Grant Dalton: “We will see the birth of a new breed of athletes”

Grant Dalton (Auckland, New Zealand, 66 years old) is the one who pulls the strings of the America's Cup sailing, the oldest sporting competition in the world.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 May 2024 Wednesday 10:22
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Grant Dalton: “We will see the birth of a new breed of athletes”

Grant Dalton (Auckland, New Zealand, 66 years old) is the one who pulls the strings of the America's Cup sailing, the oldest sporting competition in the world. He has just landed in Barcelona to settle in with a view to the start of the event at the end of August.

There are three months left until the event starts. At what point is the preparation?

I would say that the teams are better organized than one would expect. This time it is not clear who is ahead. At first I would have said that the Italians from Luna Rossa. It still may be. But the English have pulled out a very nice boat out of their hat thanks to the support of Mercedes. There is nothing wrong with the American. Those who challenge us as a whole are stronger than he thought. They knew they had to do better to beat us this time. And they have done it.

You just landed. The Italians arrive in a week. The Swiss have been here for years. Who is right?

Yes, everyone has their own strategy and I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. The Americans and the English have been here all winter. We built our boat in New Zealand and have been sailing all summer. When someone wins, I don't think it's because of their planning strategy.

On board the AC75 there will be athletes who come from canoeing or cycling to do strength tasks. What do you think?

Basically, the America's Cup is a technology race, and I see no reason why the teams have to be pure sailors. To me, it's pretty cool that we're producing a sport that can play cross-code, but it depends on how much of a purist you are.

Do seafaring arts not matter on these flying ships?

The AC75 is not a boat for traditional sailors. The perfect America's Cup sailor, apart from having a drawer full of Olympic medals, has probably had a career in engineering. Peter Burling is a good example of this. You have to understand mechanics and manage the speed at which you have to react because things happen very quickly, like in a racing car. So we are facing a new generation, without a doubt. It's a new breed. The old sailors don't even come close. They don't have the necessary skill.

Will the one with the best boat or the best crew win?

There is a saying that the fastest boat will always win the America's Cup, and that has been true since 1851. This has not changed. But good sailors make fast ships. A good example would be Verstappen. Or Lewis Hamilton. In both cases his contribution to the tuning of the car is essential. Although the importance of the ship is greater than that of the sailor, we are probably at 70%-30%. But the sailor has a lot to do with the creation of that 70%.

What characteristic should a sailor have of an AC75?

You need a good understanding of physics. Nowadays, young people between 14 and 15 years old ask me what they have to do to work in this sector. Years ago, I would have told them to be sailmakers or boat builders. Now, those things are still good, but I would tell them to go to college and study computer science or mechanical engineering. That's where the sport is now. The teams are 150 people. We have 48 engineers, when people think that we are in charge of yacht design. No way. It's carbon engineering, it's hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, sensory data management.

Do you still think that Barcelona was a good decision?

Yes absolutely. Except that today I got wet on my bike on the way to work, which is the first time in two years that it has rained.

Could it repeat as headquarters?

First we would have to win. But we are preparing documents in June to start seeing possibilities. New Zealand is there, obviously. It would also be necessary to see if Barcelona would be interested in presenting a candidacy or not. Maybe they want to see the economic impact.

Can the youth and women's format with smaller boats go unnoticed?

The youth and women's regattas will be broadcast exactly the same as the America's Cup regattas, live on YouTube, live on our websites. I think our expectation is that a new nation or the rebirth of one will emerge, for example, Australia. Or Spain. Wouldn't it be great if one of those six teams won the Copa del América in the future? And wouldn't it be great if we created a way for women to be in the next America's Cup?

Wouldn't it have been better to see them alongside the men in an AC75?

In this case they would enter by quota, and I think that is really derogatory to women. If I were a woman, I would feel belittled if I was told that's the only reason I'm there. I would rather know that I am there because I have earned my position. They will not be able to produce enough force to be in certain roles on board. But from what I have seen there is no reason why they can't knock out a man in other positions where many watts of power are not needed.

Can the SailGP sailing circuit obfuscate the America's Cup?

SailGP is a league. All ships are the same. But one of the characteristics of the America's Cup for 173 years is that it is a technological regatta. Is Formula 2, where the cars are all the same, as good as Formula 1? The answer is no. The Holy Grail is the America's Cup. A competition that is not for everyone. It will never be fifteen teams. And frankly I don't think it should be.

Are foils or ailerons that make boats fly the future?

Yes. Nobody wants to go slow.

But they are difficult to control.

Easy-to-sail boats are slower. An Airbus 380 is easier to fly than an F-18 fighter plane. In the first one you have to be sure. In the second, go to the limit. And you can't pilot it alone: ​​you need the help of a computer. Our motto is: let's design the fastest boat possible. Then we will learn to carry it.

What weather is expected in Barcelona for October?

The key will be the waves. All teams know that they will have to deal with them unlike previous editions. But think that with fifteen knots of wind, these boats go almost 100km/h.