Team Origin Announces...

In the rather incongruous surroundings of a sand pit in the back blocks of the Southampton Boat Show, Team Origin, the British Challenge for the 33rd America’s Cup, announced it’s line-up this morning.

The headline appointments won’t come as any huge surprise to readers of the Cup tea leaves, with Ben Ainslie skipper and Juan Kouyoumdjian as principal designer. But if you dig a bit deeper (and you can do it yourself here - but I warn you that this is a 3M PDF file) there are some interesting appointments.

On the sailing side, Ben has been joined at the back of the boat by Iain Percy – these two have been raising flags on their intentions to win the America’s Cup together for some years now. Percy brings his Star crew, Andrew Simpson, with him, as aft grinder and strategist. Joining from Team Director Mike Sanderson’s winning Volvo Ocean Race boat, ABN Amro, is Rob Greenhalgh, as strategist and traveler – the up-the-mast role going almost exclusively to skiff sailors these days it seems. While Ben has brought navigator Ian Moore with him from Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), where they sailed the ‘B’ boat together.

But the most notable defection from ETNZ is Andy Claughton, who joins as Design Coordinator, a role he filled in 2007 for ETNZ. He’s had some kind of involvement with the Kiwi Cup teams dating right back to 1987, and he will leave at big hole over at Grant Dalton’s camp.

Also on the technical side, Mickey Ickert has come from BMW Oracle, where he’s spent the last three Cups, and will be Aero Director – the lead sail designer. And to complete the rig package, spar designer Bruce Thompson also joins from Oracle along with trimmer, Robby Naismith – keeping it in the family. And with Neal McDonald on the mainsheet (who knows a bit about mast design himself) this is a really strong aero development team. Another notable on the technical side is Stan Honey, who was Mike Sanderson’s navigator on ABN Amro. Honey joins as Technical Director and navigator.

Up the front of the boat we have Chris Brittle, David Carr, Pawel Bielecki and Ian Weighell turning handles, with Julien Cressant and George Skuodas on the mast, and Kevin Batten, Justin Slattery and Matt Cornwell on the bow, with Nick Bice as Boat Captain.

And last but not least, the single most important part of the Cup game is having the money, and so perhaps the most important addition to the Origin team announced this morning was Charles Dunstone as partner and investor. Dunstone, of the Carphone Warehouse, has been a Cup enthusiast for some time, and it’s great to see him finally committing to the support of a British effort.

And there you have it – it’s a great line-up. There are some gaps - only one trimmer for the sails in front of the mast being an obvious one (and my apologies to Andrea Avaldi - formerly Luna Rossa's senior structural designer - who will take on that role for TeamOrigin. In a previous version of this post I'd said that there was a gap here too - but the eagle eyed have pointed out his presence in the on-line PDF profiles. Unfortunately, he wasn't in the printed version given out at the launch which I used to write this initially. I guess he was signed up a little late to make the print run). And with more signatures promised, these guys are up and running in a big way.

But there's a postscript - I mentioned in a previous blog that I didn't see too many people in the America's Cup giving children a chance to experience sailing - the only real way to build an audience for the event. The Royal Yachting Association has been trying to do this for some time, with its OnBoard programme, which is hoping to introduce half a million young people to sailing over a ten year period. TeamOrigin is the main partner to this programme. This is not just how you build an audience for the professional sport, it's also how you find the next generation of talent, by giving as many people as possible the opportunity to discover they love sailing and are good at it...

Mark Chisnell ©