BEHIND THE SCENES: NORTH SAILS AT THE 36TH AMERICA’S CUP
BEHIND THE SCENES: NORTH SAILS AT THE 36TH AMERICA’S CUP
Introducing a 6-part video series with the event's most essential players to give you an insider's look
You’re familiar with the phrase if you know, you know, right? For over three decades, North design expertise and sails have been onboard with every team to capture the Auld Mug. When the Defenders and Challengers built their winning teams, they knew who to call: North Sails.
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.
We are excited to introduce a new 6-episode video series going behind the scenes with the world’s best at the event widely regarded as the pinnacle of sailing. Over the last few months, we’ve connected with the event’s most essential players to give you a rare insider’s look into the 36th America’s Cup.
San Francisco, CA - North Sails is pleased to announce that Mark Ivey has joined the team at our North Sails San Francisco loft.
With an extensive and illustrious career in sailing, Mark brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our west coast team. He is a highly regarded Sail Expert, renowned for his exceptional track record and deep understanding of the sport. As a four-time All-American sailor, Ivey has competed in or coached at an impressive 50 World Championships spanning 16 diverse classes, including a victory at last month's Melges 24 World Championships. His passion for sailing and his unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction have earned him the trust of sailors worldwide.
Joining our new location on Blanding Avenue in Alameda, Mark is excited to contribute to North Sails' expanding presence on the West Coast. "Since my early childhood, I have been immersed in the world of North Sails, witnessing the remarkable accomplishments of their teams and projects," shares Ivey. "It is a tremendous honor to join this esteemed team and apply my knowledge, spirit, and dedicated service to the group, particularly in my home waters of San Francisco Bay."
Mark Ivey's lifelong connection to the water began at the age of seven in Huntington Harbor, California, and he has since dedicated his life to sailing. His exceptional achievements as both a competitor and coach include numerous regatta victories, a Youth National Championship title, and the distinction of College Sailor of the Year at St. Mary's College in Maryland, where he is enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame. Furthermore, he has achieved remarkable success as a keelboat champion across multiple classes and as a coach, has guided a team to a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Recognized for his passion, persistence, sportsmanship, and genuine love for the sport and his fellow competitors, Mark has been honored with U.S. Sailing’s prestigious Kevin Burnham Memorial Award.
North Sails U.S. Sales Manager Bob Meagher highlights this last achievement. “Mark has earned the respect of his peers on and off the water for his sportsmanship and enthusiasm. We’re proud he’s found a place at North Sails and look forward to working with him to help spread the love for sailing and racing.”
📸 Bacardi Invitational Winter Series
Beyond his remarkable accomplishments in keelboat and offshore racing, Ivey possesses extensive knowledge and expertise in One Design sailing. His active involvement in classes such as the Melges 24 and Etchells has not only nurtured his own skills as a sailor but also enabled him to excel as a top-level coach and become a renowned expert in sail shapes and designs. He has achieved National Championships and coached Olympic Champions in these classes. More recently, Ivey has made his mark on the international circuit of the J70 class, competing in several World and European championships, showcasing his abilities on both the East and West coasts of the United States.
Long-time North Sails expert Seadon Wijsen also welcomes Mark aboard, “Mark’s skills, experience, and ability to relate to sailors of all types will make him a valuable addition to the Bay Area team.”
North Sails is proud to have Mark Ivey join our San Francisco loft, and eagerly anticipates the positive impact he will bring to our valued customers and the sailing community at large. Mark's appointment further solidifies North Sails’ commitment to providing exceptional products and personalized service to sailing enthusiasts across the globe.
About North Sails: North Sails is a global leader in the sailing industry, renowned for its commitment to excellence and innovation. With a rich heritage spanning decades, North Sails has consistently delivered cutting-edge sail technology and personalized solutions to sailors worldwide, helping them achieve their full potential on the water.
Bouwe Bekking has eight round-the-globe races under his belt, a veteran considered one of the world’s most experienced sailors. He steps onboard Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team for Leg 6 of The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint.
Taking the call from Aarhus in Denmark, Bekking was waiting for the VO65 to arrive from Portugal to start training.
“After Leg 1, our boat went back to Cascais. It’s been out of the water over there. They changed some elements, and our younger sailors are delivering it back here now.”
