America's Cup World Series
China Team's Charlie Ogletree

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Charlie Ogletree
China Team Skipper

November 17, 2011

China Team beat the fleet last Sunday in San Diego, their first #1 finish in ACWS competition.
Photo:©2011 ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget

Photo:©2011 ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget


When Charlie Ogletree graduated from Old Dominion University he knew there were two directions he could go to make sailing his profession -- the Olympics or the America’s Cup.  Even as he headed down the Olympic multihull path, earning four consecutive Olympic berths with Johnny Lovell in the catamaran Tornado class and a silver medal in 2004, he never lost hope that the Cup might still be possible, but despite his impressive accomplishments as a helmsman and trimmer on numerous monohulls, that call didn’t come.

Ogletree was one of the many watching with special interest last year when America’s Cup organizers made the decision to switch from monohulls to multihulls for the next iteration of the historic sailing competition.  Suddenly, opportunities had changed and Ogletree signed on with China Team, first as tactician, and then becoming skipper when Mitch Booth exited the team before the America’s Cup World Series in Plymouth this past September.

“When you’re younger, you can only choose one path or the other -- the Olympics or the America’s Cup,” said Ogletree.  “I chose the Olympics and I’m glad I did.  It was great for me.  But in the back of my mind, I always wanted to do the America’s Cup -- the good sailors rise to the top, whether the boat has two hulls or three hulls or one hull.  I thought I might have a chance to get into the monohull arena, but I knew it would be tough.

“Now that it’s switched to multihulls, it was certainly a much easier segue and I was lucky enough to get a call from China Team.  My Tornado coach, Andreas Hagara, is the helmsman on the boat, so that’s just one more easy transition.”

If Ogletree had a leg up when it came to multihull racing, the rest of his competition had some catching up to do.  Longtime monohull veterans started popping up in multihull competitions all over the world and America’s Cup teams found themselves shopping for catamarans.

“That’s why so many of the other monohull skippers, like Terry, Jimmy and Russell, they all got A-cats.  Even though they’re only 18 feet long, the basic concepts of sailing a multihull are the same -- learning how they handle in all conditions, the accelerations, time and distance.  I think that translates straight from the Tornado to the AC45 and then right into the AC72.  Obviously, the crewwork dynamics change as the boat gets bigger, the loads get bigger, and the anticipation and the timing change.  But the basic concepts are still the same.”

One critical difference going from the Tornado to an AC45 and AC72 is the wing sail, the most obvious high-tech feature that follows from America’s Cup 33 and the BMW Oracle trimaran USA-17 into the new classes.  Ogletree has not found that transition as difficult as he thought.

“I thought the wing sail, being a hard wing, would be completely different from a sail.  But the feeling on the boat is the same --  you still have depth, you still have twist, you still have a sheet.  So you sail the boat the same, there are just nuances on how you adjust it and tune it that are different from a soft sail, but the basic concept and the feeling on the boat is still the same.”

China Team, who won their first ACWS Fleet Race last weekend, is one of several teams still hoping to put the funds together to make it all the way to the America’s Cup in 2013.  Ogletree knows every victory on the water might put them closer to that goal.

“The plan right now is to continue to San Francisco.  Obviously, there’s a bit of a division now between the big teams and the small teams, and we’re one of the small teams.  But our goal right now is to be first among the small teams!  I’m hoping that with some good results here and some hard work with management, they can raise the money to go on with the AC72.  That’s the plan at the moment!”

--Diane Swintal for CupInfo/©2011

Photo:©2011 ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget

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