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New Zealand Farewell  Feb 13, 10:23

Our Deputy Downunder Correspondent , Ivor Wilkins, checks in with this photo essay from a team gathering in Auckland this (Tuesday) evening....

The occasion was a farewell for the team organised by Mark Gilbert, Chief Executive of BMW New Zealand. Friends and family gathered at the Pontoon Bar on the Auckland waterfront for a pleasant get-together and to watch a slide presentation of the Auckland sailing sessions compiled by photographer Gilles Martin-Raget.

The mood was upbeat after a great Auckland sailing session where the weather has provided a perfect range of conditions for preparing for Valencia. In the final week of sailing, the team has already far exceeded the sailing schedule, thanks to no days lost to unsailable conditions.

Mark Gilbert bade farewell to the team. "It has been great to have the team sailing here in Auckland," he said. "We are now getting to the business end of a very long campaign. I have been greatly impressed with a team of people that live and work so closely together 24/7. The ability afterwards to gather at a function like this and talk about life indicates to me that there is tremendous passion in this team to win and to represent their sponsors in the best possible way."

Skipper and CEO Chris Dickson responded with a heartfelt thanks to Mark and the New Zealand BMW team for being part of the family, and for going the extra distance to help make the team's session in New Zealand so successful.
--Ivor Wilkins

Tonight's farewell for the team at the Pontoon in Auckland, kindly organized by Mark Gilbert, CEO of BMW New Zealand.

Kristen Sneyd (NZL, admin team) and Aimee Daniel (USA, sailing team admin).

BMW NZ's Leslie Acutt with crew manager and sailing team member Craig Monk (NZL).

Heidi and Jon "Z" Ziskind (USA, sailing team) with new son Crue.

Business Director Russell Green (NZL) with BMW New Zealand CEO Mark Gilbert.

Mark "Tugboat" Turner (NZL, boat construction manager) with Skipper/CEO Chris Dickson (NZL).

Sail Mail: Weekly Report from Auckland  Feb 10, 20:13

The rig and shore teams’ speedy recovery from Thursday's mast breakage on USA 71 had the guys back on the water Friday morning. With a new rig into the yacht by 0900, the sailing team did not miss a beat as Dicko & Co. logged another day of two-boat sailing on the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand.

“We continue to push technology boundaries so while we never want to break our equipment, it can happen in the ongoing development process,” CD explained. “These boats have such complex parts now that one small failure or breakage can trigger a catastrophic rig failure. We’ve been pushing these boats hard. It’s been two years since we last broke a rig in Valencia. We learned from that and we will learn from this as well. It is reassuring to know that if gear failure does occur, we are prepared to deal with it.”

As reported on the team web site on Thursday, USA 71, suffered some damage to the mast while in a race training session. USA 71 was racing in 15 knots of breeze downwind during an in-house training session when the top of the rig collapsed. The guys have been pushing these boats hard and we would rather learn the lesson now than during the Louis Vuitton Cup.

This was a race rig so we are disappointed as the piece that broke should not have broken, but we are pleased we discovered this weak link now during our race training. Sten Mohr, Bertrand Pace and the crew on board USA 71 showed great seamanship by responding quickly, minimizing the damage and getting the boat and crew safely back to shore.

Within 15 minutes of Thursday’s mishap, the New Zealand media were calling the base to confirm the reports that had been called in from the public who saw the top of the rig collapse. The New Zealand public is so tuned in to the America’s Cup that the media immediately learned of the mishap and it became a lead news item here Friday. A photo of the damaged rig ran on the front page of the New Zealand Herald, and TV crews were down at the base early that morning as we headed out for another day of training.

Thursday evening, the mast break notwithstanding, the team was hosted to a wonderful reception at BMW Team McMillan here in Auckland for the launch of Girard-Perregaux’s timepiece collection in the New Zealand market. Chris and Russell Green provided the 180 guests an update on the programme as Girard-Perregaux officially launched the brand here. It was a great evening attended b many of New Zealand’s movers and shakers and media luminaries. The team blog carried a behind-the-scenes report.

The guys are not sailing over the weekend so we will finish out this session with five days on the water next week. We will provide a report when the sailing session wraps next Friday.

--Jane Eagleson (USA)

Epilogue: New Zealand Herald's sailing writer Julie Ash told Jane on Friday that the mast breaking article was the most read story on their website that day, outstripping even Anna Nicole's death -- and the NZH site is the most read website in NZ.