The Ocean Race 2022-23 features two different fleets: the 60-foot IMOCA Class which is racing around the world for The Ocean Race Trophy, and the 65-foot VO65 Class which is racing for The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup over three legs. Bekking already raced Leg 1 from Alicante, Spain to Cabo Verde with Team JAJO. He’s now joining the Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team for Leg 6 from Aarhus to The Hague in his native Netherlands.
“The leg from Aarhus to The Hague is very short and will be intense; the last one from The Hague to Genoa can actually be a long leg,” he says.“ The last leg in the Mediterranean Sea can normally be super light so it could take a few more days than expected.
“In that sense, you still approach it like an ocean leg – you still have to pack your food, plan your sails… yes, in that sense, it still feels like the old Ocean Race days.”
It’s fair to say this VO65 Sprint Cup differs from Bekking’s eight previous participations in the race, his first going back to the 1985-86 Whitbread onboard Philips Innovator. But the excitement is there nonetheless.
“I’ve done eight round-the-world races. This edition is different from the others, but I love this race, and I believe it’s good for the VO65s to be here. There are more boats in the harbor, and the spectators can see us sailing on deck, which is a bit different from the IMOCAs. It’s a different type of sailing that brings a lot of joy to me – and I think to the public as well.”
📸 Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race
With the leg start set on June 8 from Aarhus, Bekking and his crewmates, who’re skippered by Roberto 'Chuny' Bermúdez de Castro, “have a busy week ahead.”
“We had a little bit of a setback because we were supposed to start sailing at the end of May, but we had to change the gearbox and the boat was delayed a couple of days. Now we need to change our delivery sails for our race sails, race the inshore race, and a couple of other happenings, so we have a bit on.
“But the way our team is set up, we have a very experienced core crew, and a couple of young people onboard who actually did the delivery. We have a nice mix of people – we can teach the youngsters and they can learn a few tricks very quickly. I think it’s really fantastic that we’re over here and that we can get racing.”
Despite its shorter format, there is no doubt the VO65 Sprint Cup is a good stepping stone for younger sailors. “It’s very good for their sailing CVs to get the opportunity to do a couple of Ocean Race legs and sail the VO65. It’s just a completely different sailing boat, different from the IMOCA.”
In fact, it’s partly because the VO65s are tested one-design boats, all equipped with North 3Di sails, that it’s possible for teams to come in and take part in this hit & run racing format.
“It’ll be really interesting to see on the water,” comments Bekking. “All the teams have actually made crew changes… WindWhisper Racing Team is the favorite, but it’ll also be interesting to see what Team JAJO, who I sailed the first leg with, has learned. And this time, they sail into their hometown, so they’ll have that little bit of extra energy.
“And then, Viva México is the dark horse of the fleet – same for Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova. The Austrians finally have a new North Sails mainsail – after the boat sailed twice around the world. That sail must have had 100,000 miles under its belt! It was time.”
That durability of 3Di is one of the factors that makes it possible for the crews to come in and virtually hit the ground running in a scattered VO65 Sprint Cup.
📸 Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race
“The North Sails people are of course helping us all here, including the IMOCAs when needed. So, the support is there but in reality, not a lot of maintenance is needed. The thing is, the VO65 sails don’t need a lot of service. As I said, a VO65 mainsail can do 100,000 miles. And in that amount of breeze too! That’s remarkable.”
It might not taste exactly like the old editions of the race for Bekking, and it might be a bit of an unusual format – but in the end, the essentials are here. A fleet of ocean racing boats, a mix of sailors from different backgrounds, generations, and genders, and, most of all, a tactical battle to play on the water.
“The one-design racing will be very interesting to see,” he adds. “People still have to make decisions on the water – you go around corners and have to make the right choices. That’s still a very important part of the race.
“For yourself, for your team, for your sponsors, for the public, you obviously want to win. You hope to do your best.”
Herb McCormick interviews North Sails President Ken Read as the Ocean Race heads into their final sprint of the 2023-23 edition.
