Still in San Francisco, the boss of Energy Team and the French youth team, Next World Energy gives us his initial appraisal of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, which finished this week. He also tells us about the big duel starting today between the Americans and Kiwis… and gives his opinion about the future of the AC45s and the America’s Cup.
Question: Bruno, from the outside, we get the impression that finishing eighth was not what the French youngsters with Next World Energy deserved in the Youth America’s Cup, as they showed they were capable of some very good sailing. To put it bluntly, this score seems very cruel. Is that how you feel too?
Bruno Peyron: “It’s always easy, when you get a disappointing result to say you deserved better. Obviously it looks cruel, as they had every right to hope for a better outcome. But making two mistakes in a few seconds in two races was enough to see them drop back from a potential place on the podium to eighth place. That’s part of the game. The leaders were just that little bit better. On the other hand, there were eight teams battling it out for the podium… including Next World Energy. I’d like to say that you learn more from your failures than from your successes, particularly when you’re young. It’s better to win, of course, but I think the lads have really matured through this experience. There was an excellent team spirit throughout from the formation, through the training carried out with the help of the Frencg Sailing Federation and the support of our reference club, the Yacht Club de France. We’ll talk about it again in a few years from now… And remember, what’s worse than not succeeding is not trying.”
More generally, how do you feel about this experience with the young sailors on the AC45?
Bruno Peyron: “It’s too early to evaluate the overall results of the past three years, but as far as the Youth Team is concerned, it is exactly what I was hoping for. We can see there is a huge potential. When the idea first surfaced, everyone was pleased, but in fact, there weren’t so many of us, who actually thought it was the right thing to do and that we would end up with such an exceptional show. In San Francisco, there were more people watching the starts of the Youth America’s Cup than the Louis Vuitton Cup. That’s probably a sign. It’s very refreshing and concludes three years of AC45 sailing in fine style. There are a lot of positive things in this “Youth Cup.” When we decided to enter, six months ago, I was convinced that it made sense for several reasons: human, sporting, economic. As in the current economic context, a certain number of firms were interested in this idea of preparing the future generation and those that follow on and basically of looking ahead. The Youth America’s Cup has shown that it is possible to get the best out of the America’s Cup, while eliminating some of the negative associations… and that is very interesting.”
What are the prospects for the AC45s? Would you personally like to continue this adventure and if so, how? With the World Series format? Within the Cup or outside it?
Bruno Peyron: “That’s a big subject. We have been talking about that ever since the first AC45 event in Portugal – where, I should add there were more than a million views on Youtube, or in other words more than for the Louis Vuitton Cup. I cannot for one instant imagine that the AC45s will remain in their boxes, after all we have achieved. Within the little world of the Cup, it’s about the only thing which everyone agrees on: the show, the quality of racing, the TV coverage, the technology that has been developed and the quality of the sailors, who are the best in the world in inshore racing. It’s all quite exceptional with the AC45s. After the Cup, there is bound to be a slow period. The future Defender will have every right to take decisions. So should they keep the AC45s associated with the America’s Cup brand or not? It’s a subject for debate. As long as we are unable to eliminate the negative connotations associated with the America’s Cup (too much money, over-inflated egos, selfish individualism etc), it’s not going to be easy. As leader of a team, I personally feel it is easier to sell an AC45 circuit, which is separate from the America’s Cup brand, rather than the reverse. I may be wrong, but that’s what I feel. Meanwhile, the solution may be to separate the AC45 circuit from the Cup, while suggesting links that the future Defender could put in place if they wish. There are solutions here, which shouldn’t be too hard to find. The fleet exists. People say that if Oracle wins, the circuit could start again next spring and that if ETNZ wins, the same question will be raised in any case. I think it will all come out in the next three months. It is no one’s interest to delay this: neither Oracle, nor ETNZ, nor indeed the other challengers. On a personal level, I am proud of the lads in our team, and of what we have achieved with Energy Team: two podium places in two seasons of fleet racing is quite an achievement. I’m thinking too about the partners, who have supported us: Corum from the outset, Marinepool, and more recently the Next World Group, who joined us for the Youth America’s Cup.”
A word about the final of the “big” America’s Cup, which begins on Saturday. Will you be supporting your New Zealand friend, Grant Dalton? Is he really the favourite as Jimmy Spithill has been saying since the punishment given to Oracle by the International Jury?
Bruno Peyron: “I shall be supporting my friend, Grant for many reasons. We have a lot in common… but I don’t really like this word “support”. I don’t see myself as a supporter. It’s just that I’m very close to ETNZ and their way of doing things. Jimmy is playing his role, when he says ETNZ is the favourite… but in reality, neither one nor the other is a favourite. We’re looking at two big teams, who have carried out a huge task in terms of technology, men and sport. This is the highest standard we have ever seen. All that is true… but for the moment, no one can say if one team has the edge over the other. A few weeks ago, it looked like ETNZ had a slight advantage: the first perfect foiling flights, the first gybes with the hull out of the water and a perfect exit. At that point, it seemed that Oracle was lagging behind, particularly as it seemed that the Kiwis could fly earlier in lighter winds. But if we look at the most recent training sessions, it is clear there have been developments, as the Americans have also attained perfection. It’s perfect on both sides. Oracle may manage to gain the advantage in downwind VMG. We shall see. Another topic is the ability to foil upwind. That may be an additional asset when going on the attack or defending. To be honest, we should find out more this weekend, after the first duels. I’ll be out on the water on board ETNZ’s chase boat. It’s going to be a fantastic show.”
One final point: Grant Dalton claims that if he wins the America’s Cup, he sees you in a role of ambassador-observer to deal with the concerns of countries interested in competing in the Cup. In particular, dealing with the famous question concerning the future of the cup and whether it will be with monohulls or multihulls. What do you think about that?
Bruno Peyron: “Now is not the time for this question. A lot is going to happen in the coming weeks and we have to take it slowly. Firstly, I would need to look at my own future within Energy Team, as I would find it difficult being judge and being judged. But the idea itself is of course interesting. For years, I have been trying to get a consensus around a vision. That’s how I set up The Race and I have been trying to contribute to the future of the Cup. The Cup needs to go through its third revolution, after two successful ones: the sporting one and TV coverage. The third will involve dealing with its image. It’s the only area of sailing, which is still associated with the negative values of too much money, inflated egos, pointless arguments, all sorts of suspicions. If I could make a contribution towards that, it’s something I’d like to think about. What has shocked me in this little world is all the individualism, which leads to everything coming to a standstill, whereas that can be avoided. There is a huge waste of effort: even when there are more things people agree on than disagree about, it’s still impossible to move forward. The idea of getting unanimity, for example, while a majority decision would suffice. What can be done to calm egos and bring to an end the rampant hatred, and ensure that budgets become affordable (as it is possible!)? These are huge subjects of debate. Either our generation is able to change things, or it will be down to the future generation to do it… and in that case, it’s time for the old guys to move on. Obviously, it is going to take more than five minutes to get it sorted. It’s not going to be solved this week… but it’s a fascinating subject and with a bit of honesty and wisdom, it should be possible to build the necessary trust to get things moving forward.”
Can we seriously imagine a return to monohull racing?
“Probably not today in any case. But we can’t tell what the future holds. We’re going to have to listen to what everyone has to say and examine where they agree to build on that. You have to listen to everyone and smooth over the disagreements. Find a consensus without excluding this or that solution. The matter of whether it will be a monohull or multihull is not the first topic on the agenda. There are other debates to come… but we’re not there yet.”