Fast turnaround: Shore team manager Tim Hacket (NZL) had a long night Thursday, but was the man of the hour along with his very capable team, including...

...rigger Pete Waymouth (NZL).

The Endless Summer  Feb 5, 10:56

jesmOur Downunder Correspondent, Jane Eagleson, checks in with this update from Auckland Monday evening their time, with this excerpt from the Sail Mail newsletter that is emailed to our partners, family and friends around the world:

The calendar has turned to February and the countdown continues as we get closer and closer to the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup. The team is in final stages of preparation in all areas of the program and the momentum is building.

The goal for the sailing team is to leave New Zealand race-ready. The guys have been logging long days on the Hauraki Gulf with USA 71 and USA 98. The excellent New Zealand conditions have given the team the chance to sail USA 98 in a full spectrum of conditions from the 5-7 knots through to 28. While there is still plenty of work to do, Chris and the crew are feeling upbeat about where they are, and are pleased with the amount of time they have had together on the water during this winter training session. The focus is on race training as the guys push each other daily in practice starts and in-house races. Sten Mohr (DEN) has been driving USA 71 as the tune-up helmsman for the Chris and crew on USA 98.

We are on a six-day-a-week program, making the most of the time we have here. Scotty Crawford and Paul Wallbank get the guys to the gym at 0630 to jump-start their day. Ben Harland and Harry Lynskey cook up a storm in the morning to get crawfordboth breakfast and lunch ready. The boats are launched and prepared for the day’s sailing, and by 1030 the guys are off the dock. Some evenings they are not back before 1900, but one of the beauties of the New Zealand summer is having daylight until after 2100 -- so we are making the most of these long summer days.

The forecast calls for strong winds tomorrow (Tuesday) so the team has called a vltrophymaintenance day. Periodic maintenance days are important to ensure the boats are well-serviced to avoid breakdowns.

Today, the fans of American football on the sailing team asked those on shore to stay mum on the results of the Super Bowl. The game was taped and we will be gathering after work to watch the game together.

We are very pleased that BMW New Zealand and Girard-Perregaux have teamed up here in Auckland to host a reception later this week. Girard-Perregaux is new to the 2995_base_big_prNZ market, and will take the opportunity of the team’s presence here to launch the brand, alongside BMW, and with the support of their NZ retailer, Partridge Jewellers. Girard-Perregaux will preview the limited edition BMW ORACLE Racing collection of Swiss timepieces at Team McMillan BMW on Thursday evening, with many of our team members here attending the event.

Meanwhile back in Valencia, updates to USA 87 are underway in preparation for our two-boating there in March. And the marketing team is in full swing finalizing the VIP guest program for the Louis Vuitton Cup. With 10,000 guests expected during the April-June racing, Mirko and his team have plenty to do in preparation for our sponsor-partners and guests.

Hard to believe that two months from today we'll be in the middle of Act 13, with only eleven days to the start of the LVC.

Tune-up helmsman Sten Mohr (DEN) has been doing a good job driving USA-71.

Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Soon it will be back to Valencia for the final installment, at least for this edition of the Cup, of The Endless Summer.

Thrill of a Lifetime? Or Only a Matter of Time??  Feb 4, 18:50

BMW NZ was a sponsor of the 420 Worlds hosted in Takapuna (on Auckland's North Shore) last month. In special recognition of the effort by everyone involved in hosting by what all accounts was a great event, our team offered an 18th man slot for the prizegiving. The winner was drawn by lot from from among the NZ sailors who competed in the Worlds.

Adrian Short, 17, of Warkworth (one hour up the coast from Auckland) was the lucky winner. Adrian enjoys match racing and has competed at the Governor’s Cup (which, by the way, Gavin Brady won in 1990), an international youth match racing championship held at Balboa YC in California. A sailor since age 11 when he started in the Starling class, Adrian was thrilled at the chance to be on board an America’s Cup Class race boat. “It was great seeing really good sailors in action and having a good look at the boats.”

You have to wonder if the photo below, in the same vein as the famous shot of teenager Bill Clinton meeting President John F Kennedy, will someday show up on the website of an AC team of which Adrian is a member....

