Three Mini Transat campaigns led Michel Marie to the America's Cup as team member of the Alinghi Challenge. Why was this singlehanded event such an important stepping stone?

 Because the sailing crew of an America’s Cup team is always in the limelight, it’s easy to forget what goes on behind the scenes and who’s responsible for making the whole campaign gel.

Frenchman Michel Marie, the construction manager of the Alinghi Challenge, and shore crew coordinator, is one of those all-important team members, sharing his job with Tim Gurr who’s been involved with Team New Zealand for the previous two campaigns.

With such a responsible role to play, Marie has little free time for sailing but he believes that his sailing background, which includes three Mini Transat races, where he designed, built and raced the boat, was an excellent apprenticeship for his role in the America’s Cup. “The Mini Transat is a great place to get a grip on important issues such as designing, managing the project within the schedule. Although it’s a one-man campaign, all the aspects are the same as an America’s Cup.” says Marie.

A typical day at the Alinghi yard starts at 0600 together with the rest of the crew. Here Marie’s main job is to ensure the boat is ready for launching which takes a good hour to complete. “There’s usually a job or two that needs finishing off from the night before so we complete that and prepare the boat ready to hand over the sailors for the launch,” added Marie. As well as the daily check list of jobs to do, there’s the ongoing development work and planning to do. “We have a rota system,” says Marie, “because we need to ensure the shore team is in tip top condition at all times in case we have an emergency and need a major repair done.”

But according to Marie, although there is a strong shore team overseeing the technical side of things, the sailing crew are very much involved with every aspect of preparation. However, it is Marie’s job to give the final ‘nod’ on any work that needs doing. “They come to me and it’s my job to plan the work and get it done.”

Because the boat has been very well prepared there are few major jobs to do on the boat at this stage. The continuous daily maintenance also keeps the repairs to a minimum although yesterday’s coming together with Prada did mean there was a fair amount of overtime last night. “Actually it wasn’t that bad at all,” added Marie, “we just think of it as all part of the game!”