Team BMW Oracle turn up in Valencia with new ACC boat. Andrew Preece travelled on cargo plane from the US with yacht. Here's yachtingworld.com's exclusive story
The minute the plane levelled off at 35,000 feet the Ukranian crew of the Russian Antonov 320 cargo plane were unwinding the top off a supersize can of German bratwurst. Ten minutes later the windowless cabin of the crew area of the plane – located above the cargo area just in front of the tail – delivering the first genuinely new generation 5 boat for the 2007 America’s Cup boat was filled with the smell of frying sausages.
Up front the captain and his henchmen, who half an hour before take off had arrived up the gang plank hauling sacks of potatoes and rolls of toilet paper, were navigating the 30-year-old plane with a pocket-sized GPS that you buy from a fishing shop. Inside was 30,000 man hours worth of carbonfibre instrument that represents the front end of the cutting edge of technology, the new BMW Oracle Racing boat bound from Anacortes, two hours north of Seattle, to Valencia, in a veil of secrecy; no one new the boat was coming – or even that it was anywhere near completion – until the boat rolled into the BMW Oracle base at around eight in the evening on Tuesday 28 February.
The new boat was built in the north-west of the US in a facility that on the outside looks like a nondescript warehouse but on the inside is a clinical precision-tool hi-tech facility put together by Tim Smyth, Mark Turner and Mark Somerville who between them have probably more America’s Cup building experience than almost anyone around. At six in the morning the crane arrived to load the new shrink-wrapped weapon onto the flat bed truck that headed south to Seattle airport to meet the Antonov. Three hours later the boat, two masts and two containers were being chained down and the cargo doors swung closed.
Although the Antonov can carry about 100 tonnes, and combined weight of the BMW Oracle cargo must have been well under 10, it seemed to take about five minutes to roll down the runway and lumber into the air. By this time the loading crew were signing off, wandering around their cabin and preparing their supper, all the while the roar of the four huge engines were deafening in the padded cell that felt more like a wartime submarine than an aircraft.
But the 11-hour transatlantic flight was uneventful and as we came in to land none of us knew how close the ground was and the toilet was occupied, the crew were donning their reflective jackets when suddenly there was a judder and a rumble that we hoped had indicted the pocket GPS had brought us to the right airport in the right city in the right country.
Two hours later the boat had been safely rolled out of the plane and was en route to an unsuspecting America’s Cup harbour where rival syndicates came running to try to see what Bruce Farr, Juan Kouyoumdjian and the rest of the 30-strong design team had come up with as their interpretation of what is fast in the Mediterranean and what is fast under Version 5 of the America’s Cup rule.
It was the first time an American boat had arrived in Europe in a challenge for the America’s Cup since 1851 back when it all started. And we all know what happened then…