Louis Vuitton Pacific Series: Team Origin

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Peter Isler: Navigating for Team Origin

Auckland, February 7, 2009


Isler, left, and Ben Ainslie, center.
Photo:©2009 Ian Roman/Team Origin

Stars&Stripes veteran Peter Isler is back in a Cup- class yacht, bringing his long experience as navigator to Britain’s young Team Origin.

Stan Honey, Team Origin’s technical director (and Isler’s college roommate) suggested Isler to fill in while the team’s regular navigator, Ian Moore, sails in the Volvo Ocean Race on Green Dragon.

Honey and Isler have known each other for years, and were in fact college roommates.

Skipper Ben Ainslie contacted Isler, who agreed on short notice to race in New Zealand. 

“It came out of the blue, like most of these things do,” said Isler.  “I got a note from Ben about two months ago, which was enough warning for me to come in as ‘guest navigator.’”  

“He brings a huge amount of experience,” said Ainslie, “and he’s also a great tactical navigator.  He’s been a good addition to our team.” 

With a boat full of talent but short on Cup experience, Ainslie says Isler is making a difference for Origin in Auckland.

“He’s really helping us out a lot.  I’ve known Peter for a number of years but this is the first time I’ve ever sailed with him.  He’s great –- he’s really calm.  It’s just what we need in our afterguard, so it’s perfect.  We’ve been really impressed sailing with him.” 

That Isler chooses the same word -- calm -- to describe Ainslie's onboard demeanor suggests a basic compatibility.  A productive meshing of personalities seems to a key ingredient for a healthy winning team and to that end Isler praises the combination that Origin has put together. “It’s a great team, a great mixture of people.  Every team is different, every afterguard is different.  I’ve learned over the years that there’s no right way to do things.  It’s a matter of figuring out the best way with the chemistry of people we have onboard.” 

With his experience as Defender and Challenger, for over two decades, sailing with or against some famous names, how does Isler rate Ainslie?

“He’s really good in the starts and a very good AC boat match racer,” he said of Ainslie. “There’s a difference in being a good match race starter and being able to do it in an AC boat because they’re so big.  But of course, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be.  Since he was with TNZ for a campaign he got plenty of practice sailing these boats.” 

Where Isler goes from here in America’s Cup competition remains anyone’s guess, including his.  Moore returns soon to the navigator’s role and with the prospect of one-boat campaigns being the rule for the next Cup, there appears to be no long-term room for Isler onboard Origin, but he’s happy just to enjoy this regatta and is not worried by the uncertainty surrounding the next Cup for him, or for anybody. 

“That’s what the America’s Cup is –- love it or leave it, the America’s Cup is not a normal event that happens on a regular schedule.  There are these life-changing curveballs.  I don’t think anybody should feel entitled that ‘the America’s Cup is going to come every two years and I have a guaranteed job.’  It’s lucky when it comes around when you still have an opportunity to play. 

“I think all my peers here on all the teams have lots of opportunities in sailing.  It’s the best group of sailors in the world.  Should the America’s Cup sit on the sidelines for a while longer, they’ll figure out a way to fill up their calendars, have a good time, and stay sharp.” 

Isler is philosophical, too, about the very future of the America’s Cup itself. 

“I think of the Cup like a pendulum, having studied the history of it.  From private sponsors to commercial sponsors, back to more sort of individual sponsorship.  It’s gotten more professional in the modern era since Dennis sort of changed things in the 70s and late 80s. 

“Since I’ve been involved, the Cup has really kept the same image:  an 8 to 12 team challenger series and typically a single defender, a lot of great racing in an elimination series up to a great final.  I think that the event is unique in that the defender does have some say as to the direction it’s going, yet at the same time there’s that pull of tradition, a pull from the Deed of Gift, and a pull from the way it was done the last time. 

“Everyone’s feeling their way, but in some ways the Cup’s bigger than all of us and it will survive no matter much we try to screw it up.”

 -- Reporting by Diane Swintal for CupInfo/©2009 CupInfo

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