“It’s exciting to be into 2024, it’s obviously a massive year for the team with the Cup later this summer here in Barcelona. Exciting times, there’s a lot to get achieved in terms of getting a race boat on the water, and then getting out and making sure that we get every ounce of performance from the boat as we go into racing, and during the Challenger series and Cup.”
“The next period is going to be really fascinating we go into a block of two-boat testing with the AC40s. We expect to learn a lot through that in terms of the nuances of sailing these foiling monohulls, and that will definitely help us when it comes to optimizing the race boat later this summer. The team has a lot of targets to meet both on and off the water between now and the start of the competition. And it’s really on us to keep our heads down, keep focused and make those targets.
“We’ve just finished the AC40 Preliminary events, and they were very much a double-edged sword. Ultimately, when we go into any competition, we want to train for it, and try and win it. Clearly, we didn’t do that, but on the other hand – as is always the case with the America’s Cup — it’s a development game. It’s about developing your race boat and being on point when it counts for the real competition.
“We’ve been through two previous cycles now where we’ve won, what was effectively the World Series in the build up to the Cup. In AC35, before Bermuda, we raced over a couple of seasons and a number of events and came out on top in the one design format. And then we struggled when it came to the America’s Cup. So, it’s finding that balance between the two, and it’s certainly been a good wake-up call for the sailing team in terms of our understanding of these boats, how they set-up, how they’re performing on the water and around the racetrack.
“We’ve got a really strong sailing squad and certainly when you look at getting our two AC40s out on the water testing together, then having someone of the calibre of Dylan Fletcher, for example, steering one of the boats is really positive. After getting to know him now over the past 12 months, since he joined the team, he’s hugely competitive.
“There’s no doubt that he’s going to be fighting really hard, pushing everyone. And that’s exactly what we want, so that when we finish that two-boat period, the whole squad have upped their game massively. Ultimately, the team that get through and race on the boat will be that much stronger for it.
“It’s clear that we had a very different strategy to most of the other teams. And we’ve seen the teams that went with the AC40 as their boat for this first phase came out really strong in the warmup events. Whether or not that was the right strategy, I think very much depends on the team.
“For us, building our research and development boat T6 was really critical in terms of having a new design partnership with our friends at the Mercedes Formula One team. I think we all still stick by that decision. It was really important to design and build one of these yachts. We learned a lot through that process, which is inevitably going to help us massively, and has already helped us with the design and manufacture of our raceboat. I think we’re happy with the strategy we’ve taken. A lot will depend on meeting the milestones and targets over the next six months as we get ready for competition.
“Now we’re getting excited about the racing, and of course we always do – a huge amount of effort has and is going into the raceboat, as it will have done for all of the other teams. All credit to the design team for getting to these deadlines in good shape. We’ve still got to get the boat in the water. We’re pushing really, really hard to make sure we make that deadline. Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is when we get the boat going in July in the warmup racing, where we’ll start lining up with the other teams.
“This will be a critical period where the teams will find out what the pecking order looks like, and how they rank. The questions then will be about how we further optimize the boat between then and the start of racing at the end of August. It will be a very, very intense period for all of the teams but that’s also a very exciting period.
“I think this is going to be one of the tightest Cups we’ve seen in a long, long time. The standard of the teams that we’ve got is incredible. We’re now in the second generation of these boats, and the venue here in Barcelona has very changeable conditions, so I think it’s going to be a real trick to try and optimize these boats across such a wide range of conditions. I think some teams are going to have their moments, depending on the conditions, but being consistent will be the key. Maintaining that consistency all the way through the competition, as well as continuing to optimise and find performance improvements while racing is the key to success.
“It’s also fantastic to see the Youth America’s Cup making a comeback. It was part of the plan for 2021, but of course, Covid-19 ended that hope, unfortunately. We also now have the first ever Women’s America’s Cup and I think that’s a great statement for the sport.
“We’re really proud of where we’ve got to with the Athena Pathway program, having set that up with Hannah Mills coming in to lead that for us. The work that Hannah, Chris Draper, and the rest of the team have done back in the UK to get the top talent coming through from a range of different classes of boat has been great. They’ve had the AC40 simulator to work with, and then down here in Barcelona, they’ve been starting to work with the senior team, building up to the competition itself later in the summer.
“We’ve got a great squad that are well supported, getting a lot of support from the senior team here in Barcelona. I’m really excited about their prospects, not only this summer but into the future. The Pathway Program is definitely a long-term project for us.
“Ultimately, of course, we want to win the Cup, that’s why we set the team up in the first place back in 2014. This is our third campaign. We’ve learned a huge amount and made a lot of changes over that period. Now, it’s on us to execute on the targets that we’ve set ourselves. If we can do that, I believe we’ve got a really strong chance. That said, it’s going to be one of the toughest competitions in the recent history of the America’s Cup. So, whoever wins it is really going to have their work cut out to get it across the line.
“We’ve got a really strong team that’s been through lots of ups and downs over the years, and I think that it’s when you go through these big setbacks, that’s when you really find out if you’ve got a team. We’ve certainly done that, and come out the other side, I have such a belief in this organization, and I know that we can keep pushing hard and go all the way.”