© Luca Pinna / COR36
LAURENT ESQUIER: "THE CUP IS ALWAYS A QUESTION OF CHARACTERS BEHIND"
Although he is little known in France, Laurent Esquier is a well known figure in the rarefied world of the America's Cup. He has been involved in Cup World almost continuously since his first participation as a sailor in 1974 alongside Baron Bich. Now Esquier is at the helm of COR36 and as such responsible for organising the America’s Cup World Series, for which the 2020 calendar was presented this week - Cagliari in April, Portsmouth in June, Auckland in December - and the Challenger Selection Series (The Prada Cup). These are among the topics he discusses with Tip & Shaft.
How did you first encounter the America's Cup?
In the winter of 1973 I found myself in Hyères where Baron Bich had his boats which he had previously entrusted to Paul Elvström. Back then I was then a student at the University of Toulon and I started sailing on his various 12 Metres, Then I found myself in the America's Cup in 1974 and then subsequently in the next two editions with Baron Bich. But let me say if I had been in Lavandou rather than Hyères, I probably would not have had this opportunity, so it was very much a case of ‘right place, right time’.
What happened next?
The America's Cup is a very small world. Everyone knows each other. After three editions, I was hired as a sailor on the second boat by Dennis Conner's U.S. team, Stars & Stripes. Then, I did a few months with Yves Pajot, before being hired as coach and manager by the New Zealanders who started in the Cup. With Team New Zealand I did the 1987 edition and the 1988 edition with the big boat in San Diego. Then I was recruited by Raul Gardini as Chief Operating Officer of Il Moro di Venezia. In 1995 I returned to New Zealand on Tag-Heuer with Chris Dickson, before my first experiences with Luna Rossa Prada, as director of operations on the 2000 and 2003 Cups. I then moved to Oracle in 2007 and then Artemis where I left halfway through the 34th Cup in San Francisco [he then officiated as "event manager during this Cup, "Editor's note]. Since my first Cup, I have only missed two editions, the duel between the two multihulls in Valencia in 2010 and the last one in Bermuda.
How did you find yourself as CEO of COR36 now and what is your role?
Simply because Prada's boss, Patrizio Bertelli, whom I had worked for already at Luna Rossa for seven years, made the phone call to me. At that moment I had just finished a project to build a skyscraper in the state of New York and so his proposal was well timed. I joined the team at the end of September 2017. As for my missions, the challenger of record has two operational divisions: one, the race team, Luna Rossa, I am not involved with them at all, and the other, COR36, the organisation responsible for selecting the best challenger to face the defender in the Match of the America’s Cup. That means organizing the America’s Cup World Series, and also the Prada Cup between the challengers. In essence that's the part I'm looking after.
There are only four challengers and still doubts about Stars Stripes. Is that not quite disappointing?
Is it surprising to have only three challengers at the moment? Not really. The America's Cup is, after all, a little bit of a special event. If we wanted to make it something more regular and structured with continuity over time, we would have to change the Deed of Gift [the "Constitution" of the Cup, Ed.], which would require everyone to agree, which is not easy, if not impossible. That is what makes the appearance of each Cup different. If the event were purely commercial, as the previous title holders wanted it to be, it would become SailGP. Would I have liked to have six challengers? Of course. But given the starting situation, it was quickly realized that this would not be possible, especially because of the technological aspects, the fact that there are only three challengers is partly due to the complexity of the boat.
Have you heard from Stars & Stripes? Can they be in Cagliari in April?
We have no more news than you. The last time we heard from Stars & Stripes, it was at a meeting with them in July in Newport, since absolutely nothing. Will they be in Cagliari with a boat? No. We have no news that they have started building... I can't tell you what will happen next. That is a question to ask the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron who accepted the challenge of Stars Stripes. But there is the problem of his eligibility: are they able to line up with a boat and pay what they owe at the time of the first regatta of the selection of challengers?
The America’s Cup World Series was originally scheduled to start in 2019, why the delay?
The main reason is that the construction of the boats was delayed due to the technical complications on foil arms. We thought we would have them in the water six months ago but in fact it was only two months ago. The complication thereafter is one of the transport time, because then you have to get to New Zealand, which is seven weeks of travel.
You say the AC75s are very complicated, are they too complicated?
I don't know if it's too much of a jump, because with the America's Cup, you never know how far you have to jump. That’s what makes it difficult, but also that’s the appeal. In the end though it is true that it's extremely complicated and expensive and it takes a lot of time.
