Three years ago, when the America’s Cup teams were looking for the world’s best sail designers, they turned to North Sails. The AC75 design brief called for a boat capable of hitting unprecedented speeds, and Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, and INEOS TEAM UK knew the sail design experts at North Sails had the experience, expertise, and tools to support the teams reach 50 knots and beyond. Pulling from design offices worldwide, each team then embedded North Sails designers within their own teams. The result? Some of the most technologically advanced sails we’ve ever seen.
Ken Read, President of North Sails and Executive VP of North Sails Technology Group, is not sailing in the 36th America’s Cup, but he’s doing his best to make sure you enjoy (and understand) it. As one of the four TV commentators, Read is bringing to life all the action as it unfolds on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand.
Joining North Sails in 1988, Burns Fallow is the lead sail designer for Emirates Team New Zealand and has been at the forefront of sail design for the Kiwi team ever since. He’s seen it all from hoisting sails mid-race in the IACC boats to hard wing sails on 72’ cats; for the 36th America’s Cup, Fallow was one of the central figures in bringing to life the twin skin mainsail concept. It’s stressful being one of the best, but Burns manages it. “Yes, there’s stress, but hopefully you thrive on it. That’s why I keep coming back for more,” Fallow said.
“For a sail designer, being involved with the America’s Cup is a dream come true,” said Marco Capitani, one of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s sail designers. With Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, the sail design is looked after by Capitani and his fellow North designer Juan Garay. Each designer brings their unique perspective and expertise to the project, Garay devising the concepts and Capitani keeping a hawk-eye watch over the performance details. This really allowed both designers to share a lot of innovative ideas in the America’s Cup—an event they both agree is intense, demanding, and a dream come true.
As one of North Sails cutting edge designers, Gautier Sergent worked with INEOS TEAM UK in the 36th America’s Cup. As someone who strives constantly to push the limits and refine new design, Sergent is never satisfied with average. “In the sailing sense, the America’s Cup is the Holy Grail of the technology and the performance,” Sergent said. “When we design a sail, it’s a constant evolution process. The primary factor is performance, and how fast the boat is going.”
As one of Emirates Team New Zealand’s sailors and sail trimmers, Glenn Ashby is a core member of the team. This is Ashby’s fourth America’s Cup, and he’s amazed with how the sport has evolved over the years from massive multihulls to flying monohulls. It’s challenging but incredibly rewarding. “What we’re doing now and how we’re pushing things is extremely challenging. We’re really pushing boundaries that have never been done before,” he said. One of the secrets to winning the America’s Cup? Teamwork.
Leon Sefton is no stranger to professional sailing and the America’s Cup, however he is lesser known than the sailors or design teams. As one of the top producers in live sailing TV, Sefton is the guy calling the shots behind the cameras to bring the 36th America’s Cup to your screens. “Each day when we’re on-air, what I’m looking for we’re making sense of what’s playing out in front of us.” Managing and directing 12 audio feeds, 10 onboard cameras, 2 chase boats, and 2 helicopters—all on the water-- Sefton has his hands full. “It is immensely challenging,” he said. “Compared to F1, where you surround a track with cameras and run cables back to your live [production] truck and nothing moves and everything should work, we have none of this going for us in sailing.”