It all comes down to a pair of final, demanding races. After five grueling stages and some 30,000 nautical miles of racing through some of the world’s most tempestuous oceans, the final two European stages of The Ocean Race will present the sailors with a pair of courses that offer a fresh set of challenges and obstacles. The penultimate stage, Leg 6, which began on June 8th, is a relative sprint: an 800 nautical-mile test from Aarhus, Denmark, to a “fly-by” turning mark in Kiel, Germany, and then a dash out to the North Sea to a finish line off The Hague in the Netherlands.
And then, the Grand Finale. With a June 15th start, Leg 7 is an especially tricky racecourse, a 2,200 nautical-mile voyage that begins off The Hague; slides through the English Channel and into France’s notorious Bay of Biscay; rounds Cape Finisterre and blasts down the wild coast of Portugal; slips through the historic Straits of Gibraltar; and concludes in Genova, Italy, after one final passage up the always unpredictable Mediterranean Sea.
North Sails President Ken Read, from his current vantage point in Europe at the Georgio Armani Superyacht Regatta in Sardinia’s Porto Cervo, has a unique and informed perspective on this interesting home stretch. Having competed in a trio of round-the-world contests, the last two as skipper of the PUMA Ocean Racing crew in 2008-09 and 2011-12, Read knows exactly what it’s like to wrap up a long, difficult race around the planet. On the eve of the concluding legs, Herb McCormick spoke to him about what lay ahead for The Ocean Race teams.
📸 Ian Roman
HM: After all the high-seas, long-distance adventures, these final two legs seem to be a completely different challenge. How do you approach them?
KR: You have to totally shift your mentality. I've always thought the mentality between coastal racing and distance racing is almost like approaching two different sports. It has to be a complete mind reset for all these crews if they want to be successful.
HM: After all the open-ocean miles, now you’re surrounded by land, you’ve got inshore currents, it’s all different. How do you switch gears?
KR: Good question. It’s basically like around-the-buoys racing versus distance racing. The buoys just happen to be points of land and different stretches of water. When you do your pre-race strategy and homework, you spend at least half your time on how to leave and how to enter these different waters. Because this is where you can make big gains or it can get tight as hell if you’re not careful. So, you’re searching for local knowledge, introducing yourself to local sailors you’ve never met who’ve sailed there for their entire lives. I guarantee all the teams have developed their own little coaching staffs for each of those venues they’ll be entering and exiting. You take in as much information as possible and then see what’s applicable and how it plays out. The whole race becomes one big leave and enter.
HM: Leg 6 is an 800-miler, so maybe three days of racing. You need to be on top of your navigation, aware of the competition. Is there any rest for the weary in there?
KR: No, these are much harder races, both physically and mentally, than out in the open ocean. Everybody keeps talking about how wildly uncomfortable this generation of boats is, how violent they are. Because you won’t potentially be in big waves, that may be easier. But the tactics are so taxing. When do we tack? When did they tack? Do we cover? What are our convictions with regard to the next shift? You almost aren’t doing watches anymore because the skipper/navigator designees will get almost no sleep. It’s hard. Really, really hard.
📸 Antoine Auriol / Team Malizia / The Ocean Race
HM: Finally, we have Leg 7, some 2,200 nautical miles, they’re predicting a 10-day race. So, you’ve suddenly gone from a little sprint to a trip that’s as long as crossing an ocean, but next to stuff you can bump into almost the entire time. Take me through that from a skipper’s perspective.
KR: Let's just make the assumption that the top three boats are still super, super close. It's almost how bad you want it. That’s how much sleep you get. I remember some of our shorter last legs, there was literally no sleep. And, even if there was a break and you were power reaching, you’re hiking out, because every tenth of a knot is going to make a difference. This isn’t about playing the correct weather system. So even if it’s 2,200 miles, it’s a totally different animal. I love it, but it’s as hard as you want it to be. And I’m guessing these top three boats are going to make it as hard as possible because they aren’t going to stop sailing the boat as if it were a flat-out race.
HM: I know you’ve sailed most of these waters so I’d like to know the first thing that comes to your mind when we break down features of the coast. For instance, the shipping lanes of the English Channel?