If we were doing it again should it be less complicated?
In terms of the design rules, probably. But the Cup must not become a one design monohull championship. We must leave room for development, invention, stepping into the unknown. Seeing these boats, which are still breathtaking, you cannot but wonder what the next ones will look like. But I think we won't be able to stay with this class, which is very complex. But where will we go next? It will still depend on the winner's philosophy. Will it be a slightly more commercial position, one required to attract more teams, countries, sponsors? We’ll see.
Do you think this 36th Cup less focused on this commercial aspect?
Look who's behind the teams. Yes, there are commercial sponsors, but very few. New Zealand is the government and one or two key figures, Ineos, Luna Rossa and American Magic are backed by passionate owners. That said compared to previous editions, this Cup is much more focused on the media and communication of the product. Unlike previous years, the "race packaged’ product, television and graphics are given free of charge to anyone who wants broadcast it. This means that a large part of my budget, almost two-thirds, is spent on the production of images, which everyone has free access to. Unless you want exclusivity, and then there will be a small fee to pay. If a national channel comes to me and commits to broadcasting the images, it will have access to the production.
What is COR36's budget to organize all this?
I can't give it to you, but it's a little over half a team's budget [which is more than 100 million euros].
We often hear about tensions between the defender and the Challenger of Record, what sort of relationship do you have?
These are the tensions that are expected. Our job is to get the New Zealand Cup delivered so we are under no illusions about our relationship. The collaboration is tense regarding on the water activity. But it is less so for everything regarding TV production and village.
Finally: France has struggled in recent years to be in the competition and to perform on the Cup, how do you analyze that?
All the talent that is needed is in France, the proof: there are French people in all teams, sailors and especially designers and engineers. What is missing is the initial budget that allows entry and to hire the right team, I think the French way of sponsoring sailing does not fit with this event, the reverse is also true. You have to find a passionate owner. It is always a question of the characters behind the Cup. We see it in Team New Zealand which has been supported for ten years by an Italian [Matteo de Nora]. It was the case before in France with Baron Bich. If you don't find such a person you need an important group, but again, within the group, a decision maker has to make the choice to say: "I prefer the Cup to golf or Formula 1."
|[IF YOU SPENT THE LAST WEEK FAR AWAY FROM THE OCEAN...]
- RECORD. Francis Joyon and the crew of Idec Sport set a new reference time between Ho Chi Minh Ville and Shenzhen of 2 days 20 hrs 28 mins and 51s.
- OLYMPIC SAILING. The Finn Gold Cup, which represents the world championship for the series, finishes on Saturday in Melbourne, Kiwi Josh Junior is leading the way on the eve of the Medal Race ahead of Dutch Nicholas Heiner and Hungarian Zsombor Bereczs. British sailor, Giles Scott is in 4th place.
- CLIPPER RACE. Race 5 of the Clipper Round The World Race starts on Sunday from Fremantle with the fleet heading for the Whitsundays, to the NE of Australia (3415 miles).
- SYDNEY-HOBART. The Sydney-Hobart starts next Thursday at 1300hrs (local time). 163 boats are registered for this 75th edition.
|[PHOTO OF THE WEEK BY MARTINA ORSINI]
Tom Slingsby caught at very high speed in the Moth world championship which finished in Perth on Wednesday. The Australian, who also won the SailGP circuit this year, took the title ahead of his compatriot (and F50 crewman), Kyle Langford, and Tom Burton. The first non-Australian was the Italian, Francesco Bruni, who finished fifth.
In partnership with
PIP HARE: "I HAVE NEVER WORKED SO HARD IN MY LIFE"
Fresh back from 24th place on the Transat Jacques Vabre – her first big IMOCA transatlantic and the return delivery back to her home base in Poole, England, Pip Hare has just lifted her famous evergreen 20 year old IMOCA Superbigou out of the water ready for a refit to be ready for the 2020 season and the Vendée Globe. Hare, 45, is a former Mini sailor who has taken all the right steps to be ready for the pinnacle solo race around the world. She is on one of the tightest budgets of the fleet but says if she does not have the money she won’t do the race…Tip & Shaft caught up with her in Poole.
What’s the plan with the boat for the winter?
Mast off, keel off, we have to get all of those surveyed so that we can pass measurements and then we are having the bottom done, painting the deck and all the deck gear off. We have got quite a lot of old kit on the boat that I’m hoping to replace - all of the jammers, all the furlers, my kite halyards are all still 2:1 so I’m going to try to make those into haliedlocks. We really want to try to put a pedestal (winch) in because I’m the only boat in the fleet without a coffee grinder at the moment. We are going to put outriggers on, which I think will make quite a big difference and then new furling gear and halyard locks should help with that as well.