Special moment: One of the 58 young Kiwis competing at the 420 Worlds at Auckland in January, Adrian Short took his sail with the team last Saturday. How many kids get to go as 18th crew on an ACC yacht, let alone steer it with one of his sailing heroes, Gavin Brady (NZL), serving as tactician?

Happy Australia Day  Jan 26, 07:16

Best wishes to our Aussie team members on the occasion of their big national holiday, Australia Day.

Australia Day, 26 January, commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove on that day in 1788. For some years the holiday was held on the closest Monday, to provide a long weekend. It is now held on the actual anniversary, with that day being the public holiday. Australia Day is marked by civic celebrations around the country, including the Order of Australia and Australian of the Year awards for outstanding achievement. Fireworks celebrations are held in many towns and cities around the country. [Source: Wikipedia]

Perth's Australia Day celebration attracted 500,000 people in 2006.

Our team is proud of being an international team of some 150 people from 16 nations, including a significant contingent from "Oz".

So today our guys in AKL had a bit of an Aussie Day celebration as well. The sports rivalry between Kiwis and Aussies is legendary. While our Kiwis and Aussies get on just fine when sailing alongside each other as teammates, the Aussies decided to challenge the Kiwis to some in-house racing today in the best spirit of the AC Deed of Gift's prime directive: "friendly competition between foreign countries."

Sailing team member Mark "Squark" Bradford (AUS) cooked up the idea, and the Kiwis accepted the challenge. With more than 50 percent of our team from New Zealand, it was not hard to find an all-NZL crew to sail with Dicko on 98. Squark recruited the Aussies as well as a few Americans, Europeans and, of course, Kazuhiko Sofuku (JPN) to round out the Aussie crew.

The Aussie team painted their faces in traditional green and yellow, and wore green floppy hats and sporty (to say the least) green and yellow socks. The letters KA were on 71’s main and KZ on 98.

[Before the three-letter Olympic codes were adopted for the America's Cup in 1992, KA and KZ were the sail codes, respectively, for Australia and New Zealand, along with F (France), I (Italy), K (Great Britain), KC (Canada), and US (United States). A bygone era....]

A Wallabies battle flag flew from the KA boat as the crew docked out chanting “Stand up Australia.”

Captain of New Zealand side, Stu Clarke, arranged new team kit for his Kiwi colleagues -- black shorts, tank tops and, of course, broad-rimmed hats. According to Jane Eagleson, the BOB's senior correspondent Downunder, "It was quite a sight to see the guys coming down the ramp to the pontoon in the short-shorts and tanks!"

As for the results on the water, the Kiwi team won the first race, the Aussie team the second. The outcome of the third, Jane reports, was still being debated in the protest room Friday evening -- though one suspects more likely in a Viaduct-area bar over a few Fosters and Speights.

Australia Day regatta organizer Mark "Squark" Bradford.

A sartorially resplendent Nick Patridge -- also batting, obviously, for the Aussie team.

The Kiwi team led down the ramp by Ian "Box" Baker. Hope our friends at Henri Lloyd don't get any ideas from this kit.

Team KZ doing the traditional Haka before docking out. Little did they know Team KA were preparing to hose them down from across the dock. Photo: JB Braun (USA, design team) on his new Nokia 6234 phone cam (2 megapixels).

"Team KZ" docking out for the Aussie Day regatta. The "All Carbons"?

"Team KA" defending the flag with some help from the seppos, wogs, and a few others from O.S. (and if you need help with those Aussie expressions, try Google). Photo: Captain Craig Christensen.

Australia II, carrying the old-style sail code KA-6, winning race 7 and with it the 1983 Cup -- ending NYYC's 132-year winning streak, and signaling the start of the modern America' Cup era. Photo© Daniel Forster.

The famous winged keel of Australia II. KA-6 is on permanent display in the Western Australia Maritime Museum in Fremantle.

Happy Australia Day to all our Aussie teammates and friends.

Two-Boating  Jan 24, 11:47

It may be chilly in Valencia (down near 0 deg C this morning -- first time I recall seeing the BMW's freeze-warning light come), and warm but not much breeze in Dubai, but it has been great two-boating weather in AKL. This beautiful GMR shot was uploaded full-size; click on it to expand into a very nice high-res pic.

Off to an Auspicious Start  Jan 22, 08:01

Jane's Monday update from Auckland...