KR: Talk about no sleep (laughs)! There’ll be all kinds of restrictions as to where they can go. We had to go out through the shipping lanes in the channel once, and I remember being so exhausted, we almost ran into a windmill in the middle. Because we were shot, with just the continual tacking or continual jibing. We know how hard it is just to maneuver these boats, period. With the shipping lane restrictions, it’s nonstop. So how deep is your crew? Deep enough to help you make decisions when you do have to finally put your head down from time to time so you don't miss out? There are lots of cases where boats busted their hump to get through shipping lanes and then relaxed and blew it all within a couple of hours for missing the next shift because they were so mentally and physically shot that the key players had to go get some rest. So, yeah, a different, hard game. You just brought up one of the hardest parts of the game.
📸 Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing Team / The Ocean Race
HM: From there we head into the Bay of Biscay, which has famously kicked many a French solo sailor’s butt on long-distance races.
KR: Well, they don’t call it ‘the Bay of Certain Death’ for nothing (laughs). Listen, the Bay of Biscay is either going to treat you kindly, or it’s going to kick your ass. It’s one or the other. It's all just dependent on the next low coming across from the Atlantic and how it builds up. So, that's hit or miss. It could be a shellacking or it could be a beautiful sail. I’ve had both.
HM: And then we go outside and down the coast of Portugal where we all have seen the massive seas and the big-wave surfers down along that coast. Had a look at that before?
KR: Of course. That, traditionally, is a pretty strong, pretty breezy area, but it can also offer you some of the most beautiful sailing you’ve ever done in your life. There’s a reason why people go train out of Cascais and places like that. Just amazing, high-speed sailing conditions. But say you get there and you’re way ahead on the leg. Do you preserve your assets? Because these boats have proven to be not only exceptionally fast in the right conditions but if you don't treat them with respect, they’re fragile as well. Remember, the IMOCAs were made for single-handed sailing and all of a sudden, these full crews are pushing them harder than they’ve ever been pushed for 24 hours a day. So, if you're a front-runner, what’s the call? You’ve got to have a strategy. Are you ahead? Behind? Do you need to push? Preserve? That’s a big deal.
HM: Which brings us to a rather famous, historical nautical place called the Straits of Gibraltar.
KR: Yep. Again, some really narrow shipping lanes. They'll probably have course restrictions to keep you out of oncoming shipping traffic so probably even narrower. You might drift through or get 45 knots. It could be upwind, it could be downwind. Some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen in my life were around there, both on the outside and the inside. People who say that the Med is just a cakewalk haven’t seen the Med that I’ve seen a few times. Tactically, it’s really touch and go. A fascinating place to go through.
📸 Antoine Auriol / Team Malizia / The Ocean Race
HM: And that sets us up for the famous final scene: across the vast Mediterranean Sea to the finish line. What’s your take on this last leg as these guys regroup and push for the final finish line?
KR: You could literally see the makings of a Mistral would come up within hours. You might be drifting, you could be holding on for dear life. At this stage, you have to approach it as all options open. An interesting part of this,that the sailors may never admit to, but they’re also starting to think, holy crap, we’re going to live through this! We've just sailed around the world! The enormity of what they’ve accomplished, including these last couple of legs, will start to take effect. It's a big deal. The hard part is over. It's just a tactical sailboat race now. It's what we learned in an Opti. It’s what we’ve done our whole lives. Just sailboat racing. But it’s different, too. I remember pushing so hard those last few kind-of coastal races, but at the same time thinking, ‘Man, oh man, this is amazing. Let’s just reflect a little bit on what we've just done.’ I hope every sailor doing this race takes time to reflect on that. It’s a hell of an accomplishment: win, lose or draw. They should all be very proud of what they’ve done.
HM: Okay, it’s basically a three-boat race now, with Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing holding on to a one-point lead over Team Holcim-PRB with the dangerous Team Malizia lurking in third. What’s going to happen?
KR: If I’m in Charlie’s shoes, I’m considering this regatta starting all over again. I have to figure out how to go upwind and downwind in light air, what’s my drifting sail? Maybe they’ve saved a card or two for now and have a specialty sail ready to go. Team Malizia is set up for big breeze, the Southern Ocean, they’re going to need their correct conditions. Holcim and 11th Hour are more all-purpose oriented; they know each other’s strengths by now. Don’t be surprised to see someone take a chance early, because if they know it’s a flat-out drag race, they might not have the horse for this course. It’s going to be fascinating to watch unfold.