What’s your budget for the refit and what do you need to get through to the end of the Vendée Globe?
The refit budget is fairly meagre I think it will come in at just over £150,000. But my objective is to have no debt. The way that I’ve set my budget is that there are certain financial milestones and I have to reach them all to continue. So far I have achieved that. I reckon I need a further £500,000 to go on from here. I am fairly confident but I will still have one of the smallest budgets in the fleet. I’ve got a three-tier approach to my funding. I’ve got the traditional tiered structured sponsorship with a title sponsor, gold and silver levels. Then we have a business syndicate which is created really around the community that is supporting me in Poole in doing this. The idea with the business syndicate is that it’s a lower level amount that is contributed in monthly installments. That’s what has enabled me to exist this whole year to finish three IMOCA races and to get a place in the Vendee Globe. It is incredible, absolutely incredible. Every single penny that I have raised has gone into the boat. I don’t pay for extra stuff on top, I don’t pay for marketing on top, I don’t pay for team kit on top- every single penny has gone into the boat and that’s why it’s worked.
How do you cope day to day, it is incredibly stressful?
The thing is nobody else cares about this as much as I do, so it just seems to me that you have to be task focussed. If you want something, then you have to identify what it is, and you have to make it happen. I don’t really know how to explain it any other way.
The thing about the way I’m doing it and the flip side is that it is really, really, really hard work, I have never worked so hard at anything in my life ever. But so it should be, shouldn’t it? The other thing is that it is built on ten years’ experience. I didn’t just wake up one morning and think…… ‘oh, I’m going to do the Vendee Globe’.
But then this is the pinnacle, a one off….do the Vendée Globe and then move on, go off sailing Superyachts in the sun?
I’m not just thinking that this is the pinnacle and that I want to do this once I want to do another one. This is typical me, everything I have ever done in my life I do it once to prove that I can do it and learn it and then I do it the second time and that’s when I go for smashing it out the park. That’s my approach to everything, so I would definitely want to do another one without a doubt.
Superbigou is the perfect boat for you?
It’s the boat for me because it was available and for charter for a really cheap price. That is what has made all of this possible and the fact that I was prepared. I have it on a two-year charter. It’s a manageable monthly amount. No one else in the fleet is paying as little as I am I can assure you. But I’m responsible for everything else. Alan (Roura) had the same deal. So, at the end of the day he (the owner) gets a boat that, yes it is an old boat but it’s still an IMOCA and its still maintained to class rules. I’m putting new running rigging on it, new standing rigging on it, so I think it works for us both.
But it is a hard boat to sail, to get the most out of?
As it happens, sure it is an old boat, there is no way around it. It is an old boat and it has the performance of an old boat. And it is phenomenally difficult, not technically difficult but physically difficult to sail. It is a beast. And all of these guys here who are helping me, who have experience on other boats are just going ‘rather you than me…this is…well…hard’. For example, my keel is on a block and tackle, we have an electric winch, the winch doesn’t do a full cant on its own so so you have to wind with one arm and push the button with other! Obviously, I don’t have a coffee grinder so when you’re putting the main up, you’re on a winch on the mast and it’s a little 52 winch.
You are incredibly driven, are you inspired by the likes of Ellen MacArthur and Sam Davies, do you tell yourself ‘well if they can do it, so can I’?
To be honest, no. Ellen was such a one off and I am very much into doing it on my own terms. It is definitively manageable. I think that so much of it is around physique and definitely in terms of those challenges I look at Ellen and I look at Sam in particular and think ‘well I’m bigger than them so I should be able to do this’. I think I would challenge any female sailor not to be influenced by what Ellen McArthur did. She grabbed it and she did it at such a young age, it was really impressive. So, I think that along with that I think one of the wonderful statistics when you drill down and look it at it is the number of British sailors that have finished the Vendee Globe- include Miranda and me in this because we are lining up for it- by the time we have finished there won’t even be ten and 50% of them will be women. That’s pretty impressive.
Your hull, for those who have not seen it, is one very large Union Jack flag. Clearly the being British aspect is close to your heart, or is it more of a marketing tool?
