October 28, 2006
Cameron Dunn knows his team has a climb ahead of them to reach the Louis Vuitton Cup final, but now that Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia has their new America’s Cup boat, it’s full steam ahead. Expectations are high, but realistic.
He’s not happy to be leaving the Allianz Cup, the US leg of the World Match Racing Tour, before the quarterfinals begin, but Dunn is looking forward to getting back to Spain, and the job at hand. Step one? Continue working with their new America’s Cup boat.
“We’re certainly very happy with ITA-90, now that we’ve had it out sailing for a decent amount of time. The two boat testing with 77 is going really well,” said Dunn.
The team is staying in Valencia but plans to take a break for a couple of weeks around Christmas. Dunn knows that weather –- and burnout –- will become an issue.
“You can’t really learn a lot around that time anyway, it’s just too painful for everybody –- personally, I think it will hurt more than it will help. There’s nothing you can really learn in that kind of weather that will really help you. And you need to have a break and refresh.
“We’ve been going now since April of last year so just over a year and a half now. It’s gonna be a two years campaign once we start racing and burnout’s a very important thing to think about, and to manage. You do end up spending a lot of time out on the water. It’s not just sailing team, it’s the shore team, administration, everything. It’s easy to think you’ve got to maximize every moment on the water, but after a while, it’s quality, not quantity.”
Managing people is half the battle of a long campaign, and Dunn is especially cognizant of being “the minority” on the predominantly Italian team. Getting used to another culture is one thing, getting used to it in the high pressure context of the America’s Cup is something else.
“It’s definitely a different culture –- each team has their own culture -- but then you throw in a nationality culture as well. For me, a New Zealander, the Italian way of life is definitely different, and then throwing in Spain as well, it’s been a great challenge. But I can say it’s helped me as a person and as a sailor. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learned an incredible amount. I think it’s easy to go in and be quite negative about it, and say ‘that’s not the way we did it’ but it’s not a great way – especially when you’re the minority!”
As the America’s Cup approaches, Dunn is especially proud of the way the Mascalzone team has come together, especially looking back on the team’s early sailing experiences. They were memorable, but perhaps not for all the right reasons.
“I think we’ve developed tremendously as a team. We’re not a team that’s full of America’s Cup experience. Obviously, we have some very experienced people, but if you look at other teams, maybe only Shosholoza is as inexperienced as we are.
“From what I remember of all of us sailing together in Elba (during the Swedish Match Tour event) it was pleasing to see how quickly all of it changed, how quickly things came together. We had two months to get the team together before we started racing, and that’s a BIG ask. The improvement from last year to this year has been tremendous, and that’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of time on the water. We know we’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve got time to do it.
“A lot of the America’s Cup comes down to boat speed and I’m confident that if we can have similar boat speed to the top teams I know we can beat them if it’s our race. A lot of it, at the end of the day, depends on the day. You’ve seen how close the racing has been among the top four teams: they’ve been one, two boat lengths away from each other all around the race course. A lot just depends on whose day it is.”
That day may indeed come, but as we start to look toward the future, Dunn is convinced that despite the success of the Louis Vuitton Acts, a major overhaul is in order for the America’s Cup.
“It’s hard to sustain if the America’s Cup is more than two years apart. It’s hard enough when you don’t even know where the Cup will be until someone wins it. Imagine trying to set up a team now, and going to a sponsor, who asks where’s it gonna be? When’s it gonna be? Well, we don’t know.
“I’d even like to see the Cup become more of a season championship like Formula One. Go around the world, have the events, maybe have a special finale at the end. It needs to change. It’s all very well, it’s lasted over 150 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right formula for this day and age. Probably some people won’t like me for saying that, but I think it’s got to change.”
Changes may indeed come to the America’s Cup, but the only changes Cameron Dunn is interested in seeing come this summer is a change to the standings at the top of the Louis Vuitton Cup leader board. As this team continues to improve, they may be that force to be reckoned with as the Acts close and the Cup begins.
-- Diane Swintal for CupInfo - ©2006
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