Since the launch of 98 last week, it’s been all about sailing here. The guys had a full week of two-boating with 71 and 98, and we're off the dock early today (Monday) for another day on the Hauraki. We also had a BMW crew with us today filming for an upcoming TV commercial.

And speaking of VIP guests (apropos the North Stars post, second below), one joined Dicko & Co. -- who were aboard 98 -- during the lunch break Friday....

For centuries, a dolphin swimming near a ship has been considered auspicious, including (according to numerous websites) the Maoris of New Zealand and Native North Americans, and...

...that today the dolphin is still a powerful symbol of good luck. Here's hoping!

As usual, the great photos on the BOB are by GMR, and you can click on them to enlarge.

North Stars  Jan 20, 11:13

This week Terry Kohler (USA, left), Chairman of the North Marine Group (which includes Southern Spars and North Sails) and a lifelong yacht racer and AC supporter, was in Auckland and visited our team base. Terry was given the cook's tour by Steve Wilson (NZL, center) who is head of our spar design department and an executive with Southern Spars. That's Paul "Flipper" Westlake (AUS, right), a member of our sailing team (mainsail trimmer) who is a North Sails alum.

Terry and Stevo checking in with another North operative, Mickey Ickert (GER/NZL, left) who is head of our sail design team.

Nice Ink: Summer Sailing Session  Jan 17, 12:09

islerNice story by Jim Doyle in the San Francisco Chronicle this past weekend on Peter Isler (USA) and the rest of the sailing team heading down to AKL for the start of our second summer sailing session....

Oracle team takes pursuit of America's Cup to New Zealand
Jim Doyle, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Billionaire Larry Ellison prides himself on being a maverick who can make his own cutthroat decisions while navigating the global marketplace's dicey shoals.

But on the racecourse, he relies on Peter Isler -- the San Diego professional sailor who co-wrote "Sailing for Dummies" -- to arrive at the critical choices needed to bring home sailing's greatest prize.

Isler, 51, a former Collegiate Sailor of the Year at Yale University, is competing in his fifth America's Cup campaign as BMW Oracle Racing's navigator. In 1987, he was navigator for Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes, which won the cup in Australia. He also served in the brain trust, or after guard, of Stars & Stripes in 1988 (winning the Cup again), 2000 and 2003.

Ellison, whose San Francisco-based team is sponsored by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, has long spoken of his desire to capture the oldest trophy in international sport and hold future America's Cup races on San Francisco Bay. He spent $85 million on his last cup campaign, before losing 5-1 to the Swiss Alinghi team in the challenger finals in January 2003.

Isler left San Diego on Friday for Auckland, New Zealand, where Ellison's syndicate is training for the winter. The team is rigging its new boat, USA 98, which was built in Anacortes, Wash., and arrived Monday at the team's temporary training base after a trans-Pacific voyage aboard a container ship.

"USA 98 is the result of more than three years of R&D and the culmination of all we learned from our first new boat, USA 87, in the 2006 sailing season," said Chris Dickson, the team's chief executive officer and skipper.

BMW Oracle is the only U.S. team among the 11 challengers from nine nations -- including teams from China, Germany, and South Africa -- slated to compete this spring in the America's Cup trials (the Luis Vuitton Cup) in Valencia, Spain for the right to challenge the current America's Cup defender, the Swiss Alinghi team.

In a series of pre-regattas (the Luis Vuitton "Acts") held since 2004, BMW Oracle has finished among the top two challengers, just two points behind Emirates Team New Zealand, and five points ahead of Italy's Luna Rossa, which improved greatly in the last racing season.

Isler, who wrote "Sailing for Dummies" with his wife, Olympic medalist J.J. Isler, describes his navigator's role on the high-tech racer as "part systems engineer, part after-guard member, part grinder ... You're a member of the brain trust. We all provide information to the helmsman and speed team to help them make decisions."

Ellision, the team's owner and founder, is also in the after guard. A top-ranked amateur, he is serving in what the crew has dubbed "Larry's position.''

"I'm sure he'll be there on race day," Isler said about the billionaire. "He's involved in the decision-making and the monitoring of the performance of the boat, and does a lot of driving as well."

The team's five-week, winter training schedule in Auckland includes time for sea trials for the new racing yacht as well as two-boat testing and sparring.

