th America’s Cup with newly acquired wingsail catamaran racing skill or will he be one of the many left on the sideline? We wait to see.



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