The British aspect is quite important. I think I wanted to make a point there. I’ve been over and I’ve lived in France for a bit. I did my Mini training in France and I look over the water at what is going on there and I want to be there and be a part of that. That is the express, fast track way of getting good. I was thinking about where I wanted to base my campaign and in my heart I want to go and train with these guys and be a part of that community and train with them. But I am looking to British companies to support me, how can you base your campaign in France if that’s the case? The other thing I really want to do is try to shake up Britain a bit and say, ‘come on, we’ve got some amazing sailors in this country and we are doing some amazing things. But we just don’t engage with it in the way that we should’. One of the big things that I am plugging is that the Vendee Globe in itself is an incredible endurance sporting event. It is a sailing event that anybody can understand. It is a pure physical experience. It is pushing yourself to the limit of what it means to be a human being, sailing is only a part of that. Everyone can get into that. There is a reason for everyone to be proud of it and want to know about it. I guess that’s the reason for the Union Jack. Plus when I go plus go over to France, I’m just one among a number of people there and that doesn’t make me any different.
So, seeing Plymouth lose The Transat and The Fastnet must hurt you?
It does hurt to lose it, it’s such a shame. It’s now the ‘Fast Not’ isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong I can understand why. I think with the Transat in particular, I did the OSTAR in 2009, I did Round Britain and Ireland from Plymouth in 2010. When I did it in 2009, compared with the French events it was small, but there were still spectator ferries out. We had a warship there. I think Dee and Mike started it and they had a ‘Royal’ (family member). It was a big event as was Round Britain and Ireland. I think there were 48 boats. It was an event. What happened?
You want to crusade to see big sailing events return to the UK?
I’m sure I can’t be on a one-woman mission; I have got too much to do but that’s kind of part of the point I want to make is: how do we re-engage people with this? Maybe it’s because we aren’t being human enough. Maybe it is because you look at the big campaigns in the UK and it is all chiselled looking men. Here I am, I am just a scatty looking tired woman doing this. Surely everyone can relate to that!
But in the Vendée Globe you are going to have a great race against Miranda Merron and Alexia Barrier, three girls and three boats of a vaguely similar vintage…..
I am so excited after the TJV. Firstly, because I have got so much more in the tank, I am just getting started girls. I’m just learning. I am so looking forward to it. It is going to be fun and we are going to have a great race. We are going to make part of the race. We are going to make part of that story.
|[ON THE MARKET : SAIL RACING MOVES]
If you'd like to post anything in this section, just send us an e-mail ! We'll publish the first item for free, then we'll charge just €60 for the next three.
[DEPARTURES & NOMINATIONS]
- KARVER won two Dame Awards in the rigging-deck hardware category at the Mets in Amsterdam for their winch Compact KCW45 and carbon winch handle, KWH.
- JONAS GERCKENS was awarded the Safran d'Or (Golden Rudder award) in the offshore race category at a ceremony organised by the Belgian Sailing Federation aimed at rewarding the nest sailors of 2019.
- The JEANNEAU SUN FAST 3300 was elected Boat of the Year by American magazine Sailing World.
- PIERRE-ANDRÉ HUGLO was awarded top prize in the cruising awards at the Nautic by the Sail the World association after sailing around the world via the three capes without using an engine or electronics in the framework of the Longue Route.
- HERVÉ GAUTIER is the new Race Director for the 2020 Drheam Cup (18-27 July).
- OC SPORT PEN DUICK is looking for a trainee to work on sponsoring/partnerships. Six month course from early January based in Lorient with travel to events.
LOÏC FÉQUET, after twenty years of computer project management, is offering his services in project management or as boat-captain and assistant (10 years experience of Multi50s, Imocas and Class40 boats).
[ANNOUNCEMENTS & PARTNERSHIPS]
- WIND the first festival of competitive sailing films co-organised by Tip & Shaft et Poppop, will run on Tuesday 4 February at the Grand Rex in Paris. On the programme are unpublished and exclusive films featuring some of the greatest current sailors on the screen and in the room, live in person. Info and reservations on wind-festival.com.
- PODCAST. The 12th episode of the INTO THE WIND, the Tip & Shaft podcast welcomes THOMAS RUYANT. As with all the podcasts it is available on all the main platforms iTunes, Deezer, Spotify, SoundClound, Google Podcasts... also on the site for Tip & Shaft.
- MINI-TRANSAT TRAINING: after the first session was sold out at the Nautic, Tip & Shaft is offering a second training session, "How to prepare for the Mini-Transat" in Paris on Sunday 26th January, once again run by the president of the Mini class, Lucas Montagne. You can register here.