Full SF Chronicle story

The Sharp End of the Campaign  Jan 16, 07:43

As you will have read on our main team website, yesterday (Monday) Dicko & Co. splashed USA 98. They did all the usual dockside structural tests and, finding everything in excellent order, today (Tuesday) they took 98 for a spin around Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf.

An excerpt from Jane's "Sail Mail" which is being emailed today to our sponsor partners, family and friends...

Today is another milestone in our campaign to win the America’s Cup. Not only is it three months to the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup on April 16, but we sailed USA 98 for the first time. Chris and the team are conducting sea trials this week before starting our in-house racing programme with 98 and 71.

Chris was at the helm for the maiden voyage of 98 on the Hauraki Gulf today and said, “In a four-year campaign, it is only twice that the team has the thrill of taking a new yacht on its shakedown sail. The report card comes when we sail with the boat fully-loaded in race mode, but for sailing right out of the box 98 feels pretty special. Now we will start putting it through its paces.”

Our week started off with many of the sailing team arriving for the first time since the Christmas break. Likewise the team in Valencia is back from break, so we are back in full swing for the Year of the Cup on all fronts.

Yesterday (Monday here in New Zealand), the team launched 98 only one week after the hull arrived in Auckland. It had been shipped from our Anacortes, Washington (USA) build facility over the holidays. Boat construction managers Mark Turner and Tim Smyth and their dedicated team did yeomans' work in fitting out the new boat and launching it in record time.

Today, USA 98 left the dock at 1030 and by 1050 we were under sail. The crew included members of the design, boatbuilding and rig teams to ensure that the yacht was structurally sound. The team checked off a list of technical tests before returning to the Base this afternoon. Tomorrow we will get straight into two-boating with 71 and 98 on the Hauraki Gulf.

A more formal presentation of USA 98 will take place in Valencia on the weekend of 31 March and 1 April. The latter date is the AC 32 "Unveiling Day" when all teams are required under the rules to remove the skirts and reveal the underbodies of their ACC yachts registered to race in the Louis Vuitton Cup and, if successful, the America’s Cup. For details of Unveiling Day and the balance of the AC 32 schedule, check this post on the Challenger Commission Blog.

With the LVC starting on 16 April -- only three months from today -- we are definitely now on the sharp end of the AC 32 campaign. By all accounts, everything is pointing in the right direction.

Monday: team meeting in the sail loft at our temporary base in Auckland.

CEO and Skipper Chris Dickson welcomes the team back after the holiday break, and lays out the plan for the "second summer sailing session" in New Zealand (the first having been one-boating with 71 before Christmas).

In keeping with ancient seafaring traditions, a bottle of red wine (in this case a 1998 Goldwater Estate cab/sav/merlot -- representing the blended efforts of everyone on our team) was used to mark the occasion along, of course, with the more modern and celebratory Moet & Chandon. We used a bottle of Spanish Sangre de Toro (Bull 's Blood) on 87 which was launched in Valencia; Goldwater is a fine Kiwi red from Waiheke Island, just east of Auckland.

As has become our special and hopefully auspicious tradition, the team assembled under the skirts to hear brief words from Dicko, Fresh and Tugboat...

...and then to witness Mark pouring the red wine on the keel before it was lowered into the water.

98 about to get splashed for the first time on Monday.

Nice to see the Auckland City backdrop again.

After 98 was splashed and all systems ticked off "green for go", perhaps the three happiest faces belonged to boat buillders Tim Smyth (NZL) and Mark Turner (NZL), and design coordinator Ian "Fresh" Burns (AUS).

Today, Tuesday, was 98's first day of sailing..

Shore team members enjoying a brief break after 98 was launched today.

There was also a curious gathering of grey-uniforms on the balcony of the former Alinghi Base, now known as the Viaduct Harbour Marine Village, next door. Otherwise ETNZ is operating out of the former OneWorld Base in the Viaduct further to the north. However, since 98 arrived they appear to be making regular use of the old Alinghi Base as well.

The French connection on Chase 1 during the tow out: sailing team member Bert Pace (FRA) and the design team's Michel Kermerac (FRA). That's Captain Craig Christensen (NZL) on the wheel. Gilles Martin-Raget's great (as usual) photos tell the rest of the story....








Finally, a very happy and no doubt relieved Mark Turner gets a turn on the wheel before Dicko & Co took 98 back to barn after her successful inaugural sail.