- The MINI-TRANSAT is changing its course for the next three editions – from Les Sables d'Olonne to Saint-François (Guadeloupe) via Santa Cruz de la Palma – and organiser (Les Sables d'Olonne Vendée course au large).
- SAILGP has announced changes to its teams for the 2020 season: China is being replaced by a Spanish team, the composition of which is due to be announced in late January in Madrid.
- UK SAILMAKERS announced that Mauripro Sailing has become part of UK Sailmakers.
- SHENZHEN will host a leg of The Ocean Race, "at least one Chinese team is expected to take part in the 2021-22 edition of The Ocean Race", explained the organiser.
- The 2020 M32 SERIES calendar was revealed with five events in Europe from May to September, including the European Championship on Lake Garda (4-6 September), and nine events from January in the North American circuit, which will finish with the world championship in Miami (16-22 November). Aston Harald Composites will produce 14 new boats in 2020.
- The GRAND PRIX DE L'ÉCOLE NAVALE, reserved for one-design boats, will take place in 2020 from 21st to 23rd May.
- NICK MOLONEY and ADRIENNE CALAHAN have announced they will be working together with the aim of representing Australia in the mixed offshore race in the Paris 2024 Olympics.
- The DÉFI AZIMUT, which is celebrating its tenth edition in 2020, will take place from 9th to 13th September in Lorient.
- SAILGP INSPIRE has announced they are joining up with the World Sailing Trust to attempt to make sailing accessible to as many people as possible.
- The VENDÉE GLOBE presented its new poster this week. It was designed by the Désigne and Pulp agencies.
- The 2020 GC32 RACING TOUR will include five legs from March to October, including the World championship from 16th to 20th September in Villasimius (Sardinia).
- The PORQUEROLLE'S RACE will be back in 2020 for its second edition from 20th to 24th May. Registrations are open now.
- INTO THE BLUE, the Brussels maritime festival will take place from 31st January to 2nd February.
- LUNA ROSSA CHALLENGE has signed a partnership with the One Ocean Foundation, an association aiming to protect the oceans.
- The tenth HALIFAX-SAINT-PIERRE RACE starts on 27th June, with a new class invited, the Multi50s. It will be followed by the new SAINT-PIERRE-QUEBEC RACE (700 miles, start on 1st July), so that the competitors can then compete in the Quebec-Saint-Malo transatlantic race.
- MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS, the F1 team which won the world constructor title six times, has signed a "performance partnership" with Ineos, including the cycle team, Team Ineos and the America’s Cup challenger, Ineos Team UK.
- The ROYAL NEW ZEALAND YACHT SQUADRON will host the 2020 Youth Match Racing World Championship, in Auckland from February 25th to March 1st.
- WORLD SAILING has issued a Request For Information (RFI) from Manufacturers, MNAs and Class Associations to assess what options currently exist in the market. A 2024 Offshore Equipment Working Party will then use that information to form the criteria for selecting the Equipment for Event at Paris 2024.
- The IRISH SAILING FEDERATION has launched an appeal to find the names of the pairs wishing to defend Ireland in the 2020 mixed offshore world championship, which is due to take place in Malta in October, so that a selection process can be set up.
- AUDÉLOR, the Lorient district development agency has just published a study of the Lorient La Base offshore racing centre.
[WE READ, WE LIKED, WE RECOMMEND]
Dramatic capsize video of TNZ's AC75
The New Zealand AC75 Te Aihe capsized on Thursday during a training session. The Kiwis issued a video of the incident, analysed by the journalist.
SQUARE MILE/RHYS THOMAS
Alex Thomson is going for Vendée Globe glory
The skipper of Hugo Boss talks about his early life which led him to solo sailing, about his one and only Vendée Globe objective and about his new Imoca which was just launched in August..
BATEAUX/CHLOÉ TORTERAT [FR]
Special new foils for the Vendée Globe for the Charal Imoca
Pierre-François Dargnies, technical director of the Charal Sailing Team, tells us that the second version of the foils on Charal will be fairly different from the first. They are especially designed for the Vendée Globe route, which involves sailing downwind 80% of the time.
"Gamble", a story from the 2019 Transpacific Race
A 12-minute documentary filmed by Justin Edelman showing what it was like in the last Transpac for the crew of the Shock 40 Gamble.
Giles Scott switches focus for Finn World Championship
Competing this week in the Finn Gold Cup, the world championship for the series, British sailor, Giles Scott talks about his main ambition of getting a second Olympic title in a row.